Special Edition – March 6, 2012

A GRAND OLD DAME – MARY HESTER GRUBBS KLEPINGER

Yesterday afternoon I got a call from my younger brother, David, and he told me I should call my Mother.  According to him she was rapidly going down hill.

I called and had a very nice talk to her.  I say “talk to her” because she was too far gone to reply.  I heard one of my sisters in the background saying, “She’s smiling.”

I knew then that the Grand Old Dame was fading fast.

Later in the evening my brother called to inform me that my Mother had passed away.  And, for the record, I know that the word mother is spelled with a lower-case “m” but in this case I choose to use a capital M instead.  My apologies to all you grammarians out there.  I will follow the rules from here on out.

Mary Hester Grubbs Klepinger was born in Ohio on February 19, 1917.  She lived to see her 95th birthday just a few weeks ago.

The reason I am writing about her is to pay public tribute to her – and all that she did in her life – both for me and for my family.  For she was the one who laid down the foundations that I still live by today.

Her strength and courage go beyond what is to be expected of your “average mother,” if there even is such a thing.  It has always been an inspiration to me.

She suffered through the Great Depression, worked as a nurse, met my father and they got married shortly thereafter.

Her first two babies were stillborn, but she was determined to have children, even after such a wrenching experience.

She went on to give birth to four healthy children.  That included me, up until I turned four years old.

Then I was struck with polio, the whole works.  Crippled, lying in bed with a progressively arching back, my parents finally took me to the LA General Hospital, where I was taken care of in an open ward with other children afflicted with all sorts of diseases.  The cure for polio had not yet been discovered.

My father finally was able to get me into The Shriners Crippled Children’s Hospital where I received the best possible care at that time.

After a recovery that was termed “a miracle,” my mother would ride with me on the bus downtown to take therapy classes.

One particular afternoon I was in the whirlpool and I complained about the pain.  The attendant nurse started to let up but my mother intervened and said, “Don’t be easy on him.  We will not have a cripple in our house.”

That may sound harsh by today’s standards – but I can walk to this very day – thanks to my mother’s insistence that I “keep trying and never give up.”

That attitude has stuck with me for my whole life.  Her constant encouragement – in a solid, but motherly fashion – kept me going through some tough times.

I remember getting letters from her while I was in Vietnam.  Others failed to write, for long periods of time, but not my mother.

After coming home she took me into her bedroom and reached under her bed.  What she pulled out startled me.

In an over-stuffed shoebox was every letter that I had written to her while serving in Vietnam.  She had saved them all.

Through the years her savvy “life instructions” seemed to always come to the fore.

“Always walk on the outside of the curb when walking with a woman so if somebody hits a mud puddle you can protect her.”

That bit of advice did not pay off until years later when my wife, Akiko, and I had just finished breakfast at Joe’s in Redondo Beach.  It was just after a rainy spell and as we walked out to go to our car a truck came barreling up from behind on Pacific Coast Highway and blasted me with water and mud.

I started to laugh.  My wife was baffled as to why I was not fuming instead.  I told her what my mother had said to me and we both got a kick out of it.

“Clean up you plate, and remember, the poor people in China.”

To this very day I eat everything that is set in front of me.

“If you want to be successful you have to work hard.  Nothing comes for free.”

You don’t hear parents say this anymore.

One time I remember in particular.  I was about seven or eight years old.  I just came home from school and she asked me how my day had been.  I told her that I thought a nigger was going to be transferred into my class.

The next thing I knew my arm was wrenched in her hand, I was marched into the bathroom and she SCRUBBED my mouth out with a toothbrush and Ivory Soap saying, “If I ever hear you use that word again I will make you eat the whole bar next time.  Let this be a warning, NEVER use that word again.”

And I didn’t.

“Always use good table manners, cut one piece of meat at a time, don’t use your left hand when eating – always your right hand.”

This was to my advantage on many occasions, especially in “polite” company.  I am still astounded at the grossness of some people when they are at the dinner table.

She taught me how to tie my shoes, how to tie a fore-in-hand knot in my church tie for Sunday school.

She MADE me say “yes please” and “no thank you.”

I once said, “God damn,” and she looked at me and then pulled a real twist on my head.  “I don’t ever want to here you say that again.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“Turn it around and see what it means.”

“Damn God.”  I was stunned.

I have never uttered that epithet since.  Other “bad” words, yes.  But not that phrase.

Another time, when on the bus going down to my therapy class an elderly lady was standing in the aisle.  I got up and offered her my seat.  I have never seen my mother beam with so much pride.  Yet, it was my mother who taught me to do exactly that.

One time I stole some money off of a dresser in one of my mother’s friend’s house and immediately went outside to stop the ice cream man, bought a drumstick and a popsicle.  When my mother asked me where I got the money I finally admitted that I had stolen it.

She made me apologize to her friend – “no excuses” – and pay her back with money I made mowing our neighbor’s lawn.

“Don’t cheat and always pay back money that you borrow.”

“Treat others like you would have them treat you.”

In all honesty this has been one that I have not yet been fully faithful to.  But I continue to try.

I could go on – and on – but you get the picture.

She was a rock solid – but gentle – mother, always looking out for me – as well as my other brother and two sisters.  But somehow I felt a closeness to her that my other siblings did not always enjoy.  Maybe that is just my perception.  Who knows?

However, I do remember how my mother would stick up for me when my father, who was prone to beat me for no known reason, would step in on my behalf.  One time my father got extremely angry with me for something I did not do, went outside into our back yard, cut a hefty crabapple branch off our tree, came back into the house, and proceeded to flail away on my legs.  Water welts began to appear.

