Tuesday, August 23, 2016

My Mother's Many Teaching Moments

Although my mother left school at the age of 16, without a high school diploma, she never stopped teaching the many lessons that life had taught her from losing her father when she was two years old, losing her mother when she was 13 and being a young mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother.

She was an enthusiastic reader of any and all books, from Shakespearean plays to the novels of Elswyth Thane (of which I have recently acquired four that she loaned to me when I was 14). She also read the Readers' Digest and especially "Laughter is the Best Medicine." 

Despite the loss of one of her seven children in a sad accident during World War II and outliving her beloved husband by forty years, she considered her life blessed. In the final ten years of her life, she succumbed to dementia but absolutely never lost her sense of humor and cheerful attitude. 

Although during the short period of transition, when she realized that something was going wrong, she had moments of fear and uncertainty, she came through as the happy, blessed and loving woman she had always strived to be. 

Virginia Verge Verrill was fearless. During the Second World War, she followed my father around the country, with sometimes five children in the car, to be with him at his many postings as a training officer. She recounted those adventures to me throughout my childhood and for her 90th birthday, I published them privately for my family and all her grandchildren. They are now available in an ebook, Following the Troops: Life for an Army Wife, 1941-1945. 

My mother was dyslectic and often had trouble pronouncing words such a "Pacific Ocean" (Specific to her) and "Oahu" (Wahaho to Mom). She could read anything but she couldn't write words such as okra (orke). But that didn't stop her from becoming the President of the Parent-Teachers Association for all the years that my younger sister and I were in elementary school. Neither did that stop her from being a leader in her church and helping to establish the Hamilton Church homeless center.

She also had a mild case of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) - a condition that affects me and my youngest son as well. Although we laughed about her "I planted tomatoes" moments, I finally understood the condition when my son was diagnosed with the more serious ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). I'm inclined to veer from one topic to another as this illustrates: 
And then.... You see how easy it is to wander!

Back on track now: my mother was a great one for repeating the tried and true adages that turn your life around when it needs it most. For instance, one that I hold dear and remind myself often: "To thine own self be true." 

But then...

Enjoy the final days of summer. I'll get back to work once I've finished laughing...at myself!


  1. Moms always get wiser as we get older. Your mom is a true inspiration. We always learn to be successful by watching others especially our parents. Great article.

    1. Thank you, Kathye. Virginia was indeed extraordinary. I suppose, in many ways, I have followed in her footsteps.

  2. Leigh, your mother sounded like an extraordinary woman. Thank you for sharing her story.

    1. Thanks, Fran. She was and still is an inspiration to many of her children and grandchildren. We've kept so much of her life and experiences as stories we tell one another.

  3. Love these stories about your mother. People like her are really what make America great.