My mom was a pioneer. She graduated from Purdue University in 1948 with a degree in Aeronautical engineering. She didn’t start work right away, but waited until my eldest brother was in college, in 1969. In the 70s she successfully sued a company for sexual discrimination. She was a founding mother for SWE (Society of Women Engineers). She was always pushing against that glass ceiling, and frequently frustrated by it. She helped make it easier for myself and other women trying to make it in male-dominated fields.
My mom read science fiction all her life – she was the one who hooked me when I was just a kid, giving me books by Clifford Simak, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and so on. She tried to steer me toward books with strong female characters, and always encouraged me to read female authors, like Ursula K. Le Guin and Andre Norton.
My mom, like all the members of our family, had many, many hobbies. She was a knitter, and ran a knitting camp (called Knitting Daze) for a few years. She went on many bicycle trips with my father. (As an example, for their 30th wedding anniversary, my parents went to Holland and biked around the country for a couple of weeks.) She did needlepoint work–we all have pieces from her. The wall in her bedroom has a dozen framed pieces, many from her travels, like the castle from Finland, the seagulls from Florida, the flowers from England. She skied, both cross-country and downhill. After she got older she still exercised, swimming in the pool in their condo, as well as walking at least a mile a day.
My mom also wrote journals. I had thought that it was something that she only started recently, in the last ten years or so, but today I found that her journals start in 1976. I also found a single journal from 1943. Over the next year I’m planning on going through them, pulling out appropriate pieces, and creating some kind of chap book of her writing for my family.
My mom’s death was unexpected. She had had an extremely mild heart attack in January 2002, but hadn’t had any problems since then. She and my dad had gone to see an orchestra performance that morning. They were leaving the hall when she said, “I need to sit down for a minute.” That was the last thing she said. She probably died at that point, about 1:15 in the afternoon, but she wasn’t pronounced until 4:20.
My mom didn’t suffer fools well, or gladly. We often joked in my family that “Mom took no prisoners.” She was tough, smart, articulate, funny, opinionated, stubborn, demanding.
I didn’t always agree with my mother. There were actually years when we didn’t talk a lot. But I don’t regret our relationship, as rocky as it sometimes was.
My parents have deeded me their ashes. I’m planning on taking my mom’s ashes up to the top of one of the mountains near where I live and scatter them there.
Tomorrow (Wednesday) is the memorial service. I’m planning on staying an extra week here, helping get things settled. There are a lot of things that still need to be done. We spent all day today going through my mom’s things, and there are probably a few more days worth of work.
It’s hard. Tomorrow is going to be hell. Again – thanks to all of You for all your help. I really appreciate it.