Slowly, Up The Dirt Road
by Gail Denham

Slowly she walked up the Fort Rock road, her arthritis yelling “uncle”. But she was game, always game was our mother.

She and I had celebrated her 80th birthday at an historic hotel in French Glen that morning. I remember her carefully stepping down stairs to our scrumptious breakfast. One trip to Shaniko, a semi-ghost town, we stayed in the old sheepherder’s/cowboy hotel, mysterious and grand.

I’d call her on the phone: “Mom, you want to help me find pictures of vintage outhouses. I need them for an assignment?”

“Sure,” she’d say. “Ready when you are.” And she was, always ready. Once we drove to southern Idaho to photograph Peruvian Pasos. I took a calendar shot there. Mom was challenged to sit on one of those easy-gait steeds. Her hips hurt for days.

When Mom was 74, she took my sister and son, our youngest, and me to Finland. She’d had a refund payment. Mom had dreamed for years of visiting her parents’ birthplace. As a Finn, Mom fit right in, with her babushka and long coat. We had to watch that older gents didn’t try to pick her up–our joke. Mom had forgotten any Finnish language, so it was a challenge to find meals for the boys.

We rode trains all the way to Rovaniemi (Lapland). In Oulu we found her father’s name penned in a record book, but never discovered her mother’s birthplace.

We found the old outhouses, and so much more on our short journeys. Great trips. Every so often we’d stop for refreshments, and “a little something to go with my coffee,” she’d tell me. And this, in addition to all her years of loving and praying for her five children, two dying way too young, working full time as bookkeeper till she was 72, caring for our sick father, and concern for her grandchildren, revealed her faith, her strong, resilient, (and stubborn) character, which I treasure.


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