Maternal Side, My Family Tree

My Maternal Grandmother – Alberta Lou Fleming

One of my favorite photos of my Grandma, here is Alberta between 1944-1945 as that should be her youngest brother, James, she is holding (he was born in 1943),

Today would have been my grandmother’s 93rd birthday so what a better day than today to share the life of Alberta Lou Fleming with you all!

My grandmother was born on 2 October 1929, a preemie, to Mildred Laura Dunbar. The name listed on her birth certificate for her father was Albert Nank, her namesake, as he and my great-grandmother had gotten married just 3 days before on 29 September 1929 (I have since determined her biological father was actually my great-grandmother’s first husband, Paul Geer, whom she filed for divorce in January 1929 and it was finalized on 5 September 1929). The story goes that my great-grandmother was sent home with her little girl and a hot water bottle, and that if she somehow made it through the night to feed her the next day. Lucky for me, she survived. No one alive now seems to know how premature she was as I have asked.

The marriage to Albert Nank was over by 1933 as that is when Mildred got her second divorce and married her third and final husband, Howard Fleming. He was the man who raised my grandmother along with the two boys that he and my great-grandmother had. (Don’t feel sad at all for Albert, he chose not to see my grandmother growing up, and when my grandfather made my grandmother visit him as an adult, he didn’t say a word the entire visit. I think he knew that she was not his daughter but never said anything. And in other documents I’ve found, be it when he joined the military or when he died, it always said “no kids”).

Left to right: Mildred Laura Dunbar, Alberta Lou Fleming & Howard Fleming on the porch of 639 Carpenter Street, Akron, OH 44310

Initially times were tough, Howard, Mildred, and Alberta lived with Mildred’s mother Mazie at her home on Carpenter Street. Howard, a carpenter, would go out every day with his tools doing odd jobs to make a living to support his bride and daughter. Alberta’s childhood was during the time of the Depression, where food was rationed and grease and aluminum foil were saved for the war effort. Eventually Howard Fleming provided a good home as he was hired as a carpenter at BF Goodrich, one of the 3-big rubber companies in Akron, Ohio. In 1936 Alberta’s brother, Herschel was born and in 1943 the youngest son, James, was born.

Herschel Fleming, most likely age 9, James Fleming, approximately age 2, and Alberta Fleming, a guestimate of 16

Alberta and her brothers grew up in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. It is where their kids grew up, where myself and my cousins grew up, and where my own children go to school now. Cuyahoga Falls is a suburb of Akron, Ohio and is the Indian word meaning “crooked”, referring to the river that runs from Lake Erie and the “falls” were notable, as they had a drop off longer than Niagara Falls. While reading up on what Native American nation that coined the word Cuyahoga – it’s a cross between the Mohawk, Wyandot, and Iroquois that all seemed to have left their mark in this area.

Alberta Lou Fleming, VJ Day 1945

Meeting Harold Fairhurst

At the age of 17, Alberta Lou Fleming met Harold Fairhurst. He was 7 years older than she was and had been previously married. On 29 June 1947 they got married, with my great-grandmother, Mildred, signing off on the marriage license and giving her approval.

The wedding cake of Alberta Lou Fleming and Harold Fairhurst 29 June 1947

A few months later on 22 December 1947 my mother, Cynthia Anne Fairhurst, was born. A total of 5 children were born of this marriage. Their life wasn’t easy as Harold was not a very nice man.

Christmas 1957. Alberta Lou (seated), Howard Fleming & Mildred Dunbar Fleming
with Alberta’s 5-children.

While Harold was a golf pro and also worked in construction, Alberta took care of the children by day and bowled in the evenings. She was an excellent bowler, often being invited into leagues where you had to have a very high average to be a part of the group.

From the 9 December 1974 edition of the Akron Beacon Journal found on Newspapers.com. She is mentioned in the “Other High finishers” paragraph.

Harold and Alberta were divorced on 14 November 1968. Less than a year later she married Bernard Szemplenski on 2 September 1969. This marriage didn’t last very long as according to my uncle he was an “old school man of the house”. She divorced him on 16 March 1973 and married James Edward Metzger on 31 March 1973 (Grandpa Jim often eluded to how he paid for that divorce).

Her Life with Jim

I know Alberta as Grandma Metzger, as she married Jim about a month after I was born. Jim was the complete opposite of Harold Fairhurst, he would talk in a funny voice to get a laugh and was a much happier guy than the grumpy, silent man that I knew Harold to be.

James Metzger and Alberta Lou Fleming

Their (Alberta’s and Jim’s) time together seemed like it was filled with joy, they managed apartments and condominiums together, she worked in the office while he was the handy man for the complexes. It suited them. When I was about 3 or 4 they moved to Florida to do their thing in the Sarasota area.

One of my favorite photos of my Grandma Metzger (Alberta Lou Fleming) and her husband, Jim Metzger. This photo was amongst those found amongst my Grandma’s pictures.

My family and I visited them when I was 6 over Spring Break from school. I remember going to the Ringling Museum and stopping to see my Aunt and her family as they lived in Tennessee on our way down. We went down with my Great-Grandma Fleming (Mildred Laura Dunbar) and it was a fun time.

My mom, Cynthia Anne Fairhurst and my great-grandmother, Mildred Laura Dunbar, visiting in 1979

My sister and I went and visited my grandparents after she graduated from high school in 1986. We spent 6 weeks in Florida, helped them move, went to Disney and Busch Gardens Tampa and got reacquainted with my Aunt Teri and her youngest son. Strangely enough my Grandpa Fairhurst was living with Aunt Teri at the time, so he was there too. There was a Sunday when everyone came over where they lived at the condo where you walked about 100 steps out the front door and you were at the pool, a 100 steps out the back door and you were at the Gulf of Mexico. This was my favorite of the two places she worked while we were there. It was on Turtle Beach as part of the Siesta Keys and was just a great place.

