Ellen Dollar Gill Remembered

Today is the fourth anniversary of my mother’s death. I still miss her, but I can and do laugh at some of my memories!

She was a pistol, as we say in the south. She drove a powder puff stock car, could make an adding machine run hot (her fingers were so fast), carried a small caliber pistol in the VW glovebox and loved her Coca-Cola. Housekeeping was not high on her list of priorities (I inherited that). She never met a stranger (I inherited that, too) and had an incredible green thumb (not so much, that one, but I try).

Born in 1921, she was a Depression survivor, and in keeping with south Georgia rural culture she gifted people with food on any and all occasions. She baked a mean caramel cake, and family and friends appreciated her divinity candy every Christmas holiday.

I was an only child, born to a mother much older than average who also worked full-time as a professional. (She managed accounts receivable — or was it payable? — for an international agricultural implement manufacturer.) She had a black dog, Baby, who guarded me as though I were her own, I’ve been told. After Baby died, momma lived vicariously through my dogs. I don’t remember my first dog, who was hit by a car. My second dog was Trixie, a black-and-tan rat terrier who would bark at her reflection in a mirror; she died while I was in college. In graduate school, I had adopted a mutt named Little Bit. When I went to D.C. for the summer, she stayed in Georgia on the farm and didn’t come back to Virginia with me when I returned to school — because she’d adopted my mom.

I don’t think I was spoiled, but I was indulged. For example, she took me to see the Kentucky Derby in 1966 (Kauai King won); at the time, I wanted to be the first woman jockey. When I was 15, we drove to Chickasha, OK to pick up a horse trailer; I drove most of the way back to Albany, GA on my learner’s permit, which I don’t think was fully legal. (Yes, I was horse crazy.)

After her stroke in 1990, she could no longer drive. That was probably the most difficult thing for her to accept, as she cherished her independence. Now she had to ask daddy to drive her into town; no more four-wheel escape.

Love ya, momma. You are missed.

By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

5 replies on “Ellen Dollar Gill Remembered”

I’m beginning to understand the importance of ritual. I know ‘it’ intellectually, but I’ve always struggled w/ my culture not really knowing what to do (Dad was an Atheist/more Agnostic/maybe even a Jew(!). He loved the sea and he wanted his ashes tossed in the ocean. My mom hates that idea (she says she can’t swim; won’t be able to ‘find’ him…? Whateva’) I feel bad that I can’t remember him the way I remember him best, out sailing off the west coast w/ me and the kids. My mother wants to put him in a crowded, expensive cremation ‘condo’ unit (the thought of those glass museum display ‘cubbyholes’ just make me cringe, but my dad would just go along w/ it for my mom). My dad was a laid back guy. I just want to do what he loved best…then again, he adored my mom and would do anything for her, so…we just keep his ashes until maybe she dies (then I’ll have to decide for them both). Death is so difficult. I was at the Seattle museum where they have those great Aboriginal death poles ~ what a great idea. I need a ritual. I need to find something w/ meaning. Maybe that’s why rituals are so calming. I wonder if rituals are dying in today’s culture (US). It’s making me think about what I need to pass on…right now both my kids & myself are all on separate computers. Not exactly a family enhancing ritual for bonding…so I better get off! ;)

Thanks, you two. L, my dad and I talk around the pain/loss; we still haven’t scattered her ashes around the farm. Maybe this spring I’ll be ready. (Daddy’s waiting on me.) She asked to be cremated; we had a memorial service, but it doesn’t bring the same closure as a funeral does, if you have grown accustomed to that ritual for closure.

Knowing your Mom was pistol, helps me understand you better. ;) What she gave you is making those around you all the better.

I found this post from LinkedIn and it stopped me from my working mode train of thought. I lost my dad last year and the pain is still raw. I can still feel a gaping hole that runs across my torso–why people don’t see it, I don’t understand, it’s a huge hole, maybe they’re just being poliet. I miss him so much and I see the pain that my mother wears everyday as she comes over for breakfast coffee. I pretend I don’t see her hole either. Sometimes we talk but it just brings so many tears and well, we need to get work done, kids off to school, sandwiches to make…
Thanks for sharing.

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