My young mother almost broke into a gallop when she walked. I heard her footfall throughout our small, ranch house, up and down the basement stairs and room to room. Seamlessly, she raced against time to complete one task, then another.

Until her seventies, seldom did I witness the prized moment when Mom put up her feet. I cannot remember a book in her hands while she raised my four sisters and me.

Was there such a thing as book clubs for mothers of Baby Boomers?

Rather, when Mom relaxed, she held a threaded needle in her right hand, and the hem of a skirt or dress in her left. She “never stopped until her head hit the pillow,” as she’d say.

Before Webster’s Dictionary endorsed the term, Sadie O’Brien’s accomplishments included the first “cottage industry” in the growing city of Warren. Her business began with sewing for women. Then baking and decorating wedding cakes. When our family doctor got wind of her culinary reputation, he hired Mom to cater his dinner parties.

In her fifties she found time and finances to build her dream home in Kentucky surrounded by flowering trees and gardens. However, sewing matching Christmas dresses for her five granddaughters became her favorite creative pastime. And a lure to gather her family around the expanded table for her famous light rolls hot out of the oven.

Meanwhile, Mom established a personal library. Her younger brothers built two large bookshelves for the literature she’d never had time to devour.

In the extending shadow of this remarkable history, the day arrived when Mom could no longer remember where she put her book-in-progress. Her footfall no longer bounced from room to room and up the stairs to the “dormitory” she designed and furnished for her granddaughters.

At last, under great distress and opposition, this strong, gifted woman submitted to her children’s care. After many medical tests, doctors confirmed our mother suffered from Alzheimer’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “Make the most of the time you have left,” a doctor advised.

Upon one conversation with my mother, I asked how she was feeling.

She sighed. “Like I just hoed a cornfield.”

Perplexed, I replied, “You hoed cornfields?”

She blinked hard. “Why, yeah. Everybody who could hold a hoe had to help. I hated it. I’d rather make supper on the cook stove any day than hoe under the blazing sun. Nothing makes you bone-tired like hoeing a cornfield.”

At the time, I could only imagine, for I had yet to begin clearing and plowing land, and planting lavender fields. Later, I carried my harvest in baskets to the kitchen table for Mom to help bundle.

“Iris, what do you call this?”


“What do you do with it?”

“I infused it in our iced tea. You’re drinking it,” I’d say.

Dear Reader, my mother could no longer taste to understand lavender, an herb, flavored our tea.

And I soon learned nothing makes you bone-tired like hoeing a lavender field under a blazing sun.

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