Muffin, my grandparents cat, laying on a balcony at Sunset Towers in Sarasota

It was this trip to Florida that I really got to know my Grandma and her wonderful sense of humor which included an extremely quick wit. I wish I had her comebacks because she was the absolute best. I forget what was going on when but out of the blue she exclaimed “Shit! Fire! and save matches!” and I had never heard that expression before but I giggled so much from it.

A working girl

It was this same trip that I learned how abusive my Grandfather, Harold Fairhurst, was to her and her kids. It was something that my mom eluded too but I didn’t really know how bad it seemed to be.

Cancer

In 1988 Alberta was diagnosed with throat cancer. I remember the year from when I was driving up with my sister to visit her at University Hospital in Cleveland. Her and Grandpa Jim had moved up to Ohio the year before and began managing apartments in Bedford (a suburb of Cleveland). The radiation treatments and chemotherapy got rid of the cancer, but they destroyed her salivary glands, and she had a difficult time eating after that. My sister just commented the other day about how Grandma could make an amazing sandwich and she was unable to do so after cancer.

But the big C didn’t get my Grandma down for long. She still had her Christmas Eve party each year and normally had a celebration on the 4th of July for her oldest son’s birthday. I enjoyed the get togethers as it was the one time of the year when the whole family would get together and I’d get to see my cousins.

Her 65th Birthday

I’m going to guess it is her 65th birthday that Grandpa Jim had a surprise party for her. Below are some photos from the special day. From left to right is James Metzger, then a photo of me (my back is turned), my cousin Tommy Weekley (his back is also turned), and my other grandma, Anna Maria Morgart, then a photo of Alberta Lou Fleming heading up a line of well-wishers, and the large photo at the bottom is me again (still my back is turned), Alberta Lou Metzger, Cynthia Anne Fairhurst (my mom, she is profiled), and then on the far right you can see the face of my cousin, Jaclyn Dawn Fairhurst (with the white baseball cap on).

Eventually my grandparents moved to Columbus in the mid-1990’s and finally settled at a trailer park in Groveport. There were a few family get togethers the weekend before or after Christmas, but never the same as Bedford (not everyone had the time to drive a few hours to and fro).

James Edward Metzger and Alberta Lou Fleming at their trailer in Groveport

Her Last Few Years

After Jim passed away in 2001 her children moved Alberta back up to Cuyahoga Falls for her to live near them. She still had her own apartment but for the last 3 months of her life she lived with my aunt as she had both dementia and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). My aunt said they “played Scrabble every day and the last day she went in to feed her on her feeding tube and she said, ‘You ready to eat, and she (Alberta) said no but if it makes you feel better go ahead’ and she died a few hours later”. If memory serves my cousin Tracy and my mom (Cynthia) where with her when she passed. She died on 24 July 2006.

Memories

At the very last minute this morning I had the idea to contact my aunt, uncles, and cousins about their favorite memories of Alberta, and here are the responses I got in order of receiving them back.

My cousin Amanda said… “Well one of my favorite things to do at Grandma Metzger’s was to play with her seashells and shark’s teeth. I used to love going over there on my Dad’s birthday to watch fireworks in her side yard when she lived in Bedford. Staying with her when I had chicken pox… Watching “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy” when she would cook, and every time I see a cardinal, I am reminded of her. I also miss her fish kisses”.

My cousin Stacy wrote… “My favorite memory was when I was pregnant with my daughter and Jim was very unsupportive and told me that I should get an abortion and Grandma looked at him and said “If i did that every time I was pregnant at not the right time in life there wouldn’t be anyone in this room”. Subject was done after that. Also, I will never forget the tinsel tree at Christmas. Her hugs were hugs you felt into your soul. Her smile was infectious. I did not get a lot of time with my family on dad’s side but when I did, she showed me so much love. My mom and I were just talking about her and how when Eddie and I were little she would ride the bus over to help mom get Eddie out of bed and helped with me, put Eddie back to nap and she would get on the bus and go to work. My mom said she was a great mother-in-law and loved her very much”.

In honor of Stacy remembering her tinsel tree, here is a photo of Alberta when she lived in Bedford at one of her Christmas Eve parties – and said tinsel tree behind her.

Kellie, my sister, remembers… “How much fun her Christmas parties were… and a very specific one. I was living with them in Columbus, and I was wearing a particular dress, she says ‘Kellie, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but that dress makes you look fat’. I looked back and said, ‘Grandma, it’s not the dress, I am fat’. She spit out her water and laughed until she cried. I also used to love to hear her sing”. My sister later remembered that our mom (Cynthia Anne Fairhurst) often said she “gave her a son-in-law for her birthday” as today would have been my parents 51st wedding anniversary.

My cousin Tracy responded with… “Christmas time is a favorite … all her orange cats … I did spend a day gathering data and writing a paper for a Women in History class I had and that was cool to learn about too. I wish I knew where it was because I know I kept it. We had to pick someone born in the 20s. and she fell into that range”.

Her youngest son, Stephen wrote… “I have a memory of my mom and I sitting around listening to 1940’s music. Mostly Glenn Miller, but other swing bands also”. Another memory was… “When I was in High School and we were living on Loomis. Mom had just married Jim. Mom and I had plenty of evenings where we would get time to ourselves. Maybe I had just gotten home from working at the bowling alley. We would put on some of her music., mostly Glenn Millers Greatest Hits. Sometimes a compilation of 40’s swing artists. We’d talk about what was going on in life. Mostly about me (parents find out so much that way). Got a lot of history that way. She knew a lot about the depression, WWII, and the way Cuyahoga Falls was back in the day. How much public transportation was used. Not many had cars and very few families had 2. Stories of the collectors coming around during WWII to collect aluminum foil and used grease. How her dad, Howard Fleming, would walk to the Silver Lake area to do woodworking and housebuilding jobs before he got on at the Goodrich. Which is how they spoke of it. The Goodrich like it was its own little entity. Also, when I learned that unlike most of her friends, she liked Bing Crosby and the crooners more than Frank Sinatra and those type of singers. It wasn’t a long period of time that we did this, but the nights are still etched in my mind. They all kind of blur into one long night of sitting around and learning about each other”.

