Sunday, August 8, 2010

MOM 1921-2010

A life well spent and shared with others. Vivian Eileen Shotwell was born in Springfield, Ohio on November 15, 1921 to Joe & Faye Hoagland. She was the younger sister to Dorothy. They grew up in that area of Ohio and in elementary grades Mom met a red-headed boy by the name of Tom Shotwell. His dad died when he was 6 months old and being a red-headed ornery person, he was way too much of a handful for his schoolteacher mom and accountant step dad so he was sent to Illinois to live with his Aunt & Uncle Ray Shotwell who usually carried a Thompson sub-machinegun with him in his car! He would come back to N. Hampton Ohio for his high school years and meet up with Mom again. Mom says that Tom was a mischievous boy but she loved him anyway. A few years after high school, while Dad was in Pilot Cadet training, they were married in Eagle Pass, TX in 1943 and started their sojourn through life. It’s nearly impossible to tell the story of Mom’s life without talking about Dad too….their lives were intertwined and dependent on each other. My Dad was a black or white, right or wrong, good or bad personality, his life was easy to live as most decisions were easily rendered by that outlook, for the most part grey didn’t exist for him. This mental process served him well when he was in his element, flying airplanes. The second most important thing in his life was flying. He flew every day he could, I read his log books after he died and found out he was flying the day I was born! But he stayed out of airplanes for 2 days after I was born to be with Mom (probably bad flying weather! Grin). The most important thing in my Dad’s life was Mom; the sun rose and set on her. The brothers could never have a disparaging thing to say to or about Mom because Dad would deal harshly with us if we did! His Vivian was the most important thing in his life and Tom was the most important thing in Mom’s life. A truly interdependent relationship. When Dad passed 9-14-2001 Mom’s life suddenly became very hollow, she tried to keep on but asked me many times “why am I still here? I should be with Tom”

Mom lived life with a zest that came from a vast well of life’s experiences. She was swept up from Ohio then to Kansas, Texas, Florida, Illinois, Japan, Alabama, California, Newfoundland, North Dakota and every other state except Alaska and Hawaii. I think I went to 15 different schools while completing my 12 years! She would go hunting and fishing with Dad and she learned how to make fishing flies and wrap fishing poles, fix canoes, clean guns, make hunting clothes, clean & cook wild game. She bought dad his Winchester Model 12 shotgun for their first anniversary in 1944; he would treasure it all his life. She helped with the dogs they had along the way and they were many. She was the “officers wife” when she needed to be but didn’t like that role much and just played it for Dad’s 26 year career in the Air Force. Mom was a "Rosie the Riveter", working at Lincoln Electric during WWII and she opened a hairdressing shop in Lake Worth, FL when we lived in Boynton Beach for a few years. Dad would take care of making money for his family but Mom would find the home, coordinate the movers, set up the schools for us brothers, make friends with the neighbors and take care of everything at home. Dad was at work mostly but Mom was always the go-to person around our home. When something broke Dad would tell us how dumb we were for breaking it but Mom would show us how to fix it! Dad would start projects and superficially explain how to do what we were going to do but Mom showed us the nuts & bolts of how to accomplish the task. Dad was the leader and Mom was the enabler, teacher, cheerleader and priest.

Mom had the ability to instinctively know things mechanical from her Dad, Joe Hoagland. She had an unquenchable appetite for knowledge. She was always reading so she could know more! She would read technical writings and understand a lot of the things she read, she loved to read Discovery magazine….she would give me her Discovery magazine when she finished it and I would pour through it and when I visited her we would talk about the things in the magazine. We may not have understood quantum mechanics and nano technology but we talked about it and wondered at how someone could have thought up some of the ideas. Those conversations always challenged both of us but we enjoyed the time. We talked about Religion and politics and how they were playing out in the current society. She had done things many other people could only dream about and she was often encouraged to write about her life so others could share her sojourn but she never found the time. Mom taught us to color outside the lines, think of things that others can’t dream of. See things that others can’t see. She would always encourage us to be just a little bit more different than we thought we could be. Mom always told us to enjoy our life and enjoy whatever we were doing and to explore the artistic side of life with its sensitive perspective on things. She told me more than a few times that her mother had told her once that she didn’t wake up in the morning to have a bad day and Mom always faced each new day with a smile. Until Dad passed Mom was mostly a happy person but after that she had to work a little harder on her happy outlook. I often thought her cheery outlook was a mask for the hollowness she felt without Dad. I think to reinforce her upbeat attitude of life she collected clowns. She had a room full of clown figurines, pictures, articles and other clown memorabilia. She got to meet Emmet Kelly Jr. in Sun City, AZ when they lived there and she has some signed items from him. Her collecting of clowns gave us something to look for during our travels, we usually brought back some clown thing from wherever we went…. to add to her collection. Our kids got T-shirts and Mom got a clown!

Mom’s greatest trait was that of being the consummate peacemaker, Matt 5:9. She would go out of her way to make sure things went smoothly with everyone she came into contact with. She didn’t like confrontation and she would always balance her decisions with fairness and win/win thoughtfulness. I think our little brother, Joe, has that trait the most of the three brothers. I see it more every time we get together. Joe is always thinking how the other person will feel about decisions he makes.

Mom was beginning to repeat stories, like some of us old people do from time to time. She was forgetting some things too but for 88 years old she was still very plugged into life! She was always very concerned with her sister’s health and worried about her and her husband Bob. She was so glad she visited them on Dorothy’s 90th birthday. She quit driving last year and with that some of her independence was gone. She lived the last few years with my brother Tommy and his family in Culpeper, VA. Tommy built an addition to his home for her so she had a complete apartment that was one door away from his family. They sat with her and listened to her stories. They watched TV with her and helped her with her computer. Tommy made a fish pond outside one window and an elaborate bird feeding station out another window so she could watch life unfold. Someone always took her to town so she could walk around in Wal-Mart and go to the 7-11 to buy her lottery tickets. Her last years were enjoyable and she told me so.

She got another doctor’s report in 2009 that said she had a bad heart valve but since she knew about it for many years and since she felt OK and since she was very apprehensive about a heart operation she decided to let it play out and see what happened. When she broke her femur, Memorial Day Friday, that old heart problem was to make a final decision for her….she couldn’t survive the orthopedic operation because of her heart problem. So her fate was sealed…. she would soon go to be with her Tom.

They were truly the greatest generation, their outlook on life has passed and we now look at life more selfishly. She talked about the way society is turning the corner on embracing self and abandoning selflessness. I think she was ready to leave, she often told me she was ready to go and that she was not afraid of dying but just didn’t want to be in pain. Thankfully the cardiac staff at UVA was able to grant her that wish. She wanted to leave us because she was refusing artificial help to stay alive, which was her wish. She even tried to remove the EKG leads on her chest but after I told her what they were for she left them alone. She wanted to leave the way she lived, with dignity, class and purpose. I was holding her hand when she passed away….I knew she would now be happy once more. We reunited Mom with her Tom at Arlington National Cemetery a couple weeks ago and I now have a measure of peace about her passing that will help me go on. She will be missed more than I can express. Her memory will live in her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and the hundreds of people she touched during her trip through this life. Our peacemaker is gone from us but Heaven will be a better place with her there.

Goodbye Mom….

1 comment:

  1. Chuck,
    What a beautiful tribute about your mother. Always cherish the many memeries of her. She
    knew that you were a proud son. May god hold her
    in the palm of his hand until you meet again.
    God Bless.
    Bill, Lisa & Trey