REFLECTIONS: For my mother, it has been quite a ride

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Mother Arlene with great granddaughter Sarah May Weitz. (Courtesy photo/Jack Batdorff)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Mother Arlene with great granddaughter Sarah May Weitz. (Courtesy photo/Jack Batdorff)

1916 was quite a year.

The world was in a turmoil: it was halfway through World War 1 as German zeppelins bombed Paris and the British Sopwith Camel made its first flight, designed to counter the German Fokker aircraft. The Mexican revolution was also at its midpoint and General Pershing tried (unsuccessfully) to capture Pancho Villa. And the Easter Rising occurred in Ireland.

The first blood transfusion using blood that had been stored and cooled was successful that year and Emma Goldman was arrested February 11th in the US for lecturing on birth control. Eight months later, on October 16th, Margaret Sanger opened the first US birth control clinic…a forerunner of Planned Parenthood.

And U.S. President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill incorporating the Boy Scouts of America…as well as legislation creating The National Park Service.

Saturday Evening Post published its first cover with a Norman Rockwell painting (Boy with Baby Carriage) and in sports, The Chicago Cubs played their first game at Weeghman Field (modern-day Wrigley Field) defeating the Cincinnati Reds 7-6 in 11 innings.

AND…on September 22, my mom was born: Arlene Lucille Altrichter.

Yep, she’ll be 99 this year.

And we’re going to celebrate it with dinner in Big Rapids on the 23rd at the Blue Cow.

Mother has had quite a ride, she has.

She graduated salutatorian from Traverse City High School in 1934 and she and dad John, lifelong best friends, got married in 1935. I came along two years later. Brother Cris nine years later.

When Cris passed away on July 6, 1991 at the age of 45, an estate auction was held.

I bought a couple of items….but the one I cherished most was a diary.

And then I made my first mistake.

I read it.

Personally, I thought it was charming…full of incredibly cute little anecdotes and girly observations…and all kinds of neat stuff and memoirs that pass through a flourishing young mind.

I loved it.

Then I made my second mistake.

I told mom that I had bought her diary at Cris’s auction. And…I asked if I could use some of the comments in a column.

She went ballistic.

I mean TOTALLY out of control!

Something about “private” stuff…or something like that.

So with tail dragging behind my legs, I gave the diary back to mom … AND … the stinker burned it.

“It’s a private thing,” she explained. “And NOT for the eyes of others.  PERIOD!”

Hmmm … I still thought it would have made a great column.  But wife Susan sided with mom.  I am beginning to understand.

(I think.)

Anyway, four years ago when she turned 95, we held a surprise birthday party for her in Traverse City, where she lives..  AND even succeeded in pulling it off.  Which was rather remarkable knowing she has a hidden network of Bohemian friends that would make Don Vito Corleone blush with envy.

Being of strong Bohemian stock, she’s the end result of generations of devious and shifty strong willed women…and thus, doesn’t play fair.  She knows every trick in the trade … every sneaky quirky play that was ever in the run book.

AND, she’s street smart.  Thus I can’t pull any end runs on her, as she’s been blocking them for over 90 years … and knows every move.

She’s had macro degeneration and very limited sight for over 30 years.  But as nothing escapes her, I once said I was convinced there’s a second set of eyes in the back of her head.   I know that’s an impossibility…BUT there’s always that first one…the Mutant.   (No, Mom … I did NOT say that!)

I also once said she knows how to play my guilt strings with abandon…that she paints my strings like Vivaldi … and then proceeds to trill them like

Giuseppe Tartini.  Yepper!   That’s still true.

Let’s face it, she did live through a depression and the growth spurts of two rather frisky carefree sons whose adolescence and independence somehow ranged over into the twenties and the thirties…and perhaps the forties..and mebbe into the fifties and … hmmm.

And managed to survive … as did I.

Mother has  had two wonderful married lives. She was married for 35 years to Father John and five years after he died, got married to Dr. Harry Weitz, a close family friend whose wife died the same year as dad.   They were  married for another 35 years until his death at age 99.

She’s been through a lot … both in love…and in grieving.

But she’s still got that spunky attitude.  After all, how many 94 year old women have ridden a Harley…without a helmet?   And then asked if she could get a ride on a dirt bike.

She’s a trickster with guts. Who else would try to trick ‘r treat her husband in the buff … (under a slicker) … on Fright Nite … and still talk to him after he didn’t recognize her.   ‘After all … you WERE wearing a mask!’ my father tried to explain to her while back peddling…hard!

Yep she’s one of a kind.

And I’m thankful she’s my mom.

Now I’ve just got to figure out what I should do for her 100th next year!

Let’s see: There IS the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally…

Hmmm, I wonder…

Jack Batdorff is the chairman of the Pioneer Group. Email him at

One comment on “REFLECTIONS: For my mother, it has been quite a ride

  1. avatarphoebe506

    Great column Jack. every mother would be proud to havd their son write a column like this about their Mom. My chiidren always thought that MOM stood for Mayor Of Manistee

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