I AM PART of a vigil with brothers now watching my 88 year old mother (in photo snapped 70 years ago) slowly wind down life through rationing of fluids and medication. In some ways, what's happening now to my mom is part of her cycle of life. That's because she grew up in an era where rationing happened during the Great Depression and she knew rationing as a high school student during WII.
While living on an Iowa farm, mom's family received their first "Sugar Book" (War Ration Book Number One) as mom was finishing her sophomore year in high school. The books were distributed in May 1942 through networks of schoolteachers, PTA groups, and other volunteers.
Mom told her sons about that sugar was the first consumer commodity rationed. For a while when we were growing up, mom stored sugar in glass container with permanent ink marking inches on the container that represented weekly amounts of sugar we could use with cereal or coffee. Back in mom's teenaged years, bakeries, ice cream makers, and other commercial users received rations of about 70% of normal usage. Coffee was rationed nationally on from Thanksgiving 1942 to a single pound every five weeks.
By the end of 1942, ration coupons were used for nine other items. In mom's case, it meant parking the wishlist from the Sears Catalog far into the future.
Mom always marveled at typewriters, the main automated product of her teens. Typewriters were rationed back then. So was gasoline, bicycles, footwear, silk, nylon, fuel oil, stoves, meat, lard, shortening and oils, cheese, butter, margarine, processed foods (canned, bottled, and frozen), dried fruits, canned milk, firewood and coal, jams, jellies, and fruit butter. Living on the farm meant being able to grow and can many of the rationed items. Rationed items also led to mom savouring them throughout her adult years.
Knowing this, I better appreciate how she must feel when she can smell any of these items in her final days and yet not being able to chew or swallow them anymore.
[Bernie Goldbach is the first-born son of Evelyn Rickelman Goldbach. Evelyn was one of 18 graduates of St Mary's High School Class of 1944, Mount Pleasant, Iowa.]