I thought I was prepared for it. After all, she had not even known who I was for a while now. I guess it is because I KNEW WHO SHE WAS and my love for her ran so deep, that I am at a loss now. I know she wasn't the perfect mother, but then again who among us can say; that we were the perfect parents?
I sure can’t.
I think of all the hardships she faced. Lord, just the way we were living back on Horseshoe Bend, had I been the one to care for 6 little kids like that, I would have been driven mad. Just think of it…days on end with nothing but milk gravy and biscuits to eat, no running water, no heat (except for a wood stove ). Not even a drop of paint on the wooden walls to make things just a little bit nicer. We always said that there were cracks in the old wooden floor boards big enough for our cats to fall through…ha!
I remember mama coming in the house in her old long coat with a wool scarf around her head. Her cheeks and lips would be chapped red, her eyebrows frozen, and her nose dripping from the freezing cold..and she had been out there chopping wood for that old stove, just so we could be warm.
I remember how she use to wring the chickens heads off so we could every once in a while have fried chicken. It has came to me in my later years, that it had to have hurt her to do this. After all, she LOVED those chickens like pets. Many a time I remember her petting them and loving on them…but she also knew her kids had to eat and truth is that fried chicken with the milk gravy was sooooo good. I think back now and know that the reason she always claimed that she loved the back and the neck was because it had less meat. You see, that way we children could have the bigger and better parts.
When I had rheumatic fever as a child and had to spend all those many long days and nights out there in the hospital, it was she who stayed with me and mopped my fevered brow. It was she who kept me company, tended to me and comforted me…she never left me. I was her baby and she never let me forget that.
I remember her having to go to Atlanta to get the veins in her legs stripped and have the liquid that burned like fire injected in her legs. She had to take a greyhound bus from Greensboro all the way to the Atlanta bus terminal. (Remember she was just a country girl and had to have felt lost in the big city of Atlanta.) She would leave the bus station and walk to Peachtree street to the doctor who did these torturous treatments on her. Then afterwards, they would let her lay down for a bit. She had to have been in so much pain, but after she had rested for only a few minutes, she would have to walk all the way back to the bus terminal. ( I know all this, because being that I was not yet in school, she took me with her. She held my little hand tightly as we walked and navigated those streets of Atlanta. ) So she had a small child to tend to also.
A few years after I was born, she lost a child due to the mistakes of doctors who thought she had a tumor, but in reality that tumor was a baby. ( I saddens me to know that now days that baby probably would have survived.) Years later, when I was grown, she would tell me that her baby was fully formed, that it was a little girl and that she got to see her. I remember her saying that the doctors delivered the baby and laid her on the table next to her . My mama saw her baby girl take one little breath and then die. Mama told me she would have named the baby girl Shirley Jean and she thought how odd that years later, one of her son’s had married not once, but twice; ladies named Shirley Jean.
My mama was a kid at heart. She would get out there on Horseshoe Bend and ride bikes with me and my sister, play on the swing set with us, and also chase us around the house with any bug she could get her hands on! She would give us spoons, saucers, cups, and old pans to play in the dirt making mud pies.
She was the forever prankster. In later years, she would have most all the grandkids sleeping over at her house in town in the summertime. They would all sleep in the front bedroom. This was the bedroom that had the window opening onto the front porch. After the kids had gone to bed, they would of course be giggling and going on. She would wait a little bit, then sneak out on the porch and scratch at the window screen and make spooky noises!! You should have seen those young-uns falling over themselves running into the kitchen…. where mama was now sitting calmly, playing cards with our Aunt, our Daddy, or one of us grown children. hah!
She loved playing jokes on people and that didn’t stop when she got older. When it came time for her to have home health care aids and nurses in her home, she would set her coffee cup on the kitchen table and then when one of the nurses came by, she would ask them to bring it to her in the living room. When they would pick the empty cup up and see the (fake) giant cock roach, or spider, etc. sitting in the bottom of it, of course they would holler, and Mama loved it!
At mama’s funeral, during the visitation time, some of the nurses and health care aides came to sign the register. They talked about how they hadn’t realized that mama could play the piano, until Paige set her in front of it and she played tunes for them! They told about how she always loved to make people laugh.
The one thing they said though, that really touched my heart was this…
“Miss Lindsey, always, every time we went into her room, told us ALL how much she loved us.”
One of them then added ; “Your mama didn’t know color; she knew love.”
Yep..that about sums it up.
Rest in peace mama and yes I promise, I will always be your baby.
GOD BLESS YOU ALL.