Sunday, May 8, 2011

Dearest Mother

1942 High School Senior. Bear River High School, Utah

Wedding Day Dec 30, 1946

With Mom and Dad Grover and brothers and sister in Palmer Alaska.

Living large in D.C. Marine Corps Ball

With return missionary son in 1978

Loves her grandchildren

All of them.

Today is Mother's Day so today's post is dedicated to my Mother, Darlene Manitta Grover Whitaker. Sometimes I struggled with my relationship with my mom, but the one thing that I always knew was that she loved me. When I was 15 years old I went on a two week backpack trip into the High Sierras with my two buddies Brad Myler and David Johnson. We had no adult supervision and 105 miles to go where there were no phones or means of contact. My mom was worried sick (literally) about my well being on the trip. While in high school she never attended any of my wrestling matches. It was not that she was not interested, she could stand the thought of me getting hurt. I was probaby the only kid in school that had a hot breakfast every day before the six AM seminary class. She always waited up for me at night. When I was working a summer school construction job she always made me a big lunch to take. There was never any doubt or question in my mind that she loved me and was concerned for my welfare.

Darlene was born the oldest eight children on December 17, 1925. Her dad was a Dairy Farmer. Growing up in a large family on the farm, she had much of the responsibility for her younger brothers and sisters. She was very popular in school and loved to participate in school plays. She was the class Vice President of Bear River High School. On December 30, 1946 she married a Marine Corp Captain James Lowell Whitaker. After a honeymoon to Sun Valley Idaho they moved to Southern California. It was her first time out of the State of Utah. In 1948 her Dad took out one of the last US Homesteads and moved the family and the Dairy herd to Palmer Alaska. It wasn't too long before a the Korean War started and Darlene spent the War years with her family in Alaska. After the War her husband was transfered to work in the Pentagon and they moved to the East Coast. They spent time in Springfield Virginia and Cherry Point North Carolina. It was here on the East Coast where I was born. I was born 12 years after they were married. I think those years on the East Coast were difficult for my mom. Family is the most important thing for her and she was a very long way away from all of them. When I was 3 years old we moved back to Southern California and lived in Santa Ana. My dad had numerous assignments overseas, mostly in Japan. He would be gone for three to six months at a time and it was just my mom and me during those times. My Dad retired from the Marine Corps in 1963 and we had a more normal family routine common to the 1960s and 1970s.

During the 80s and early 90s we lived in Corona while Mom and Dad lived in Orange. So we were able to spend many birthdays and holidays together. Mom's grandkids were her absolute delight. Nothing made her happier than spending time with them. In 1996 they bought a home in Gardnerville so they would have a place to stay on extended visits. in 1998 Mom was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. She had surgery and went through chemotherapy. Dad had been diagnosed with Lukemia ten years earlier, so she was dealing with the final stages of his illnes as well as her own. Dad died in 1999 and she began a new chapter in life as a widow. She moved into the Gardnerville house full time. (I think dad was quite inspired to buy that house when he did. It made for a fairly easy move and transition for her. While in Gardnerville, she attended all the family activities possible and all of the kids performances at the schools. She was active in the church and even dated the Stake Patriarch, Max Jones. I think he must have asked her to marry him a dozen times. He was at least ten years older than her and I think she was afraid of burying another husband. As it turned out he attended her funeral. After six years the cancer came back. She spent the last 12 weeks of her life in our home while under the care of Hospice and Marla. While here she had many visits from her brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews. It was a great time. We never had so many visitors here. On a quite February evening 2006 she slipped quietly into the eternities. My mom taught me unconditional love and service. She taught me the importance of family. Happy Mother's Day Mom.