I feel like a terrible person referring to mom in the past tense in any sense, but in this case it is ok…I will explain later. Mom was a very frugal person really until the start of when dementia shifted gears into the current later term Alzheimer’s juggernaut. My childhood shopping hangouts were often either garage sales, Cardin’s insurance salvage, Surplus City military surplus and the like. We weren’t poor in the traditional sense at all. My dad worked his butt off to provide for us and we never needed anything. It was more of a lifestyle choice, largely passed on by mom’s parents who lived through the depression and vowed to never struggle again.
This frugality taught me a simple concept that I have tried to teach my own kids by word if not always by deed:
“Save money on the stuff that doesn’t matter so you have more for what does matter.”
Mom lamented the waste that was apparent all around us long before it was as obvious as it is today. Every one of my kids has spent many hours with mom walking the neighborhoods, picking up trash and recycling. Mom gardened, she canned food, she mended clothes and she seldom ate out. She made amazing crafts out of rocks, the little spiky sweet gum balls, and the like. Mom saved on stuff that didn’t matter, but she was very generous to her family and friends…and in doing so showed us in another way what mattered to her.
A little side story that mom loved to tell in her self-deprecating humor way: She had a really big interview one time for a permanent job that was flexible enough to meet her standards but paid well. She prepared diligently for this interview, bringing freshly printed copies of her resume with her. Mom, like me, isn’t thrilled with presenting to large crowds nor being the subject of intensely focused observation. This one, though, she was prepared for. She strutted in and kicked butt! She left confidently and headed home and waited for what she assumed would be a quick call of approval. On the way home, mom swung by and splurged for a beverage, a rarity for her…but first stopped by the lady’s room. As she was about to exit said bathroom, she stopped by the mirror to see how her hair was managing the hot day and saw, with horror, the garage sale sticker on her shirt shoulder….the same shirt that she just wore proudly in the interview. She told me 100 times that she just peeled it off and assumed that either they would get a good laugh or admire her frugality. Mom belly-laughed every time she told that story, and she told it often, so don’t think I am even a little making fun.
This calls to mind another fun, frugal family fact. My grandparents (mom’s folks) built hundreds of homes in my home town, then later bought and operated a used car lot in Springfield. My super-frugal grandpa would bring home different cars every day for grandma to drive, largely so he could keep selling through inventory and never keep anything long. Grandma would sometimes take us to school or to the store in one of these diverse vehicles. One day my little frail grandma, likely only in her late 60s at the time, but seeming like she was 100 to a 10-year-old Mark, happened to be driving a Pontiac with more horses under the hood than she was accustomed to. When we got to the edge of the highway and waited for an opening, I could hear the motor purr, but with heft. Finally an opening, albeit small…and grandma took off….and left a 10-foot smoky scratch on the road! From then until she became too frail, for real, to understand or remember, I joked with grandma about being the lost Dukes of Hazzard cousin or I called her my hot rod granny! She squealed in laughter and quasi-embarrassment at every playful taunt. She was such a timid, sweet lady and is sorely missed.
The last thought I have for you is what I mentioned briefly about talking about mom in the paste tense. I would never talk about her that way…just her frugality. For you see, today she isn’t a bit worried about money any more and never will again. It sucks that she has late term Alzheimer’s, but she is free of worrying about money, or her kids having money, or where the next meal will come from. Her worries are winding down and are all short-term worries that can be stilled, often, with a hug or a redirection. They are real to her and matter deeply to us, but she forgets them quickly and moves on. Most importantly, mom is also not worried about what will happen to her when she dies, for she has embraced Easter and the Christ of the cross that made our eternal destination in heaven possible. And, in Heaven, frugality will no longer be necessary as the streets will be made of gold.
Happy Easter! May God’s Peace be on you this Holy Weekend!
Note: Our visit yesterday was another good one. She misplaced her fidget blanket, probably into the black hole her lower denture plate fell into, but it will turn up. No worries.! 😉
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