I don’t have to hustle to get flowers up to West Tennessee for this Mother’s Day. Mom ascended into the presence of Almighty God seven years ago. She wasn’t big on flowers anyhow.
She’d mostly look a little embarrassed that someone had done something for her. She didn’t care one whit about self accolades, awards or recognition. It might have had to do with her humble upbringing down on Sugar Creek. You’ve got to figure some of that goodness that abounded in Pa and Gran just naturally rubbed off on her. Or maybe she had read that verse where the “meek shall inherit the earth.”
My first memory of her was the face. She looked at me with such a pleased expression…..like I was pretty special! You have no idea what that does for a young body. She often talked about what a good boy I was going to be! Her voice would rise a little when she spoke of how much life had to offer to those who fear God and walk circumspectly in His path.
She willed us to do right; or loved it into us; or prayed for Divine intervention. And let me tell you, she didn’t hesitate to bring out the rod if we weren’t getting the message by reasonable means!
She read Aesop fables to me after supper like both our lives depended on it. She was pointing out words and explaining that “only a selfish dog would bark at his own reflection and drop his bone into the water” before I could make a complete sentence.
She read to us every night. Without fail! Her consistency and patience knew no bounds. She was talking about the importance of education, the need for her three sons to have a college degree…..before we learned to walk!
I think personal history was at play here. She only made it through the eighth grade at the one room schoolhouse at Mt. Zion. From her little spot on Sugar Creek, the nearest high school was fourteen miles away. There were no school busses. There was no family automobile. She married Daddy in 1934 and turned her attention to becoming the best wife and mother she could be.
Me and David Mark always accused her of liking Leon more than she did us. She’d smile at such a preposterous proposal and say, “Your older brother needs more attention most days.” That statement was so universally true as to leave us with no rebuttal.
I remember the tears sliding silently down her face as she pulled the small shards of rock out of my bleeding hands and knees after a particular rough spill running down the Como Road. She sat up with Leon all night after he rolled the car off the high bank along Highway 22. She doubled up on David’s reading when he had a little trouble with high school literature.
Mom was the Den Mother of our Cub Scout Troop. She was the president of the P.T.A. She was our personal chauffer. She was our doctor, lawyer, psychiatrist, cook, maid, referee, confidant, mentor, first love……and when there was absolutely no one else to play pitch with, she’d pull off that checkered apron, slip on an old Revelation baseball glove and toss with you “till the cows came home”.
I will tell you one other great baseball story. When I was eight and started Little League we couldn’t afford baseball cleats. I had to “make do” with my old tennis shoes. I complained long and loud about the embarrassment of being “the only one without real cleats.” Mom went to work almost immediately selling Avon products. Within a week I had a brand new pair of baseball shoes. I think about those shoes today……and the tears slide silently down my face.
She would stand at the back door and yell “Be careful” every time you backed out of the driveway. She was sitting at the kitchen table, no mater how late you came in, to ask how your evening went and to give you a goodnight hug.
I was a little surprised when I was leaving for college; Dad gave the “do right” speech. Mom said nothing. I realized years later that she had spent “every waking moment of my whole life” getting me ready for that day. There was nothing more she could give.
And please allow me a small personal postscript to today’s story. In the fall of 1954, at the age of thirty-four, when her youngest son entered the first grade and she found herself home alone, Mom enrolled at the local high school in the ninth grade. There were no high school equivalency programs back then. In 1965, the year I graduated from McKenzie High School, she graduated with honors from Bethel College. She got her Masters Degree from Murray State University. She taught special education classes for fifteen years. She was taking Seminary courses at Union University in her late sixties.
You talk about an indomitable spirit! And she was reminding me, Dave and Leon to be good husbands, fathers and citizens with her last breath.
As first loves go, she was about as good as they come.
Happy Mother’s Day,