By George W. Clever-----30 October 2017
Our mother was one of the first women to have a breast removal as a way of treating her cancer somewhere around
1948. It was a fearful time for her, and one medical issue she kept from her two young sons. The operation was made more difficult by the struggle she had with her sense of self. One side of her sexual attractiveness was gone. One side of her bra was empty
to be filled with Kleenex or cotton stuffing as she tried to make it appear natural. Nothing commercial was available. I can only imagine the fear she felt with the Big C diagnosis from our family Doctor Taylor. Mom was a beautiful young woman now concerned
with possible revulsion and rejection by her husband with the loss of part of her body. At that time in America, a breast cancer diagnosis was a death notice. There were no mammograms, no pink ribbon magnets on refrigerators and car bumpers. Fortunately, the
operation was a success with no further unexpected lumps or breast pain for mom until 1953.
One Monday morning in 1953, our Mom Arlien awoke to a sensitiveness in her remaining breast. Any touch was met with aggravating pain. Not the kind of pain that
knocks you down screaming, but pain. It was time to see the doctor again fearing the worst, a return of the Big C in her remaining breast. She made and appointment with the doctor. Endured his long list of tests and waited for the expected horrific results.
Our home on Miller Avenue in the steel mill town of Blasdell, NY was originally my father’s parent’s house. It was a place of memories where Dad grew up with two other brothers and a variety of cousins taken into their home by his parents. There
were two bedrooms in the home, a kitchen, living room, dining room, and bathroom on the first floor and a second apartment above where my mother’s parents lived. Dad found Mom’s mother and father, cold and sick, living in a camping trailer at a
trailer park in winter. He moved them into our home and made an apartment upstairs where they could live. A few years later Grandpa Retter died of a heart attack at his work in the Buffalo Pottery. Several months after Grandpa’s death. Mom was waiting
for her Cancer test results.
My brother Art and I shared a bedroom down the short hall from our parent’s room. Around 2 A.M. in the morning my brother and I awoke to our mother’s screams. We jumped out of bed and ran down the hall
toward her bedroom. She was standing by the side of their bed, her body shaking. She had a fear filled face with eyes wide like two china cups saucers. Dad was rolled out of bed ready to do battle as he looked for some possible burglar who had crept into their
“Mom, Mom what’s wrong?” My brother and I shouted like a chorus.
“My father was here! He was trying to tell me something! He was standing right there!” She pointed to the front of the nightstand on her side
of the bed.
Our father put his arm around her to help stop her shaking, and said, “What did he say to you?”
“I don’t know,” she sobbed.
“Go to bed boys,” Dad said. “Everything is ok. Your
mother just had a bad dream just like you guys do sometimes. Now go to bed.”
Mom’s dreams were not like regular nightmares. Her mother, Teresa Retter, was a woman with a different view of the world. She often attended meetings at the Spiritualist
Lilydale Colony. Grandma was a Psychic, and used her gift to help people find things. The City of Buffalo Police often asked for her help solving difficult crime cases. Some say psychic skills are gifts passed from one generation to the next. Mom always said
those abilities sometimes skip a generation. And yet, there were times when she would say to us boys, ‘I know what you are doing. Now you stop that!’ Maybe all mothers have this seeing ability. The next day Mom received a call from her doctor.
“I have good news for you Arlien. The test show there is no cancer.”
The welcome news was followed by her question.
“Why then is my breast sore to touch?”
“Well, there is a surprise here. The test showed
you are pregnant Mrs. Clever.”
There was a long pause before she said, “Are you sure doctor? Alright, I will be in to see you.”
I was a seventeen-year old senior in high school. My brother Art was age 10. We were about to meet
a new unexpected brother or sister. In our family, we all knew it would be a brother. We were too poor for sisters. At least that is what Dad told us. Now my brother and I favored our Dad’s American Indian side of the family. When the new baby boy arrived,
he did not look like an American Indian baby. Baby Jeff had blue eyes and was very blonde. As our brother Jeffrey grew older he had all the outside characteristics of our mother’s German heritage. Maybe he also had some inside NA stuff. Some say as an
adult, he resembles the picture of his mother’s grandfather who served in the Prussian Army. Was the spirit visit from Mom’s father an attempt by him to reassure her there was no cancer? Perhaps it was Grandpa Retter’s way of saying his daughter’s
new unexpected baby would resemble his own father, and she should not be afraid.
Baby brother’s Germanic image surely made it difficult when we were stopped by the Marshalls and Border Patrol officers in South Dakota. We were on our way to give
assistance to the American Indian brothers and sisters who had taken over the town of Wounded Knee. Just before driving into the armored car roadblock with federal guns pointed at our car windows, we had decided there were two options to consider. If stopped
by the American Indian Movement, A.I.M., we should say baby brother was our prisoner. If it was the federals who stopped us we would say we were his prisoners.
After sharing this story with family I received an email from my brother/cousin Dave.
It read: Our Mothers where very close, you might say they were "Best Friends".
When the 2nd Breast problem occurred, your mom came over to our house, I was resting in my BR, but they (A & A) thought I was asleep. I listened as your mom softly cried
while telling my mom all her fears and worries. My heart sank for my Aunt Arlien's fear's and worries. My mom just listened, then I heard mom say " Arlien, let's ask God for help and guidance", so they did out loud and your mom went back home. From there Our
God did his job and did it well!”
My mother''s birthday is 15 October 1915. She was a very loving and courageous person. We miss her every day. Happy Birthday Mom.