"Grand Mom" writes her last column Print
Grand Mom
Written by Audrey Fixmer   
Thursday, Dec. 25, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

Editor’s note: For 23 years, Audrey Mettel Fixmer has written her “Grand Mom” column for the Catholic Herald. Her column has focused on aging gracefully and faithfully. This is her final column, and she explains why. Audrey is a member of St. Joseph Parish in Fort Atkinson. Please pray for Audrey and her family in her remaining time with us.

Dear Friends, Yes, after 23 years of writing my “Grand Mom” column and getting so much feedback from my readers (emails, hand-written letters, conversations in grocery stores or churches), I feel deeply that I have developed friendships with you. I say that because it is with a touch of sadness that I tell you this is my final column.

A few weeks ago I learned that my lung cancer had crept into my bones and is likely to take my life within six months. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that it qualifies me to be served by hospice and remain in my own home, with my large, loving family close by. The hospice nurse visits me twice a week and hospice takes care of all pain and comfort medications, even the cost.

A social worker sees me frequently too, making sure all of my needs are met. Volunteers do light housekeeping once a week. It’s the most merciful thing I’ve heard of since Mother Teresa.

Answer to my prayers

All of this is comforting news for me. I have always been a planner, and as I aged, I always wondered what I would die from and when.

I knew, like everyone else, I suppose, that I did not want to become a burden to my kids, didn’t want to suffer, and wanted to be prepared spiritually, financially, and personally in my relationships. So being given this time frame and all this security is the answer to my prayers.

I am approaching my 87th birthday in January. The first time I went to my current physician — one of my former students, by the way — I asked if she could keep me alive until 87.

Puzzled by that strange request, she asked why and I said it was the family record so far and I wanted to at least match it. I wonder what might have happened if I had said 88.

Loving family of faith

My first blessing in life was being born into a loving family of faith. I knew that God loved me and my parents and three older siblings thought I was the best invention since the radio.

My mother did my hair in Shirley Temple curls and they had me playing Cinderella on the stage when I was five. I wrote, directed, and starred in my own neighborhood productions throughout grade school. I wanted to sing like Judy Garland, skate like Sonja Henie, and write like Louisa May Alcott. Surely I would be a star. Right?

Wrong! God had other plans. I would be a “Producer of Stars.” Writers! Actors! Musicians! Teachers! Athletes! With my 10 children, 18 grandchildren, and 13-and-counting great-grandchildren. Enough stars to fill the heavens!

Writing career on hold

It all began when I was a sophomore in the College of St. Benedict and met Bob Fixmer, a hometown boy from Aurora, Ill., and found the perfect “good Catholic” former seminarian whom I immediately recognized as the smartest, most talented young man around. That night I wrote in my diary, “Tonight I met the man I am going to marry.”

It took me seven months to get him to the altar. Our pastor questioned me, “I thought you were going to be a writer.”

“Oh, I can do that anytime, anywhere.” (Seven years and five babies later, I published my first short story in the Messenger of the Sacred Heart)

Proud of children

When I see what good parents my own kids are, I am ashamed at how little attention I was able to give them. We could not put them through college, of course, but somehow instilled the strong desire for learning that compelled them to work their way through.

They chose spouses that reflected, but outshone their parents. That, along with their drive and dedication, brought them to positions of authority, creativity, and leadership that exceeded far beyond the shallow “stardom” I had dreamed of for myself.

When I tell them how proud I am of them, they all say the same thing, “Mom, you always told me I could be anything I wanted to be. And I believed you!”

College degree, teaching

After my 10th child was born, I returned to college to finish my bachelor’s degree at age 40, thanks to my work team at home.

Almost as satisfying as my 20 years as a stay-at-home Mom when I baked and canned and sewed were my 22 years as an English and speech teacher and director of plays and musicals. (Ahh! The smell of grease paint! The roar of the crowd!)

I loved that I could take a shy child and give him or her confidence to perform and to work as a team to produce worthwhile dramatic arts. And from those former students and the physicians and the lawyers whom I taught, I hear the same refrain, “You made me think I could do anything I wanted to do.” The life of a producer is a many-splendored thing.

Growing old gracefully

When I began writing this column, my intention was to emphasize “growing old gracefully.” I would chronicle my own experiences in aging, emphasizing the positives instead of the negatives. I wanted the reader to find humor in the inevitable decline and God’s grace in adding extra years to “cram for our finals.”

I recognize how many grace-filled years I have had and hope my column has reflected that and inspired you in some small ways.

How fortunate we are to have the greatest gift of all, the gift of faith. I know that God loves me. Now as I look back on my life, I know that I have lived by my faith and I believe I will go to heaven. Not because I have earned it, but because Christ earned it for me. God is merciful. Please celebrate my life with me.

Have a blessed Christmas and a faith-filled New Year.

Love,

Audrey


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