August 22, 2012 | 10:41 AM
By Lois Singer
My early childhood was uneventful. As the middle child in a typical American urban family, I was pretty much left on my own to play (outdoors or indoors) as the weather dictated. My sister was five years older and my brother was six years younger, so there was no common meeting ground. Later, as adults, we grew to be best friends.
When I was six years old my father, who was 35 at the time, had a fatal heart attack. The year was 1936. In those days there was very little help (actually almost none) for widows to earn a living. We were in the middle of a depression and it was before most women were working outside of the home. My mother, who had only a sixth grade education, had to be the wage earner for a family that consisted of her elderly parents, her cousin (whose parents were deaf-mutes), her three children and herself. She managed to get hired at a ladies store at 12th and Walnut at the enormous salary of $19.00 a week. Somehow we managed. To this day I don’t know how.
World War II broke out on December 7, 1941, and men were drafted or enlisted in one of the armies. This resulted in women beginning to enter the job market as jobs opened up to do what the men had been doing. My mother was able to get a better job making a halfway decent salary. Wages for women were much less than for men, but at least it was better than what she had been making. Even I was able to get a job at Parkview Drugstore as a part time cashier. My sister had graduated from high school and had left home to pursue a higher education, so she was unable to help. My brother had reached the grand old age of six years and was unable to help.
We did very well during the war years, but when the war ended things changed. Fortunately my mother had made many contacts over the years and was finally able to get a reasonable job with a livable wage.
My sister had graduated from college, married her childhood sweetheart, and the two of them had moved to Chicago to continue their higher educations. I had finished elementary school, then high school. I graduated from Kansas City Missouri Junior College, followed by business school where I learned to type and take shorthand.
During that time I met a young fellow just out of the service on a blind date. His name was Meyer Singer. He proposed on the first date. Naturally I turned him down. By our third date he had become so insistent I agreed. To satisfy both mothers, we agreed to wait six months before tying the knot.
We didn’t have a dime between us, but we both had jobs and managed to save up enough money to buy a couch and a bed — what more did we need? The early years were tough. We had a third floor walkup. At least it was in a reasonably nice neighborhood. Our first child, Mark, was born two and a half years later, followed by Joel two and a half years after that. Dana came along four years after and then, Mara six years later. We bought a small house on a G.I. Loan and lived there for ten years. But when Mara came along we had to move to make room for her. We had no idea what lay ahead for us. Meyer had changed jobs and was now working as a manufacturers’ representative which meant traveling a fair amount of time.
About that time we discovered that Mara was developmentally delayed and had NO language ability. That was the start of six years of doctors and therapists and anyone else I could find to help her. One doctor even told me to put her in an institution because she NEVER would be able to function. We got rid of him fast. Many years later he apologized to us. All anyone had to do was tell me she couldn’t do something and I immediately found someone who could either work with her or teach me how to work with her. I dropped out of circulation for five years to work with her. IT WAS WORTH IT! Today she lives in her own apartment, uses public transportation, reads and writes and shops for herself. She swims, knows how to ride a bike, cooks easy things and can do her own laundry — PLUS, she has had jobs until recently when the place she was working went out of business. Somehow there WILL be another job in her future.
Our other children may have felt a little left out of things over those years, but I did manage to give them a semblance of normalcy – - baseball, bowling, piano lessons, dancing lessons , Hebrew School and some kind of dinner on the table every evening. Meyer was still traveling. The day Mark started driving was one of the happiest I have ever known. All of my children and their spouses managed to turn out to be decent, wonderful human beings of whom I am very proud.
Joel lost his wife of 30 plus years to pancreatic cancer in January of 2008. It was a great loss for all of us. We still miss her. Fortunately, after an extended mourning period, he found another wonderful person to marry and we love her very much. He also inherited three grown children with spouses and young children.
Dana married in June of 2007 and inherited a ready-made family of three children. Two are still in school, and one graduated from veterinary school and is getting married in 2013.
Mark and Debby recently celebrated 40 years of married life and have two children and one spouse, plus two grandsons who brighten all our lives.
My adult life has been full of lots of good things and some bad ones. The good things far outweigh the bad. I have been blessed with wonderful children, grandchildren and great grandchildren plus a husband who was the most honest, hard-working man I’ve ever known.
Ten years ago my heart stopped beating. Med-Act was called and they were able to resuscitate me and get me to the hospital where I underwent open heart surgery. I was quite ill for an extended period of time. For more than a year we had full-time help in the house. Meyer had Alzheimer’s and couldn’t take care of me, and I couldn’t take care of myself, let alone do anything for him.
Eventually an apartment opened up in Village Shalom and we moved in about four years ago. My health has been very erratic. I thank God every morning I awaken and am able to get out of bed. Meyer died of kidney cancer in May of 2011. His last year was miserable. He was being treated for pneumonia and not responding. Eventually it was discovered that he had cancer that had metastasized throughout his body and he was in a great deal of pain. The children and I made the decision to take him off of everything and put him on morphine. Hospice was called in. He died in May of 2011. It had been a really hard year but somehow we all got through it. Both of our sons have stepped into the void and have taken over where Meyer left off, and life is fairly manageable these days.
God has a very funny way of turning things upside down when you least expect it — but life does go on.