I know one of her favorite songs was “In the Mood” so here is the Glenn Miller Orchestra performing it

One of my favorite memories was when my sister graduated from high school and my grandparents took everyone out to dinner at my favorite restaurant (though this occasion was my first time going there), the Triple Crown. I had my very first Shirley Temple and everyone was there in my family…. or at least many of us living in the area of Cuyahoga Falls… and it was just a happy occasion. I held onto the red drink mixer thing for all these years (and that I just went to the basement and retrieved it from a plastic bin I think has my hubby a little weirded out).

Drink mixer from the Triple Crown, one of my favorite restaurants. It was in my very first Shirley Temple.

My cousin Emily commented…. “My love of ginger cats (orange) came from Grandma Metzger and Muffin. I always loved going to her house to see her and Muffin. When I was about 10 years old, we went down to see her and Grandpa in Columbus and she had this tiny ginger kitten that had walked up to her out of the woods. She had taken him in, and I fell in love with him. She knew I wasn’t leaving her house without that kitten, and she was right. Arthur came home with me and growing up with him I always felt like Grandma and Muffin were always there with us because the connection of how Arthur became to be my cat”.

Alberta’s oldest son remembers “when Mom and Dad would start arguing over something stupid like the definition of a word they would go back and forth and back and forth until she said ‘I’ll bet you’ then Dad shut up”.

Her youngest daughter, Debbie, recalls… “I’ll never forget the day I was about I don’t know, seven or eight, and she had to explain to me what a douchebag was because I kept calling Terry a douchebag”. She went on to further comment about how good her mom was at Scrabble “I’ll tell you what, she would have a fit about “Words with Friends” and some of the words they allow, she was all about following the rules when it came to Scrabble, and it was hard to beat her. She would win at Jeopardy every night, we told her she should go on the show, but she never would”.

My cousin Todd remembers…. “My favorite memory of grandma was when she took me in when things were stressed in Florida. But I would fish during the day and in the evening me and her would work on puzzles together. We would talk and build those it was my warmest best memory of her and Florida”.

My cousin Tim added… “Ah, Grandma Metzger, funny that Kim, Patrick, Timmy and I went bowling last night- A small venue (24 lanes- I remember Falls Rec as having 20 but I could be mistaken). I guess we were channeling Grandma. I will say that no Fairhurst or Fleming would claim us if they saw the sorry scores we put up. My memory of Grandma Metzger was that of an unflappable family matriarch. She helped each of us through some good times, some bad times, and some in between times. You would never know which of the three you were in because Grandma was the same – unfiltered and funny, caring and graceful”.

Many could have given me more but it’s so nice to know that Alberta has such a wonderful legacy. We all should be so lucky.

Rest in Peace, Grandma. And know you are loved.

Getting ready for a New Year’s Eve party at her friend, Margie’s
Maternal Side, My Family Tree, Paternal Side

Who Did You Find in the 1950 Census?

Ever since the clock struck midnight on Friday, April 1 the genealogical world has gone crazy trying to find their ancestors in the newly released 1950 census. Were you prepared to know where you had to search for your loved ones? I was a last-minute person, looking up the enumeration district for my mom and giving my dad a call to find out what state he was living in when 1950 rolled around. You see this was the first census my parents are in so I will admit I was a little excited.

I contemplated staying up until midnight when it was released to the world, but I was so tired I knew I wouldn’t have been able to stay awake that long. So, I made sure I got up at my usual 6:11am (the time I normally get up to get ready when my kids are going to school, they happened to be on Spring Break last week, so I was able to sleep in an extra hour), got ready, ate early and made sure I had a good solid hour before having to head out the door to focus on the 1950 census.

My Mom

Of my parents, finding my mom was a little easier. I thought initially she and her parents were already living on North Main Street in Akron, Ohio but I was wrong. I am glad I took the time to look up their information in the City Directory to find them living in Cuyahoga Falls, which is where I myself was born and raised (and it’s literally a 2-minute drive in either direction from where I live presently). It made it even easier for me to find except I selected the wrong enumeration district. Where they lived on Second Street there were multiple choices. It was odd though, I never had paid attention that they lived there before and here I drove by where their house was every day when I took my kids to school, or when I was a member of the Natatorium a few years back. (It appears that it’s a vacant lot where the building once stood).

I found my Mom in the 1950 using the National Archives website in enumeration district 77-69 for Summit County, Ohio. They were of course on the very last page. Harold Fairhurst was the head of household.

On my mom’s side of the family, I found her parents, Harold Fairhurst, Alberta Lou Fairhurst, herself, Cynthia Anne Fairhurst, and her younger sister, Terry (Teri) Mildred Fairhurst.

My Dad

My dad was a little trickier. I had called him the night before to ask if he knew if they were in Ohio yet, or if they (he and his parents) were still living in Indiana. My dad would have been 7 in 1950 and apparently all of his schooling was here in Ohio, so that narrowed it down. However, when they first moved to Ohio, they didn’t live in Akron, they lived in the Village of Lakemore, which was near Akron. This is one of those places that I have heard of, but I am not sure if I have ever been there.

I threw “Lakemore” into the enumeration district page to see if anything came up, but it wasn’t helpful. Luckily Google exists. I searched Lakemore, Ohio and luckily it came up and I was able to discover the zip code for it.

I then went to the Ancestry.com and they had a tool you could throw in your zip code and such and it would provide the enumeration districts for the area. So, I put in 44250 and I was able to narrow my search to 77-114, 115, 116, or 117, which translates to about 100 total pages to scan.