My mother finally stepped in and said, “You can beat me, Frank, but stop beating Larry right this minute.”

My dad stopped, looked at us both, then stormed out of my room.

There are no grudges held toward my father.  He had a very hard life and my mother put up with a lot.  They both did.

When I came back from Vietnam they had divorced but still contined to see each other on occasion, until he passed away back in the mid 80s.

The passing of my mom was swift, in her own house – and in her own bed.  Exactly the way she had wanted it to be.

She had suffered a stroke just days before and went very quickly after that.

I thanked God last night for taking her without any pain.  She never wanted to die in a hospital.

Last night, while out for a walk, the sunset was a gorgeous orange with blue sky just about the horizon.

As the sun went down I had a feeling that this was her last night.

The confirmation came later in the evening from my brother.

My mother is now at rest on the other side of the rainbow.

I feel fortunate to have spoken to her just hours before she left.  But even more than that I feel so lucky to have had such a great mother who took the time to teach me how to say, “Now I lay me down to sleep . . . ,” to read Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy at bedtime, to wish me “sweet dreams” and to kiss me goodnight.

If your mother or father are still alive, give them a call just to say hello – and thanks – before it is too late.

Tomorrow is not guaranteed.

Keep thinking positive.

Best wishes,

Lawrence Klepinger
Editor / Publisher
THE AMERICAN TELEGRAPH

 

Add a Comment


 

 

Comments:

10 Responses to “Special Edition – March 6, 2012”

  • Gerrit Kuiken Says:

    Larry – my deeply felt condolences go out to you and ur family. I will keep you/your’s in my thoughts & prayers!

    I have read ur A.T.’s from before they were called A.T.’s and this is by far ur best! Thanks for sharing! gk

  • Klaus Kaltenthaler Says:

    Dear Larry and Akiko,

    I hasten to send you our very deep condolences for the passing of your mother. She has been lucky to live a long and fullfilled life, to see you and hopefully your siblings grow up to become valuable members of society. That is what good parenting is about: Pass the good values on to the next generation.

    You have written a wonderful tribute to your late mother and it reminds me of my own experience when my mother died years ago at the age of 93.

    The women of this generation were all heroes, they held their families together throughout the wars their husbands were engaged in, they cared not for themselves but for the children and lived as examples of virtue and strength for their children.

    Even though we lived all very different lives and came to be friends only quite late in life, we feel for you and your family and are also happy that you have been able to live close to your mother for so many years.

    Our loved ones are not dead until they fade from memory. That this will not happen in your as well as in our case, is a tribute to them rather than to us.

    Love from KLAUS and NORIKO KALTENTHALER.

  • Dick and Hideko Davis Says:

    We are very sorry to hear about your mother’s passing. Our thoughts are with you and your family. May the warm and happy memories you shared with your mother sustain you through this difficult time.

    With Our Deepest Sympathies,

  • Dick Bachert Says:

    Larry, Beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing.
    Condolences again to you, David and your sisters and their families.
    Dick

  • John Says:

    Glad you had a conversation. Your brother left a special message too.

    She did a great job at raising great kids and loyal to her. Out best to you and family!

  • Naida J. Deitsch Says:

    Larry,

    I am so sorry to learn about your loss, and I know how much a mother means to her children. There is a link that no one else has, and you have my deepest sympathy.

    I had to smile as I was reading what your mother taught you, as I could hear my mother saying so many of those same things. I know exactly how you feel, and those values will always be with you. I even had my mouth washed out by soap when I said “God damn it”, and I have never liked that expression to this day. Please and thank you have been part of my life, and she also taught me to smile a lot, as the lines in my face would be pleasant as I aged.

    Your mother must have been a lovely person, and those precious memories will comfort you in the following days.

    I have liked you saying keep a positive attitude and now I know where it came from. Your mother was a great teacher, and you must have been a rapt pupil, because you learned her lessons well.

    I will be thinking about you and wishing you comfort in your sorrow.
    Sincerely,

    Naida

  • Matt McBeath Says:

    Thanks Larry,

    Very nice inspirational thoughts…the gift of your mom’s wisdom is being preserved by you sharing this.
    This made me remember the many basic things my grampa taught me growing up. I had the unique fortune having spent a great deal of time with him from age 10-17.

    What stuck with me:

    Never let your ego get in the way of saying ‘thank you’ or ‘please’.

    Communication with people is the name of the game no matter what. It doesn’t matter what line of work you are in or what you are selling. If you focus on the ability to communicate effectively with people then you will be successful.

    Social drinking and drinking in a business setting is fine. Just make sure you are always the soberest person in the room.

    Always work on your top line…but be hyper-aware of your bottom line.

    Who cares what your neighbors think your worth.

    We are all just borrowing space here so don’t get too attached to anything except your family.

    Find work you enjoy…then it isn’t work…and because 40-60 years is a hell of a long time to do something you don’t like.

    Thanks again…

  • Andrea Says:

    Larry I am so sorry to read of your Mother’s passing although it was a blessing that she lived a long, good life. She sounds like a lady of character and someone I would have enjoyed knowing. Sure seems from what I read above that you were raised and loved by a wonderful person. I am so glad you got to talk to her.

  • Jeff Potter Says:

    Thanks for the tribute Larry. It reminded me of what my parents taught me (same generation…same values). My Dad passed away in 2000, but my Mom is still alive. I talk to her fairly regularly, but probably not as often as I should. I actually meant to give her a call today, but ended up on the phone with my daughter for quite a while instead (it was her 32nd birthday today).

    It’s too late tonight, but I’ll be calling my Mom tomorrow.

  • R. W. Klepinger Says:

    SWEET DREAMS…AUNTIE