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598 Heath Road
July 23, 2009 - Michael Palmer
Heath was a nice town and while Dad was getting to know the business community Mom was getting to know her neighbors and making friends at church. There was an elderly farm couple across the street and a family next door with a chatty wife that kept us all informed on the gossip from throughout the area.
We raised a garden and canned our own vegetables, made wine from the grapes in our arbor and bought meat from the farmer for Grandpa Tony’s dried sausage recipes.
Everything went quite well for a few months, then Singer closed the Heath store and Dad was out of work. Economic hard times were complicated when Mom came down with a Staph infection in one of her kidneys and had to be hospitalized. This time grandpa Tony was there to help with cooking duty while Mom recovered from having one kidney removed.
It was getting close to Christmas and Mom tried to prepare us for a low present count. We had outgrown the Santa Claus and his reindeer phase and understood that just feeding the four children, paying the rent and utilities and keeping Renee in medicine was taking all the money that Dad could come up with working part-time jobs whenever they were available.
Mom whipped up a batch of cookies and some hot chocolate; we sat around the tree and sang carols, as was the tradition. Mom gave us her “Jesus is the reason for the season” speech and we all prepared for bed. Then it happened, our own little Christmas miracle. There was a knock on the door and in came our friends from church and some of the businesspersons from the shopping center where Dad had worked with boxes of wrapped presents and food for a Christmas dinner. I know as tweens, we did not fully appreciate it at the time, but when I look back on the ghosts of Christmas past, that one will remain a special memory.
The winter was hard, Dad was working part-time, as a bus driver for the Heath City schools, and it was summer before that transitioned into a full-time maintenance position. He worked nights while we were going through middle school and high school, not his dream job and a tough ride for the kids, “Hey, isn‘t your dad the janitor?” - but we were proud of him despite any criticism by our classmates. Mom was popular with our friends from school; she always had something good to eat for them and really enjoyed listening to their conversations and discussing their problems. She truly enjoyed their visits and they knew it, so they appreciated her.
Mom was most comfortable in that environment, having fun and conversing with friends. She liked music, dancing and a few television shows over the years, but a good book or a game with her kids or a few friends was what she really enjoyed. The blizzard of ‘78 trapped our family, a Japanese exchange student and the neighbor’s in our small basement for a week. The rest of us might have been a little stir crazy from the confinement and lack of electrical stimuli, but mom was in her element and kept it light and cheery, her joy in the simple pleasures made it fun for everyone. That was our last real family together time as the little birds began leaving the nest. My sister Licia graduated got a factory job and an apartment. Denee followed her out when she married and moved to Georgia.
The circle of life was turning and her family was beginning to dwindle. My mom’s uncle Lawrence, her Aunt Florence and dad’s mom all passed away. Then Grandpa Tony fell ill and required a warmer climate so he left us and moved back with my uncle in Georgia. Grandpa Joe on my dad’s side had a stroke and died the first week of June in 1984. Grandpa Tony died the night before my wedding, but mom was a trooper and helped us through the day with tears of joy mixed with tears of sorrow for the loss of her father. I decided to move into the vacant farmhouse after the wedding and mom was left with just dad and Renee to care for. Her dear aunt Anna moved to Heath to be near her but the time was short as she soon died from cancer.
The big house was no longer necessary, so the trio moved into a cozy old farmhouse near St. Louisville, Ohio signaling the end of one era and the beginning of a new, being grandparents.
Chapter 5 - They call me Nona!
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Christmas was always a special time