I lucked out, they were halfway through 115, and not only did I find my dad and grandparents, but my grandfather’s brother was living right next door with two of their kids as well! So, the total family I found for my dad was his dad, Leroy Blair, his mom, Anna Maria Morgart, his uncle, Donald Blair, his aunt, Anna Smzrlich, and two of their children.

My grandfather, Leroy Blair, is about 4 people down and is the head of household. This can be found at the National Archives website.

Everybody Else

I’ll admit I have hundreds of people I am sure I need to look up and find in the 1950 census. My great-grandparents on all sides of my family would have all been alive and kicking still, but I’m more than happy to wait until I can search by name and save it that way. I figure if I come across someone else that I just need to find, I will, but I have time (and not fully understanding the layout of Pennsylvania towns, who knows how long it would take me to find them).

Did you enjoy the fun of finding your ancestors in the 1950 census? How many people did you find? Share in the comments below!

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Maternal Side, My Family Tree, Paternal Side

Week 38: Fun & Games

Fun and games is the topic for this week’s writing challenge for Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. I’ve been so busy and lately the prompts have gone more in depth than what I know about my relatives, so I’ll share what I know.

Anna Maria Morgart

My gosh I wish I didn’t have them so packed away as I would have dug out my Grandma’s porcelain dolls that are located in a box up in my attic. Her request when she was getting ready to pass was that I would get them as she knows I am the pack rat she is and I would take care of them. Knowing the dolls are over 100 years old has them wrapped up and tucked away in the space but my goal is to display them when I have the space up there to do them justice (and then I’ll add a photo to this post). My Grandma loved her dolls and took excellent care of them.

My Daddy

My dad’s big hobby growing up was reading. He read every chance he could, so much so that he often claims it was the reason that he spent many summers attending classes to make up for the assignments he didn’t do throughout the normal school year.

He also claims that he must have liked summer school as he may have changed his habits if he truly hated it.

When I called and asked him what his favorite book was he said he didn’t really have one from back then. His favorite books were history books that were 156 pages long published by Random House. The books featured stories about Guadalcanal, the Revolutionary War and Daniel Boone (to name a few). He said they were a good size, he normally read them in about a day, while he was in school.

My dad is pretty sure this was the first book he read. I found this at Thriftbooks.com

I know I have inherited my dad’s love of reading (however I read at home or during Study Hall). He still loves to read and is finishing up a trilogy on World War 2 that I purchased for him for Christmas, his Birthday and Father’s Day.

My Mommy

I can honestly say I don’t know what all my mom did for hobbies. She wasn’t a reader, that is for sure. I always remember her telling me stories of how the Gorge was her playground/ The Gorge is part of the Summit County MetroParks that people hike, ice skate, picnic, and fish at each year.

For example the photo of the pipe she claims she walked across. I find this hard to believe as she was afraid of heights. Like majorly afraid of heights. But maybe she was more daring as a kid/teenager.

The above photos were all taken by me – the top is looking down on the Falls that is about to be taken out and the originals restored. The rock formation is Mary Campbell Cave where Indians had apparently abducted a girl and that is where they held her, and lastly is the field where in the winter the skating rink is located. Weather hasn’t really allowed for any ice skating the last few years, but I know my mom and her siblings had wonderful memories there.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Maternal Side, My Family Tree

Week #33: Tragedy

The theme for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is “tragedy”. I’ll admit I did a search in my genealogy software trying to find a relative who was a logger and died under tragic circumstances (I could not find them) or I contemplated about a distant cousin who died young under horrible circumstances (leaving that for another year?).

But then I decided to be different.

All week long when I began attempting to compose this post the Bee Gees song began going through my head. Why? Well “Tragedy” is the name of the song, it’s also quite catchy, as most songs by the Brothers Gibb are.

But for me the Bee Gees songs have a greater meaning, in the last 20 years of my mom’s life she loved the Bee Gees and would often ride her recumbent bike listening to them, or when taking a walk around the block or at the local gym. She would often comment that their music would allow her to bee bop through the house (she had a specific term for this bee bopping but I shall not say it, because though Cynthia Anne Fairhurst meant it as a HUGE compliment, it may not be seen that way in today’s climate).

The Bee Gees Greatest Hits were one of my mom’s favorite albums, and my sister often has moments that she feels my mom is with her when a Bee Gees song comes on. Sadly, I don’t listen to the correct radio stations to be blessed with this – but that’s okay. I get cardinals in my lilac bush on her birthday which is just as nice.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Maternal Side, My Family Tree

Week 12: Loss

As a human being, we all lose members of our family. But when you lose a parent it’s comparable to losing a limb. This week’s theme is Loss for Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestor’s in 52 Weeks, and I’m going to discuss one of the biggest losses of my life, my mom, Cynthia Anne Fairhurst, and you will get some of her insights as I have used her scrapbooking pages from her own blog to aid in my telling about her life.

Cynthia Anne Fairhurst

My mom was born on 22 December 1947 at 2:31am in Akron, Ohio, the oldest child of Harold Fairhurst and Alberta Lou Fleming.

It wasn’t long before others came along. My Aunt Terry was born in April 1949. Here is a photo of the family of four that following summer.

In July 1950 my Uncle Eddie was added to the mix and then my Aunt Debbie 4 years later.

Her Childhood

My mom’s early years had her living in the North Hill area of Akron. By the time she was in second grade her family had moved to Cuyahoga Falls.

Third grade had her going to Grant Elementary School (which is now a community center in Cuyahoga Falls as they consolidated schools when I was in 5th grade and closed 3 elementary schools down).

Below is a photo of her from 4th grade when she attended St. Joseph’s Catholic School.

Cindy was always very close to her grandmother, Mildred Laura Fleming, spending a lot of time at her house. Below is a memory she had of Christmastime.

