Sunday, September 9, 2007

A Shared History with My Mother

By Janie Van Komen

Today I called my mother and said I was on my way to break her out of the joint. Most of my gifts and talents and certainly a great deal of my inspiration and encouragement comes from my mother. Not exactly the mother from my youth but my mother of the “now.”

For fifty years she acquired all aspects of the history of Garland, Utah and its surrounding community. It was time to write the book. Four hundred sixteen pages, one thousand pictures, and many sleepless nights later we did finish the book just in time for the town’s centennial celebration. Not unlike the people in Whoville of Horton Hears a Who, there were many important lives come and gone and still coming that cried out to be preserved in that tiny dot on the map of Utah.

Three weeks after we finished the book while my mother was selling it at the local fair she became dizzy and fell down on the road. After a few trips to various doctors the brain tumor was tediously removed and the life spared. Two years of grueling therapy and several follow-up surgeries restored her from not quite all of the damage and paralysis. She was so excited to regain her driver’s license and her freedom once again. Four months later when she and my father were returning from a day’s work at the Logan temple they were involved in a head on collision. My mother sustained a broken and dislocated ankle, eleven broken ribs, a broken clavicle, and her neck sustained what is known as the hangman’s break or the Christopher Reeve break.

In some great miracle she was not paralyzed from this, but the resulting disabilities, pain, and suffering along with the leftovers of the brain tumor left her quite a different person than she was when we wrote the book together. She is still inside the body but the body is not so capable as before. Now in order for her to get out of the house somebody has to take her. So, today I did.

After lunch at The Olive Garden we blinked our eyes and found we had spent and hour and a half in Barnes and Noble sharing our love of books and commentaries to each other of “you should read this one,” or “what do you think of this title?” etc. etc.

We laughed and sighed and shared until I had returned her safely back in her house. She gave me an e-mail on some current political prick of information. And then she shared with me a treasure from her bookshelf she had recently read, the 1916 memorial edition of Elbert Hubbard’s A Little Journey into the Homes of the American Statesmen.

Elbert Hubbard was the most sought after lecturer in the United States from 1905 thru 1915. His writings were in great demand and he was paid handsomely for his work. He interviewed people who had known famous statesmen or who were famous statesmen and among other things he wrote about them. On his way to interview Kaiser Wilhelm Elbert Hubbard was aboard the Lusitania when it was sunk by a German submarine. This particular book was printed after his death. My grandmother had signed her maiden name inside the book. It had belonged to her before she was married. The beautiful leather cover is well worn but still holds it original magnificence.

I knew three of my great-grandparents. And because of two house fires, all three of them, my mother’s parents, and my childhood family all lived in the same house for a short time. All of my great-grandparents were born in the late 1800’s. I was born mid 1900’s, and my grandchildren mostly are born in the 2000’s.

Today as I touched the soft leather of that 1916 book I thought about how close in time this man was to the founding fathers he wrote about. I yearned to read his opinions and ideas about those men who shaped our nation. I thought about me holding hands with people from three centuries and wondered if other people will ever want to know what I have to say about those I have known and written about.



Candace Salima (LDS Nora Roberts) said...

Janie, that was absolutely beautiful and describes the joy brought from history preserved. In addition, the relationship you have with your mother is beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

C.S. Bezas said...

I loved this that you wrote:

"Not unlike the people in Whoville of Horton Hears a Who, there were many important lives come and gone and still coming that cried out to be preserved in that tiny dot on the map of Utah."

How beautifully you stated this. Thank you for sharing of your gifts, your thoughts, and your love, Janie. I've wondered if the "Hortons" in the world are becoming less and and your mother have proved that wrong.

Lori Nawyn said...

Janie, your mother is an amazing woman -- just like you. Thank you for this touching post.