I’m sharing with you today memories of Alma J. Reiten, my mother. I’ve written about her before and I’ll be writing about her again.
I was at her side when she passed away on March 25, 2015…way too soon. I spoke at her funeral in Dent, Minnesota at the United Methodist Church two weeks ago today, on April 2, 2015. It wasn’t a eulogy; others did that. What I did was pretty easy, although my family thought it was a risky move putting me in front of the congregation. I hadn’t done very well seven months earlier at my brother’s funeral. My brother Kirk had to come and rescue me.
But when I thought about Mom, I thought about the two of them and it was easy to share about their love and my mother’s tenderness. Of course, there’s a reference to a fashion tip that I tried to share with Mom last year. She wasn’t ready to take my advice (and I wasn’t pushing it on her either) but a few people came up to me after the service and told me they were happy to find out that navy blue and black go together. Read on!
For many, many years, decades really, we kids have been seeing double. Where one parent was, the other one was only about one foot away.
It’s common to be in their home and hear Father say, “Mother, come sit down, let’s visit.”
And they’d visit…all times of the day and night.
Morning visits were in the blue recliners in the living room. Afternoon visits were in the front porch; evening visits were in the sunroom; and late night visits were back in the blue chairs in the living room.
What they had is rare. They enjoyed each other’s company and talked to each other, a lot! They took care of each other. They loved each other. When Mother had her miraculous recovery at the end of January in Fargo, I remember her face when Dad entered the room. She lit up. He was her everything! He stood up next to her, holding her hand — always holding her hand — and she said to him, “Will we get out of the woods?” “Yes, Mother,” he said, “We’ll get out of the woods.” And I could see it, the two of them, together and out of the woods.
Dad would share with me the dreams he had during those tough weeks. In every single one of them he was helping her get home to the lake house where they’d be together again, visiting.
Dad and I were sitting in those blue chairs the other day. He told me the story of the first kitchen table they bought. It was $70 and they bought it on payments.
He remembered Mother wondering out loud if they’d run out of things to talk about while sitting at that table. It never happened. For 64 years, they talked about their kids, their grandkids, their great grandkids. They talked about memories from the farm and their friends and relatives from Hastings and beyond. They talked about current events, birds, weather and the moon over the lake.
I believe Mother made it out of the woods, much sooner than we expected or wanted. She’s in heaven helping pick out spring flowers for God’s garden and my brother Todd is at her side helping her plant them.
She knew how to pick things out
Mother was an expert at picking things out. After all, she picked out Dad and we know how well that turned out.
I was on the phone Sunday night with her friend Lois Peterson. Lois exclaimed how talented Mother was. She said, “There wasn’t a picture hung in her house that wasn’t in the perfect place. And it was the perfect picture for that place!”
When Caitlin and I went to Fargo with her last summer, one of our errands was grocery shopping. Mother warned us that she was going to pick out a plant to put in the kitchen window box and she needed time to get just the right one. She didn’t underestimate the time it would take! We did all the shopping for the family and she still needed a little more time. But it was the perfect choice. She got the right one and she enjoyed every minute of choosing it.
She did a great job of picking out clothes and accessories for herself. She always looked nice and of course, she picked out Dad’s clothes all the time. He was always the best dressed man at the Hostfest when we’d be there at the festival together in Minot, ND in the fall.
I must have been paying attention or inherited some sort of gene of hers because for thirty years I’ve been helping people pick out their wardrobes and getting paid to do it. She came to see me as the expert and when I was around, she’d ask for my opinions and my help.
I did help her pack her suitcase in recent Januarys when I was visiting them and she was going out of town. One trip was for the funeral of her brother-in-law Chester and the following year it was for the funeral of her sister-in-law Vivian. We were in the sunroom and I was helping her choose some colors that would mix and match and helping her figure out which accessories she should bring. We packed Dad’s suitcase too.
This week I came across the cheat sheet I’d left for her where I wrote out which outfit she’d wear on which day. I remembered when we talked on the phone she told me that she followed the plan and it all worked out beautifully.
I remember something about that packing day. I told her that she could wear black and navy blue together for an additional outfit. “Brenda, I’m not ready to mix those two colors together yet.” I didn’t push it. I loved her honesty and I loved that she knew her limits.
Today, Mom, if you’re checking us out, I helped Dad with his outfit. I think you’d approve and as you can see, I’m wearing navy blue and black together. I can hear you saying, “I couldn’t do it, Honey, but you look great.”
Thanks for your inspiration, your encouragement, your soft kisses and warm hugs. Thanks for being my mother, my mentor, my champion and my friend. I love you!