My mom and her siblings love to go and hang out at the Gorge, one of the Summit County Metro Parks where you can hike, fish, and ice skate (there are 3 different hiking paths that are a part of the annual hiking spree at this location alone). My mom, who wasn’t an overly nostalgic person (I have gotten all my pack rat sentimentality from my grandmother), still had a pair of her ice skates hanging in the room underneath the steps in our home. Most of her fondest memories of growing up were of her and her siblings playing at the Gorge. Below are some pictures I’ve taken over the years when I participate in the Fall Hiking Spree, but two (the black and white ones) I found on a Facebook Post (I think). The other I did re-find and is a photo by John McMillan.

From left to right on the top: A photo of where the ice skating pond is in the winter time, next is a photo of the Gorge hiking trail leading to Mary Campbell’s Cave (the others not shown are Highbridge and the Glenns), the pipe is a spot my mother claims to have crossed over countless times and I find this hard to believe as she was extremely afraid of heights, next is a photo of the Cuyahoga River looking towards the Falls (which is to be torn down soon – they claim there is another falls behind this but this is actually part of the dam used by Ohio Edison or FirstEnergy for electricity), next up is just a photo of the river again (I must have thought it looked artsy and wanted to share), then there is the photo I’m not sure where I found it but it was on my phone of kids using one of the heaters in the winter months, and lastly a photo by John McMillan of ice skating. I remember sending this photo to my mom and joked that maybe she was somewhere in it! She actually went on to scrapbook a page using the photo.

This scrapbooking page can be found at my mom’s blog at Gramma’s Happy Place, my mom loved to scrapbook, it became one of her passions the last years of her life.

After graduating high school in 1966 my mom worked as a nurses aid at Green Cross Hospital (which changed to Cuyahoga Falls General Hospital and is now Western Reserve Hospital). My mom loved working in the hospital and it was her dream to become a nurse.

Getting Married & Having a Family

At the age of 19 she got married to her first husband, Joe Sullivan and had my sister. Things didn’t work out with that relationship, Joe wasn’t the right guy for my mom, being a more fly by the seat of your pants type to her responsible nature. Eventually they divorced and my parents met while she was working as a bartender at Falls Recreation, a bowling alley, and I believe she worked in a bank during the day.

On October 2, 1971 my parents got married, oddly enough on my Grandma’s birthday (my mom’s mom). A year-plus later I came along and her family was complete (you do stop at perfection, right? Okay, I’ll stop before my sister gets mad).

By this point in time Cindy became a “stay at home” mom. But she didn’t believe in pampering us, we walked to and from school, even in the rain (that’s what umbrella’s are for – I tell you, I wish I still had an umbrella now like I had when I walked home from school – it was clear with red trim and a red curved handle and the top completely wrapped around you, so your entire top stayed dry, not just your head!). This caused issues with the other parents because they wanted her to help with carpools.

But in the grand scheme of things I can’t complain about my childhood. I had chores to do (dishes, floors, bathrooms – nothing horrible – but ask 18 year old me and I’m sure I would say something completely different). But she let me be a kid, and for that I am eternally grateful. She didn’t make me feel bad for sneaking downstairs to my play room and play with my dolls when many would have thought me “uncool” (though when I was 5 she did hide my Fisher Price People from me, and that hurt).

Mishaps

I have so many times when odd things happened that always looked bad for my mom. For example one night, I was probably in third grade (I think?) and my mom and I were sitting at opposite ends of the couch. She stretched out and ended up kicking me in the mouth. The next day at church people asked me happened, and me being my usual, blunt self stated “my mom kicked me”.

But even before that when I was probably 4, my mom would take my sister and I to the band show at the high school. My favorite was always watching the majorettes, I always thought their costumes were so pretty. Anyhow on this particular hot August day I was to clean my room. When my mom came in to inspect she found a faux rhinestone bracelet on the floor. She got mad and flung it at me and where one of the clasps that was missing a stone cut the skin just below my eye. All of the sudden there was blood everywhere – and that night as I had a small gash when the people around us asked what was wrong with me, I just said “my mom threw a bracelet at me”.

I’m pretty sure there was at least one more instance like this that I am forgetting, I really am surprised that social services was never called to our house.

When I Was Sick

I was a sickly kid. Not in a really super bad way, but I was a kid who every year during the change of seasons, I came down with a cold. Actually, it was more than a cold, it was croup (most people get this once a lifetime, I got it at least 3 times a year – when I was a teen it was more like laryngitis that lingered forever, oddly it went away when my mom quit smoking when I was 19 years old and my dad began smoking outside only).

Anyhow, my mom always took good care of me. When I had to have my tonsils out. When I came down with the chicken pox (she figured it out because we were watching Donny & Marie and I didn’t want any popcorn. I kept itching my side and that’s when she made me pull up the top of my shirt and see I had a spot. My sister had already had chicken pox so it wasn’t a big deal. It was the second half of second grade that I came down with it. Daddy got in trouble because he went out to work in the garage while my mom and sister went to church and I did the one thing I wasn’t suppose to do – I itched a spot on my face and made the scab come off – RIGHT UNDER MY EYE. I was fortunate, only on a bad day can you see the scar (like when I’m super tired). But she didn’t know that (my sister has a spot in the middle of her forehead).

Another memory of when I wasn’t feeling too good my mom always called me pumpkin, not sure why, but thinking of it now brings a smile to my face.

When My Grandfather Fairhurst Moved In

When I was in fifth grade my Grandfather Fairhurst moved in with us. His third wife (the one he married after my grandmother) decided she wasn’t going to put up the abuse anymore and divorced him. He returned to Ohio and somehow ended up at our house, living in the basement.

As I’ve said before in a previous post, my grandfather was not a nice man. I didn’t mind it when he first moved in because I wasn’t aware of how my life and my mom’s was about to change. After about 6 weeks I acted like my grandfather wasn’t even in my presence (which I think freaked my mom out a little). He sat across the table from me and I’d act like he wasn’t there. He took over the television (which for an 11 year old is a big deal after school in the winter time), we think he is part of the reason my first dog disappeared, and didn’t have too many nice things to say about anything.

