If you have been a longtime visitor to our farm, you may remember a white haired lady sitting behind a table, taking your payment for your blueberries and cheerfully chatting with you. That lady was my mom.
Mom was one of our farm’s most ardent supporters but she wasn’t fond of the idea at the beginning. When we first bought the farm, we asked my parents (along with several other people) for their advice. My mom advised against buying it. She’d grown up on a farm in the Depression era and knew firsthand how hard it is to make a living from farming. She didn’t want that for us. Once we decided to try it though, we never heard a negative comment from her again. A few times we caught her keeping track of how much people had paid for their blueberries so she could figure out if we were making enough to make it worth while but she never said a word.
Mom seemed to love working here even though she only got paid in blueberries. In the early years, most of our employees were family members and she loved being with the family. Mom had so much fun working for us that when my dad retired, he asked if he could help so he could be with the family too. Mom liked it that dad was coming because he could help her pick berries and she said that he ate so many while picking that she could put more in the freezer at home.
Mom and Dad would get here early and bring their newspaper. We’d provide them with donuts and all the coffee they could drink for breakfast. They’d sit behind their table with their cash boxes and read the paper until the first customers started coming out of the field. Then they were all business.
About 10 years ago the family began to notice changes in Mom. For over 20 years she had avidly made sourdough bread from scratch. The whole family loved her gifts of homemade bread. Suddenly her bread wouldn’t turn out. She had been the family financial wizard for as long as I can remember but she couldn’t remember what forms to keep to prepare their taxes. Taking payments at the farm became too much for her but she still wanted to be here for Blueberry Season so we gave her a clicker and asked her to count the customers for us. Eventually, she was diagnosed with Alzheimers.
For 7 years Mom graciously accepted her limitations. We don’t know whether she knew what was happening because she never complained. Almost every professional who helped with her care said she was the sweetest Alzheimer’s patient they’d known. She wasn’t angry or cross or combative. The last few years I don’t know if she knew who I was but she always hugged me and thanked me for coming to see her and for taking care of her.
Mom’s last month was difficult. Her caregivers said she was stuck in the memories of her early childhood and she was often agitated. She kept telling us over and over “I want to go home!” One weekend, Dad and all of us kids gathered in her room to share memories together and to tell her one more time what a wonderful mom she was. We sang old hymns together and Mom sang along. We couldn’t always remember the words to the hymns but Mom knew them.
Mom got her wish and left us for her true home on June 11. Her memorial service was June 19. Blueberry Season began on June 27. Mom wouldn’t have liked that timing because she always wanted to help us. I so wanted to post a tribute to Mom before we opened because many of you remember her. Opening day, I could see her sitting at her table with a smile on her face, eagerly waiting to greet the first person out of the field. It was a bitter sweet memory. In the end, we decided not to post publicly because we knew many of you would offer condolences and hugs and we would spend the whole season in tears.
If there are blueberries in heaven, Mom is probably somewhere nearby, waiting for us to arrive so we can reminisce about her days on our farm. We love you and miss you, Mom! Thanks for being our biggest fan!