In everyone’s life there is someone who, because of some special gift, we long to be like. Maybe even coveting the gift they have that makes them so exceptional. It is for this reason that I write this today.
All that she was …
The person I speak of is … Mom … my mother, of course! She personified everything about the word Mother. Loving, caring, gentle, nurturing. She had nine children (five girls, four boys) and I, being the baby, was her favorite. So was all the other eight. She always made each of us know that her favorite was “whoever was sick or away.” None of us had any reason to doubt that. She was Mom. She always told the truth, and knew how to say everything in an acceptable way. We would often say, “Mom can tell a person their Momma STINKS,” and the person would just smile and nod … trying to figure out how they could tell their Mother that she had an offending smell … a foul odor even, simply because Mrs. Brown said so.
Yep. That’s who she was … ALWAYS told the truth. Sometimes even before it happened. “Mark my words,” she’d say. Oh NO! Not the dreaded “mark my words” statement …’Cause we knew it would happen, and we’d just wait for whatever it was she said would happen to happen. And it always did … sometimes it still does! Just the way she said it would. “One day you’ll have a daughter just like you, mark my words,” she said. Well, lo and behold, my first born! My only daughter … just like her mother, but with a twist … no, more like me with three backflips, a twist, AND a round off! “Learn to shut your mouth” … “Vonnie knows all and WILL tell it!” “Mouth almighty!” “You can’t hold water!” … You get the point. But, in my defense, I had to “tell it all” … ’cause Mom said I would! And she ALWAYS told the truth. Now I have one just like me … MAN! I should’ve seen it coming! After all, she had warned me. I should’ve paid better attention to how she handled me! ‘Cause I sure could use her methods now.
Yes, she was wise. She didn’t have the best education; but because her father had left the family during the Great Depression, she found it necessary to quit school in the 6th grade to help her mother take care of her three younger brothers . Although she had left school, that did not mean she wasn’t educated. Many years later, she wrote a letter to Governor Milton Shapp of Pennsylvania. He personally responded to her, commenting on the “well written” letter she had sent. Imagine his surprise when she told him she had never even made it through junior high school. Mom knew that at least a high school diploma was necessary, so in 1982 at the age of sixty-one she received her high school equivalency diploma. She would call it “one of the proudest moments of her personal life.”
Anyway, Mom began to work various odd jobs, cleaning, doing laundry, sewing, cooking … whatever she could to help her mother make ends meet. Her struggles did not make her bitter, they made her stronger. Taking the lead due to her mother’s sadness taught her the importance of humility. It taught her the importance of family unity. It taught her the meaning of strength. Her mother’s misery lingered for many years. She would eventually meet and marry another man, “Pop Tom” as we called him. Together they would produce another child. Mom helped out a lot with the baby … so much so that people began to speculate the child was hers. “I hate a liar,” Mom would say. I wonder if those rumors had anything to do with her love of truth. Not much time later, her mother died. “Meningitis” the doctor said. Mom thought it was from the illness AND a broken heart. Her mother never did fully recover from being abandoned all those years before. Mom was only sixteen years old. With her younger siblings looking to her now, she picked up where her mother left off. Taking a job to support the family, she worked long and hard. Her brothers never forgot the sacrifices she made for them … and they were forever indebted to her.
During the next few years, my older three uncles enlisted in the military. The youngest child was taken to live with his father a few hours away. This gave Mom some time for herself. She began working full time and finally had a new found sense of “freedom.”
Mom loved the job she had found. It was a perfect fit for her. Little did she know it would lead to the rest of her life. She worked with a lovely woman … Helen was her name. She was always trying to get Mom to go out with her son who was also in the military. Mom had no desire to meet this man or any other. She loved her single life, and didn’t want to “complicate” it with a military man.
“He’ll be home soon, Dorothy. Won’t you meet him just this once?”
Mom thought long and hard about it. After all, it was the same question day in and day out.
“Truthfully, I really wanted to go home and relax this evening,” Mom said, thinking she can take a subtle hint.
But that was not Helen’s way … she had already planned for her son, Leroy, to stop by for the “chance” encounter between the two. The “chance of a lifetime” meeting was more like it …
Part 1 | (Part 2)