While all this happened, my mom slowly began to change. She became a shell of herself, and just began sitting at the table while she smoked cigarettes (several packs a day) and played solitaire. Her dad sat on the opposite side of the table doing the same thing.

Finally Harold met someone and got married again, Connie was her name. They didn’t stay married for long, my dad always figured that she must have thought he was loaded or something. Was she in for a surprise. But his stint at our house had taken it’s toll on my mom. She slept all the time and began complaining of headaches and she was just a mess. All the suppressed memories and horror of her childhood caught up with her when her dad moved in. And like my dad will say to this day, it never hit him how long my grandfather had lived with us.

After a while my mom was encouraged to get some professional help. In the span of 5-8 years, my mom saw 2 therapists. The first encouraged her to do the one thing she had always wanted, she went back to school and became a nurse.

Cindy Becomes a Nurse

In the Fall of 1988 my mom enrolled in a year-long program to become a licensed practical nurse at the W. Howard Nichol School of Practical Nursing. Never had I seen my mother work so hard (well, except for cleaning). Every night she made flash cards to learn her anatomy, studied with some of the other students in the mornings at Arby’s and came up with clever ways to remember who did what (no disrespect to people with mental issues – but the one that I always remembered was “Dingy Dorothea” as a way to remember Dorothea Dix who advocated on behalf of the mentally ill, it may have not been the most positive way to remember her, but here it is 31 years later and I still know this fact).

Cindy didn’t miss a day of school and she came in 2nd in her class (and that made her so mad). I remember attending her graduation in September 1989. On October 25 she made her way to Columbus with her other classmates and took the State Boards. She passed!

What Cindy journaled: “I always wanted to be one, but could not get there right out of high school. I even participated in a vocational program my senior year of high school. I worked as a nursing assistant at the local hospital in the mornings and went to school in the afternoons. I was the oldest of five children and my dad worked in heavy construction so no work in the winter, so they could not afford to send me to nursing school, besides I did not have a car so no transportation besides the bus. I would have been willing to ride the bus back and forth but no money for tuition. So I worked as a nursing assistant for several years. I would have joined the Waves also to have them pay for my education but my dad was dead set against that.
So life went on, I married, had a daughter, Kellie. I then divorced and then met and married Bob. I was a stay at home mom for many years-until Kellie decided she did not want to go to college and Becky was still in high school. I finally got my chance. It was May 1988 when I scheduled to take the entry exam into nursing school! Then we got the news that my Mom had throat cancer. I knew she was going to need support. I took the entry exam anyway. I was told I would hear from them in a couple of weeks about my results. Lo and behold they called me the next day and asked me to come in for my interview. I had tested so well they were offering to let me start in September. My Mom’s treatment would be over by then, so I was accepted into the W. Howard Nichol School of Practical Nursing. It was 1988-I was forty years old! Was I crazy? Had I lost my mind?
I went anyway!
I worked very hard studying every night but Friday and Saturday the first half of the year. Then we made it to Capping-yes they were still wearing caps then! After that things got harder! Learning the normal body the first half, then the abnormal the second half of the year. So I only took Friday nights off from studying then. I loved every moment of my schooling. The human body is such a miracle.
I graduated second in my class of thirty students. I was proud I worked so hard! I was finally a Licensed Practical Nurse-In my life that was and to this day is

AWESOME!!!!!!

She initially got a job on 3rd shift working at a nursing home but it didn’t take her long to realize that was not her calling. A few months later she got a job working for allergists near Akron Children’s Hospital and this was the job she loved. She ended up learning how to make the allergy vaccines and giving a majority of the shots.

Her Real Calling

While my mom worked as a nurse, I finished high school, went to college (twice) and then finally found someone to marry. But this is when I gave my mom I believe to this day was the one thing she truly loved being more than anything else, “Gramma”.

You can tell by the way she is looking at them how much she loves them!

I have always said to my kids that I wish I had their Gramma as my mom. She did things with them that she never thought of doing with me – swimming in the backyard pool (you know the ones, the blow up wading pools), took them to fairs (they were unsafe when I was little) and pretty much got them everything their hearts desired along with a hefty dose of her love.

Scrapbooking

As you can tell from this post, I’ve filled it with my mom’s own thoughts from her scrapbooking pages. She loved to scrapbook. I took her to a crop at my aunt’s in I think 2011 and she was hooked. I recommended she do what I did when I began a few months before, pick an event where you have a handful of photos and go. She did and never looked back. Here is one of my favorite photos she did – a picture of her as a child and as she looked when she did the page.

This photo is actually my background on my phone
No one was surprised more than me when my mom decided to take up fishing!
Biking was another hobby she tried but it would wear her out too quickly
Left to right: My sister, my mom, me, my kids, and my dad

Influenza B

Sunday April 1 was Easter Sunday and it was a wonderful day. We had dinner at my parents house, we played a board game and I showed both parents the many photos I took from my family’s trip to Washington D.C. over Spring Break (we missed the cherry blossoms by a few days). I honestly can’t remember a better holiday.

Then the day after Easter 2018 our world was blown apart. While my kids were at her home after school my mom suddenly got very sick and an ambulance was called to take her to the hospital. She ended up being there for about a week and had to be hooked up to a respiratory tube to breath. It took them a while to figure out that she had Influenza B that attacked her lungs. She was already struggling with atrial fibrillation and having difficulty breathing but this was a lot. I still have the message she left me on my phone, telling me she was going home that Saturday. They wanted her to go into an assisted living place so she could undergo physical therapy of walking up and down the steps again but she refused and did it at home.

I taught my kids the sign language sign for I Love You when the were itty bitty so that I can wave it to them and they know in school, up on a stage, etc. It came in handy for this post and truly touched my mom’s heart, it was her last posted page on her blog, everything else was cards she had made.

As time went on my mom continued to have issues with her breathing. She began going to see one of the doctors she worked for wondering if some of her issues could have been handled in a different way as one of her doctors for years had chalked it up to her being overweight and needing to lose a few pounds. But she was barely eating and I think that played havoc with her body as that can make you not lose weight sometimes too.

