Sunday, May 9, 2010

Gone too soon: A remembrance of mom on Mother's Day, 2010

Excerpts from my eulogy for mom, 2007:

Lenora Dean Damron Plothow, May 21, 1937-November 22, 2007

Mom spent months in the hospital during high school being treated for tuberculosis. There is no doubt that this experience informed her outlook for the rest of her life. It gave her patience, empathy, and a desire to reach out to others. Her involvement in nearly every good cause was no affectation -- it was as much a part of her as the twinkle in her eye and the kindness in her voice.

In the mid-Sixties, dad was branch president for a woefully small group of Mormons in Logansport, Indiana. After spending all day Sunday at the church, which in those days was either a small, pink house or, later, a used Baptist church, we would stop at the Sycamore frozen custard stand for nickel cups of ice cream. When I asked mom many years later why we shopped on Sunday back then, she seriously responded that “the rules were different in those days.”

We grew up with homemade bread. Mom started this to save money, but she continued it when we complained about the low quality of “boughten” bread. Before the microwave, we learned patience by waiting for frozen homemade bread to thaw so we could make toast. We grew up with homemade jams and jellies, grape juice, stewed tomatoes and fruits, and bottled cherries. We usually ignored the cherries and drank the juice. With all due respect to other great cooks, mom made the world’s greatest apple pie featuring a crust that was so spectacular that it could be eaten without accompaniment.

Mom was well known for putting her own twist on books she would read to us as children and later, to her grandchildren. While most of you grew up with "Green Eggs and Ham” and the “Cat in the Hat,” we were raised with “Greens Eggs and Sausage” and the “Cat in the Spectacles.” This habit so infuriated Phil, the “serious one,” that he’s either still in therapy over it, or he ought to be. It’s very likely that it was during a reading session with mom, when she was making a reasonably good book even better by altering its contents as she went along, that I concluded that it might be fun to be a journalist.

She had an unwavering sense of personal values but refused to impose them on others. As a teenager I subscribed to Rolling Stone magazine. One edition featured a mildly risqué picture on its cover and when mom saw it in the bedroom I shared with Phil and Harrison, she said to me, “Just don’t let Phillip see it.”

Mom had a deliriously wicked and silly sense of humor. One Fourth-of-July afternoon years ago she began reading stories of her ancestors, who were inevitably desperately poor and always in dire straits. The stories eventually become so pitiful and depressing that she began giggling, and within minutes we were all making up even more depressing stories and laughing until the tears came. Part of the Plothow lore is the story of mom pelting us with wet diapers -- not fresh out of the washer but fresh off the baby. She could hold her own with governors, senators and other uppity types, be she was at home sharing increasingly outlandish stories from the sofa of her living room and giggling all the while. She had the gift of being able to see and appreciate the most bizarre aspects of life and, when given the choice between laughing and crying, almost always chose the former.

Mom was a Big Deal well beyond her family. She was Director of the Center for Lifelong Learning at Utah Valley State College (now Utah Valley University). She was president twice for Mountain Plains Adult Education Association, Provo Education Foundation chair and a member of numerous boards and committees. She received the Reed Smoot Community Service Award from the Provo and Orem Chamber of Commerce. For two years she was chair of the local Red Cross Chapter board and was an 18-year volunteer for PTA and served as the Utah State president for two years.

She had an unwavering and simple faith. Once I was driving a car-full of us on a dirt road in the mountains when we got a flat tire and I had a bit of a meltdown when I couldn’t figure out how to use the jack, or something silly like that. While I was acting foolishly, mom said a simple prayer, fully expecting that would take care of it. Five minutes later, a couple of students from what we then called Utah Technical College (where both mom and dad worked) came by and in no time our crisis was over. It wasn’t exactly like being saved by the Three Nephites, but mom knew what had happened and we knew not to question it.

Mom was a pitiful fair-weather BYU football fan. When they were winning, it wasn’t by enough. When they were losing, well, it was more than she could bear. It’s the only time she showed her uncharitable side, and it was scary. Whether BYU was ahead by six touchdowns or behind by the same number, during a game she could often be heard to mutter: “Well, can you believe they did that?”

To her nearly two dozen grandchildren and great-grandchildren, she was just grandma, the source of unreserved love and support, whose playfulness and innate decency will give them, and all who knew her well, a lifelong knowledge that they had been touched by someone truly special.

1 comment:

  1. I will always remember her hugging my waist and giggling about how much shorter she was than I. Oh, and her meltdown on July 4th that resulted in her yet again giggling and throwing pine cones a little Hayden.