I got to thinking about last week’s column. It described my beloved mother’s poverty and the difficulties that she endured such as having to quit school after eighth grade, cope with my father’s blindness and go out to work even though she preferred keeping house. However, that’s only part of her story. There are insights to be learned from her life that perhaps will make me a better and wiser person which is why I’m writing this. My nephew, John Jones, took the photo of her in last week’s Weekly View.
Mother was never poor in spirit because she had her family, flowers, poetry and books that were full of wonderful words and characters and grand adventures in places that she’d never see. She never complained or whined about her life or said, “Why me?” Instead, she was cheerful in the face of adversity.
She was as tough as nails and as soft as butter at the same time. She consoled others even when she felt that they’d brought their problems on themselves. However, she had very firm principles. For example, she’d proclaim “People these days are so obsessed by sex that they can’t see above their belt buckles! I tell you, this immoral behavior is going to lead to unhappiness, fatherless children and disease.” (I must note, however, that having been pregnant eight times, Mother was obviously no stranger to sex, saying, “It’s a good thing — in its proper place.)
She was brimful of fun. She made tick-tacks that Rex Mattix and I used to frighten our neighbors during Halloween. She climbed a ladder, nailed steps to our maple tree and fashioned a seat where Wanda and I loved to sit, high above the ground. Several years later, John dragged a big box up there as his personal domain that no one else was allowed to enter.
She moved from our house on Franklin St. into the one-bedroom house in the remodeled garage behind it, and Christine’s family lived in our old house. One afternoon she was washing dishes at the sink in front of a small window. John, a teenager, was standing outside the window and chatting with her. Playfully, she threw a glass of water on him. He soaked her with a bucket of water thrown through the window. He tried to crawl inside, but got stuck in the window while we doused him with water from the sink.
“Beloved” describes her. Everyone loved her. What did she do to merit such love? For one thing, she tried to make life better for others. A woman for whom she babysat after working all day at the greenhouse said, “Your mother always leaves our home nicer than when she arrived.”
John wrote, I remember grandma with nothing but love and kindness. Many a time she surely knew I was truly and well due for a “corrective interview” of the physical type, but she never even had a cross word for me. She would give me a hug and tell me “never do that again” and we would go on our way. She spoiled me in ways that only a grandma can spoil a grandson. Fed me pie, read to me and above all loved me. Sweet memories, very sweet indeed.
John got off easy! In my case, she delivered sermonettes. While she preached, she’d get the broom and sweep the floor. “Yakety, yakety, yak . . . sweep, sweep, sweep . . . “And furthermore . . . “
She was generous to a fault. One of the few occasions when she irritated me was when she gave a freezer-full of casseroles, freezer slaw etc. that Christine and I had lovingly prepared for her to one of my nephews who was down on his luck.
These words in Corinthians in the King James Version of the Bible could have been written about my mother: “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” Some versions say “love.” Amen to that! firstname.lastname@example.org
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