Monday, May 28, 2018

I know her body was still weakened after having the Influenza B and on Monday, May 28 in the morning, my mom died. It happened quick. One minute she was talking on the phone to her above friend/doctor, she had chatted with one of her co-workers about how she was feeling on Facebook Messenger that morning, sent my dad to Wal-Mart to pick up some things. Then reminded him he needed to water the flowers, he came in and saw her struggling and called 9-1-1.

My mom knew she wasn’t feeling well all weekend. She had told me a couple of times on the phone that she may go to the hospital for a breathing treatment. So when my dad called me and told me they were headed to the hospital I poorly assumed that this was the case. I took my time getting ready, it was going to be a while before they were going to let me see her.

Little did I know when I got a second phone call a half hour later from my sister what was really happening. I live the closest to the hospital they took her too, the one I told you about before where she worked as a nurses aid after high school, Western Reserve Hospital, aka Green Cross Hospital.

My husband and I weren’t in the ER waiting room long when the doctor came out and said they had done everything they could. I never cried so much at once. Never had my chest felt so heavy. And for days.

The paramedics began working on my mom as soon as they got to the house. A neighbor claims they were punching her chest pretty good as they left the house and got into the ambulance with her trying to re-start her heart. My dad said that they did get it going briefly in the ambulance and once again in the hospital. But as I am the family historian and when I made a genealogy appointment at the health department and I got a copy of her death certificate it was called before I ever got to the hospital. My dad kept having them work on her, but after 45 minutes he finally said stop. They already had.

A Mix of Feelings

I don’t think you can ever be prepared to lose a parent. I was not expecting to lose my mom that day. If you notice I stress the date. That is what I do. She died on Memorial Day. I can’t have every Memorial Day ruined now because it happened to land on the observed day of Memorial Day (it’s bad enough it was the day before my husband’s birthday – yeah, she really screwed him, and she really liked my husband).

Telling my kids was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. Especially my daughter, as my mom had made her the center of her world. She could do no wrong, and she pretty much knew it. My son on the other hand you have to be careful even now. He went the other way with things, getting mad at her for never going to the hospital and having that breathing treatment.

My dad, he was really mad for a very long time. I think he was a bit like my son, wondering why didn’t she do the breathing treatment, why didn’t she tell us she was as sick as she was.

But in the end, her quality of life was going downhill and maybe it’s good it happened fast, that she didn’t have to suffer anymore than she did.

But on Monday, May 28 you couldn’t tell me all this. I was the one who was told the least (well, outside of my children that is). I was the baby of the family, and in many ways my mom still saw me as such. When she had doctor’s appointments she told me what was going on but in layman’s terms so I understood it all (I can’t stand the sight of bags of blood so I knew a medical career was never for me). She also knew I got anxious when my parents had to get procedures. I was the internal worrier even if I didn’t let the world see it.

My mom and I had a very complex relationship. But until the end she was my mom. For me we were never friends or buddies like many mom’s and daughter’s do. She was the mom and I was the child. She was critical of me even the day before she died. My last phone conversation was her hanging up on me because I was in the middle of fixing a taco salad for dinner and wouldn’t rush off to turn on the Cleveland Indians baseball game. Later that night she messaged me how it ended and that was our last interaction.

Cynthia Anne Fairhurst was a woman who only saw black and white, right or wrong. It was a world with no grays. So I often disappointed her because she couldn’t understand why I did things (for myself or with my kids even). My dad could, and most of their arguments stemmed around why my sister and I did things that my mom thought was just not the way to do it (yeah, examples of this are escaping me at the moment).

More Memories

I remember after I graduated from college in 1996 (the first time, the 2nd time was when I went for 1 entire year and got my history degree, that was 1999). Our family had planned a vacation to Williamsburg (family being me, my mom and my dad). My dad ended up having jury duty so he didn’t go. He thought being a fireman would get him out of it, he was wrong, but stating he had vacation plans would have (insert person slapping their forehead emoji here). So my mom and I went on the trip together.

This still makes me laugh because I love history and my mother doesn’t. Williamsburg was fun, for some reason she only ever remembers George Wythe’s House (he was a lawyer and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, last odd fact, if you do relative finder using your FamilySearch.org account, I’m supposedly related to George Wythe on my mom’s side of the family, she would have been so excited!). She also thought it weird when I got emotional at Yorktown – I could have been walking where George (Washington) walked! How does she not see that as thrilling (and must not have noticed me doing the same thing 7 years before when my parents and I visited Washington, D.C. and we went to Mount Vernon). I can’t even remember what she was lecturing me about but we didn’t even make it to Jamestown because I was done. I remember her telling me the exit is there but I didn’t care – I was going home. And that is what I did.

I still have yet to see Jamestown.

But I do have a lot of funny memories of that trip. Somehow every time we tried to get to our hotel (the now defunct George Washington Inn) we ended up at Camp Peary (here I thought it was an Army base but it’s apparently a training place for the CIA – that’s even funnier). It was always our turn around point. Here my husband figured it out on our honeymoon seven years later, there are 2 highways side by side and we always got on the wrong one to get to the hotel. Oddly enough he couldn’t find Camp Peary so the one day I drove and found it in minutes. I’m talented that way.

But my mom and I did have some really good times. In 2000-2001 we signed up for the National City Bank Broadway Series in Cleveland where once a month we went and saw touring Broadway shows. That year they had some really good ones – Tony & Tina’s Wedding, Fame, Cabaret, The Scarlet Pimpernel (so funny!), Swing!, and my mom’s favorite, Fiddler on the Roof. She enjoyed hearing “If I Were a Rich Man” the way Theodore Bikel sang it. When I emailed who I thought was Theodore Bikel’s agent to see if such a recording existed (it does not) I ended up chatting via email with Theodore Bikel himself!

