Is the question that I would like to ask. As Mother’s Day approached in 2012, I decided to write her story.
It was November, 1993 when I wheeled her up to her daughter’s casket. She caressed her face and fancied her hair, and then whispered “I’ll see you soon.”
In a time when dogs ran through fenceless yards and no one ever locked their doors, I came of age. Little did I know that a woman would have such a profound effect on my life. I’ve known an Angel and a Woman in my life, and she went by the name of Betty Jo.
My sister told me Mom was born to alcoholics in the year 1929. Her father was a rough neck for an oil company. He was a tall, muscular man with a grade school education, an aptitude for hell-raising and intolerance for family responsibility. Mom’s mother was a small but stout lady, capable of downing as much moon shine as her husband at any given time. Like so many back in the Great Depression, they lived off the land.
The story goes that at the age of four, she would cook breakfast for her entire family. Standing on top of a butter churn to reach the wood-burning stove, she would completely cook, and then serve the meal to her older brother and younger sister, and of course, her parents, still passed out from the night before. They were not easily awaken from their previous evening’s escapades and her brother would try to stir them awake, but wilt to the task. It always fell to Mom. The ear piercing cussing accompanied by the stench of alcohol was always prevalent in the house, way before the glistening from the kerosene lanterns illuminated the room.
The years passed with few, if any, changes within her family’s lifestyle. Her brother, four years older, joined the Navy at the outset of WWII. She graduated high school in a class of twelve. Following graduation, she got a job as a telephone operator and secured her own apartment in town. She was eighteen. These kinds of actions by a single woman were unheard of during that time in our country. Her courage and independence were astonishing.
She was 5 foot 2, 104 pounds, and very shapely. At one time, she was engaged to four different men at the same time. Morals were extremely different back then as you know, and when my Dad came along, he put a stop to the other boys. They married in 1948 and traveled the pro baseball circuit until 1951, when my sister came along. I showed up 15 months later. I was told that they had problems getting pregnant with my sister, but Dad told me, when it came to me, all he had to do was throw is underwear in the room!
Dad, an ex marine, was a give no quarter, take no quarter kind of man. Mom was the queen of compassion with a keen since of awareness. She would be my guiding light all of her life. I’m not going to bore you all with the innumerous times that she directed and corrected my life. I will say only that I always felt the soft, peaceful surrounds of her wings caressing me even during the worst of times. I miss the security, even now.
She was quite the poet. I never knew of this until the estate manager discovered her writings in a shoe box. I begin to read these in ’94. She wrote of the highest level of sensuality between a woman to man. The words soothed your mind as they flooded your soul. So taken back by this, I had never truly understood the depth of her being. The sheer rapture of her words transcended all that I thought I knew of her.
The beginning of the end occurred in ’83 when Dad was killed. Mom and my sister’s relationship had taken on a love, hate demeanor. I was in a bad marriage, and soon would be 2000 miles away in California. She felt totally abandoned. The bottle became her best friend and she was on her way to becoming a binge drinker. She had come full circle from her youth.
“It felt like home to me.” she once told me.
This type of bodily corruption would last for 10 years, up until my sister’s passing. The damage had already been done, and the next six months would complete the cycle of suicide. She knew exactly what she doing. I buried her in May, 1994.
Angels have great powers … even deciding their deaths, I believe. So, given these powers, I would ask just one thing … “won’t you cradle, one more time?”