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Advice from a 98-year-old mother

Mary McMahon has two reasons to celebrate this weekend. She turns 98 Saturday and will be celebrating Mother's Day Sunday with three of her four children. She is pictured here with her daughters Judy and Mary Pat, who came to Park Rapids a few days early so they could spend more time with their mom. Lorie Skarpness/Enterprise

Mary Alexander Martin McMahon has a lot of experience being a mother. She turns 98 Saturday (today), and three of her four children will be coming to celebrate her birthday and Mother's Day with her in Park Rapids this weekend.

McMahon's husband, Patrick Henry, passed away in 1980. She moved to the Courts Apartments in 1995.

McMahon said she has terrific memories of being a mom when they were raising their children on a farm near the small town of Petersburg, N.D. Mary Pat Griffin, 77, now lives in Texas. Colleen Miles, 76, lives in Montana. Patrick William McMahon, 74, lives in North Dakota. Judy Warne, 68, lives in Kansas.

"We had lots of fun," McMahon said. "We did a lot of fishing at Mattatech Dam and goofing off. We liked to run in the rain together. We'd all put on our bathing suits and splash in puddles. It's been perfect."

Her advice for new moms: "Play with your children. Be with them. Listen to them and talk to them."

On Mother's Day when her children were young, her refrigerator door was filled with gifts of art they made themselves. "And they picked lots of dandelions for me," she said.

Now McMahon has many grandchildren and five generations of great-grandchildren.

"They're living all over the country," she said.

Judy said one of her favorite memories is helping her mom milk their five little Jersey cows. "I used to go out to the barn with her and watch her milk by hand without a machine to help," she said. "Sometimes she let me help with the milking and the seperator."

Judy said her mom was easygoing and fun. She also has fond memories of her mom's good home cooking.

"She did lots of baking and was a wonderful cook," she said. "We always had big meals with meat potatoes and gravy. We had potatoes for every meal. At breakfast it would be fried potatoes with onions and eggs. There was also Norwegian "Potato Klub" (dumplings) and homemade bread. When we got home from school there was always a homemade chocolate cake and cold glasses of milk waiting. We'd almost eat the whole cake!"

When she wasn't busy with taking care of the children and the house, Judy recalls her mom would sit and crochet. "She could look at a doily and make one just like it at home without a pattern, even colorful raised flowers and every flower petal would be perfect," she said.

Mary Pat said her favorite memory was helping care for the piglets, nursing them with a bottle. She also enjoyed watching her mom work on oil paintings. ""She also taught me to cook and bake," she said.

When the girls come to visit these days, they enjoy playing cards with their mom at the Park Rapids Senior Center. "Sometimes we play for nickels," McMahon said.

Colleen said her favorite memories when she was small were sitting on her mom's lap and going with her mom to take cream to the creamery because she got ice cream as a treat afterwards. She also enjoyed going to free shows on a Saturday night in town and coming home and seeing the Northern Lights.

Pat said raising four kids and taking care of her milk cows kept his mom "plenty busy."

"She worked hard to keep the house clean and take care of the garden, too," he said.

Fishing with his mom and sisters at the dam is his favorite memory. "We caught a lot of rainbow trout, filleted them all out and fried them in butter," he said.

He said all of the kids helped their parents with chores on the farm. "I threw the hay down for the cattle, turned the cattle out in the evening to go drink water from the water troughs, then brought them back to the barn and cleaned everything up every day," he said.

Pat said his mom was a good mother. "She took us to church every Sunday to the nearby town of Michigan" he said. "My mom raised me good and everything turned out good for me."

Pat said he tries to make the 200-mile trip to visit his mom as often as he can. "I like to buzz down there with my wife at least once a month," he said. "We pick up mom and go play bingo in Mahnomen, go out to eat and just relax and talk over old stories if we can remember them."

He also has made a tradition of coming to Park Rapids on Memorial Day to take his mom out to eat at the logging camp. "I'm coming back for that, yeah you betcha," he said.