Another love of my mother’s was watching the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes, so back in 2002 when they came to Cleveland the first time I took her. And we had front row seats (I thought we were going to be row 2). She was so happy, she always commented to everyone that if the girls hadn’t shaved she would have known it as she was so close she could count the hair on their legs (sadly no photos, we didn’t have phones with camera’s quite yet, or if the world did they weren’t common yet).

We also watched a lot of baseball and football together. She was the die-hard Cleveland fan where my heart took me to other places. I love the New York Football Giants (because Bud Carson cut Matt Bahr before the 1990 season and then Raul Allegre got injured and Matt joined the team, I’m sure it helps the Giants won the Super Bowl that year but 30 years later I’m still a fan) and the New York Yankees (I thought I was a fan of both teams but in 1997 during the Divisional Playoffs my mom and I went to game 5 with my cousin and her husband, I claimed I didn’t care who won with my Omar Vizquel jersey and my Yankees baseball cap, but when Sandy Alomar hit that home run off of Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the 9th and the Yankees lost, I wasn’t happy Cleveland won, I was devastated the Yankees lost, and that’s how I discovered I was a Yankees fan). Anyhow – we went years watching games together. And though Cleveland went to a couple of World Series but never won, I am happy she watched my Yankees with me to see them. She was happy. And though she preferred the Indians I know she was like me and enjoyed watching those Joe Torre led Yankees teams of the late 90’s and early 2000’s. When Derek retired I remember her posting a story on my Facebook page stating “can you believe we watched his entire career?” It was wonderful.

Granted, I’ve cried a river writing this blog over the past 3 or 4 days. Normally tears I shed for my mom are often unexpected. In the middle of the grocery store when I see something I know she would love and I pick up my phone to tell her only to remember she is no longer here. When I see something happen with my sports teams that I know she would be excited about (for example Mariano Rivera making it into the Hall of Fame unanimously – she liked Mo and Derek Jeter a few years later though he missed unanimously by 1). When the kids do something awesome and go to share it.

When my mom surprised me with a 40th birthday party. She laughed as I walked in with many friends and family and I said “I guess this means no chicken pot pie” she made the best homemade chicken pot pie, it’s what she made me every year for my birthday.

I miss my mom. At times I feel like I was still nothing but a disappointment but more and more it’s just the fun memories I remember. Everyone tells you this but it’s the truth, tell your parents you love them. Hug them (I know it’s difficult presently because of Covid, so glad my mom wasn’t around for this). You never know when that last time might be.

This was taken when we spent a day at the farm in southern Ohio I believe in 2014. My mom was not fond of this picture, but I love it as she looks happy as she was wearing my son’s hat while was riding the ATV with his dad and had a helmet on. Overall, it was a fun day!

Thank you for going through this journey, I surprised I found so many items on my mom’s blog to use. I rather enjoyed having her words intermingle with my own to tell her story.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Maternal Side, My Family Tree

Week 5: In the Kitchen

This week’s theme for Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is “In the Kitchen”. The first thing that popped into my head was how the past few Christmases I feel as if I have the ghosts of my mother, her mother, and her mother, all in the room with me helping me bake.

The Recipe

There is a specific cookie that I make that has me think of these lovely ladies in my life. The recipe is for Drop Sugar Cookies, you know the ones that are made with sour cream and are extra moist. And what I have found has made my great-grandmother’s recipe unique is that she added nutmeg. I have also found that the colored sugar that you sprinkle on the cookies helps to make it taste good as well – but the real treat is the red hot. Those red hots make them extra yummy!

Picture if you would, the recipe, do you think I can find it? Of course not, it wasn’t written by my Great Grandma but it was by my mom (I photo copied her recipe card when I started making cookies for my own kids.

The Cookie Sheets

About a year or so before my mom passed away she got me some heavy duty insulated aluminum cookie sheets. These are 2 of the 5 (sometimes 6) cookies sheets that I use when I bake my cookies (primarily because they are my largest pans).

The cookie sheet, maybe more of a jelly roll pan that my mom got me a couple of years ago, lying within it is the spatula I decided to adopt from my grandmother’s house.

The Spatula

The final step in the cookie baking process is taking the cookies off the cookie sheets and putting them on my cooling racks. The above spatula was my grandmother’s. I remember I took it from her house after she passed away. My mom and I went over to clean up a little bit and I saw it and I took it. I’ve never seen a spatula like this in the store and I know how great they are as my mom use to have 2. I wasn’t taking any chances on anyone else wanting it. And because of this key tool, I am able to get cookies off a cookie sheet spectacularly because of it’s finely beveled edge.

All Together Now

You put all these items together and I feel like there are 4-generations of ladies in my kitchen baking with me every holiday – Mildred Laura Dunbar, Alberta Lou Fleming, Cynthia Anne Fairhurst, and me!

This occurred to me my first Christmas after my mom passed away in 2018. It was a hard holiday and it’s the little things like baking cookies that take a lot of me (my mom and I shared baking responsibilities each year – she’d bake cookies with my daughter and they would do 2 types of cookies [Russian Tea Cakes & Peanut Blossoms] and I made 2 types[cut-out cookies and the drop sugar cookies]).

I find it interesting – this is a cookie sheet I made in Junior Achievement when in 10th Grade.

I miss these three ladies so very much. My great-grandmother, Mildred Laura Dunbar, was the first person I knew well that passed away. When her daughter, Alberta Lou Fleming, my grandmother, passed away in 2006, I was sad. I wish I would have known her better, but she moved to Florida when I was little so I never quite had the connection with her as I did with my other grandma, and even her mom (my great-grandma use to babysit me when I was little and she entertained me with her costume jewelry and clothes and made me scrambled eggs). My mom’s death came unexpectedly in 2018 and even now, almost 3 years later I have days where I’m just sad).

But without these ladies, I could not bake a great batch of cookies.

Was there a cookie you use to bake with a relative, or that you make because it was passed down with your family? Share with me in the comments!