First of all, I want you to know I’m having a really hard time putting a life just shy of 80 years onto paper. There is just so much that could be said, so many memories, and I’m sure that for a long time I’ll be thinking of things I could have or would have said had I thought of them.
She arrived in late August of 1934, the third daughter of Edward Chambery and Edna Caroline Hooper. In later years she would ask her father if he was disappointed that she hadn’t been a boy. She said he winked at her and said, “You get over it quick.” The blond haired blue eyed baby came into the world sporting a birth defect known as spina bifida. It was a rare type, high on her back, between her shoulder blades, and the spinal cord had stayed intact. The doctors tied off the sac, and told her parents to take her home and hope for the best. Her five year old sister, Jeanne, named her Arlene, and her parents gave her the middle name Hope.
She was five years old when her mother died of pneumonia and her Grandma came to live with the little family on Rich’s Dugway in Brighton. She grew up with her sisters, Jeannie and Margie, and her little brother, Chuck. They were surrounded by extended family. Cousins were their best friends. They played in the empty lots and often crashed Sunday school picnics at Ellison Park. Even as a child Mom didn’t care for the cold and often stayed inside during the winter which earned her the nickname “Houseplant”. As a little girl, she loved babies and once broke her elbow when she fell down running to see her new cousin David.
When she was fourteen the family moved to Garson Avenue in the city of Rochester and she graduated from East High School in 1952.
Mom met my Dad at a sledding party in February of 1952 and they were married a year and a half later. In September of 1957, after four years of marriage and no babies, they received a phone call from a woman for whom Mom had babysat, telling them of a tiny baby boy who needed a home. They picked him up just hours later and were instant parents. They named the dark haired, brown eyed baby Daniel. He was just six days old. In the summer of 1958 they bought a little house on Mohawk St. in Webster, NY. My Grandpa Plotzker quickly declared it made of cardboard, but they would remain there for the next 50 years turning the little house into a haven.
In November of that same year, 1958, my brother Tim was born and they became a family of four. While Dan was a healthy active toddler, Tim came with struggles. He was physically healthy, but his traumatic birth had left him severely autistic. For five years there were just two little boys. Mom and Dad played on the floor with them, read them books, and took them to Sunday school. Neighborhood children were almost always welcomed into their home. One day a small group of children knocked on the door looking for my brother. Upon finding Danny not home, they looked up at my mom and said, “Well, Plocker, can you play?” Some of those same children, 50 years later, would remember my parents’ mealtime prayers, Bible stories, and, in the words of one, “how specially she treated me when I was little.”
My sisters and I arrived in 1964, ‘66, and ‘68. Three little girls; Martha, Priscilla, and Rachel. I have early memories of Mom putting my shoes and socks on after naps, lining my dolls up on the couch for a tea party, and reading from my collection of picture books. She held my hand on walks, shared the last the last sugar-sweet drops of coffee in the bottom of her cup with me, and let me feel her tummy when my baby sisters kicked inside her. In some homes Dad is the one to be feared, but in our house, Mom was the disciplinarian and not one to be crossed. When she talked through clenched teeth we knew she meant business, and she had a spanking stick to back it up if necessary.
Mom did in home child care for years and countless moms, dads, and children passed through our doors. Some of them were neighbors. At times our home was a sanctuary for those who needed a place of peace. There were cookies and popsicles and backyard Bible Club in the summer. If there was a Kool-Aide Mom in the neighborhood, she was it, even if she didn’t buy Kool-Aide.
Jesus was a major part of my parents’ lives. They talked about Him and to Him and taught us to do the same. They took us to church and Sunday school, and prayed with us and for us. The memories of my sisters and I kneeling beside our beds each night remains clear and sweet all these years later. We had friends from a variety of churches and denominations and I often enjoyed visiting a church other than our own on a Sunday evening.
Time never waits and our family grew up. We got married, moved out, and began families of our own. (Arlyss, I want you to know that every time one of us was expecting a new baby, Mom would say, “How about Arlyss? It’s such a pretty name.”) Mom was an encourager. As she encouraged others, she tried to encourage us. For years I called my mom from Williamson every day. She was my friend and confidant, and every month I dreaded the arrival of the telephone bill.
Mom’s spina bifida eventually caught up with her, causing her chest cavity to become rigid and making it impossible for her to take a deep breath. Her last 12 ½ years were spent tethered to an oxygen concentrator. It kept her close to home and limited many activities, but she still went out to church every Sunday, and to visit several nursing homes each week with my dad. We often think of the ministries as his, but for 30 years she was there by his side, singing along with his music and encouraging the residents.
My dad’s passing took a toll on Mom. She was already beginning to struggle with memory issues and we were just beginning to really take notice. For a year after Dad’s passing she lived in her own house with our son Dave and his wife. Almost 3 ½ years ago she moved in with us. When asked how she was doing, Mom often replied by saying, “I’m counting my blessings.”
In all the time she was with us, she never asked to go home. She would talk about her “little house” or refer to it as “65 Mohawk Street” but she never asked to go back. On Monday morning I heard her talking to my little dog. “I guess it’s almost time for me to go home,” she said. Surprised, I looked around the corner into her room and she looked up at me and said, “Do I live here now?” At supper the same evening she said to me, “Is somebody coming to take me home tonight?” and I replied “No, you’re staying here tonight.” In the back of my mind I silently wondered what home she was referring to. That night she talked in her sleep all night long, at one point saying, “That’s my Uncle Louie. He’s a good guy,” and then she made a reference to her Uncle Tom. She was seeing those she loved who had already moved on and I wondered if she was getting ready to go too. The visit to the doctor on Wednesday morning found her telling the doctor she was fine in spite of the cough she couldn’t shake. They did some chest x-rays and blood work, and sent her home with a precautionary antibiotic. She went to bed tired that night and sometime early the next morning Jesus came to take her home.
Her pain and struggles here are over now and she’s been reunited with those she loved, her parents and oldest sister, my brother Dan, and Dad. She’s introducing her Uncle Louie and telling people what a great guy he is, and she’s waiting for us.