The Heroines

Dorothy Sackschewsky

is honored with a Brick from Ranelle Lang.

My Mother, A Heroine

My mother, Dorothy Rhode Sackschewsky, is a heroine in my eyes. She taught me lessons I carry with me today, and she taught most of them without saying a word.

"Take this coffeecake to Idie," she would say every Saturday afternoon as she began putting away the week's supply of bread, coffeecakes, rolls and cookies. And we would walk the quarter mile to the elderly widow's home, carefully carrying the still warm sweet bread. Idie would be waiting for us at the door, smiling as she smelled the cinnamon. And I learned that baking is more fun when you give part of it away.

If someone was at our house and it was mealtime, they ate with us. My mother fed insurance salesmen, teachers, pastors, relatives, hired hands, the Raleigh man, the Watkins man, the Avon lady, people who were lost and just happened to stop for directions. Sometimes, Mom would see Dad coming in with people, and she would send us down to the fruit room for another jar of canned meat. No matter how many joined us, there was always enough food for all. And I learned there is always enough when shared.

At one time in my life, I did not value the importance of discipline and routine. I thought, "When I grow up, I'm going to stay home one Sunday just to see what it feels like." We had to have a fever or severe diarrhea or vomiting in order to stay home on Sunday morning. "A terrible headache? You don't look that sick to me. Get dressed." And so we went, every Sunday and every Lenten service and every Christmas service and New Year's Eve and New Year's Day too. And I learned that people who go to church regularly have lower blood pressure and live longer because even when you are not looking for it, you find peace in a pew.

I was a sophomore, and the fall dance was two days away. I had to have the new jumper and blouse for the dance. Mom and I had picked out the material and pattern, but she was not finished sewing it. "I'll do the best I can, but it's harvest and your dad needs help. I can't just sew all day this time of the year." The night before the dance, my mom, who could not sew all day, stayed up and sewed all night so I could have the most perfect outfit in the whole school for the dance. And I learned that nothing is too much for someone you love.

We didn't have many books; they were expensive and rare. Even the school had only a few books. One day I came home and I found a case of books; my parents had purchased a set of encyclopedias and a set of the Book of Knowledge. How I loved those books! I can still smell the ink and hear the bindings crackle as they were opened for the first time. The pages were so smooth, it was like touching silk. I had never had a new book, and to have a whole box at one time was heaven. My mother did not share my passion for reading, but she understood mine. She let me read and read, even when I was supposed to be working. And I learned to love learning and books.

My mother is a perpetual work machine and expected all of her children to be the same. I can't remember a time when I did not work. Every person, no matter how small, was expected to contribute. By standing on the stool at the sink, we could dry dishes and peel potatoes. We could find and pick up the pullet eggs. We could fill the cob box with buckets of cobs from the brooder house. We could go down to the creek and pick up sticks for kindling in the cook stove. Every job was important; assignments were based on the age and ability of the worker. And I learned to work to work hard as a team until the job was done.

Week after week, year after year, my mother drove me to piano lessons, fifteen miles over gravel roads. She sat, reading a magazine, doing embroider work, writing letters, waiting while I finished. Sometimes she sat for an hour because my brother or my sister would also have a lesson. She made me practice, and often I was resistant. But I learned to play the piano, and I learned to play the organ. My mother would not give up on me. And I learned to never give up on others.

My mother loves my dad. She admires him, and thinks he is the greatest person in the whole world. Together they built a good life for their family and for each other. I admire my mother for her devotion. And I have learned it is possible to still be in love after 57 years of marriage.

My mother's life has been her family: her husband, her children and grandchildren. She has devoted her life to our happiness and success. To this day, she cooks my favorite foods when I come home; she shortens my pants for me; she cans vegetables so I can take a trunk load home at every visit; she buys presents for me "just because"; she lets me win at Scrabble; she encourages me, brags on me when I do well and ignores it when I don't. Most importantly, she prays for all of us; her children, her grandchildren and her great grandchildren. Her love is given freely, and always without any expectations, because after all, we are family, and that's just what you do. And I have learned from her what it means to be heroic.

Dorothy Rhode Sackschewsky was born December 21, 1921 in Polk County, Nebraska. She graduated from Polk High School. On November 15, 1942, she married Elmer Sackschewsky. They have five children: Kate Goff, Ranelle Lang, Mark Sackschewsky, Kurt Sackschewsky, and Melanie Sullivan. They now have 12 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren.

Submitted by Ranelle Lang

December 13, 1998