A Little More like Mama

Visiting my mom’s grave brings back so many memories.  She was such an amazing person, and she died very suddenly ten years ago at the age of 73.  I never got to tell her goodbye and although I’ve had conversations with her at the grave site, while I’m walking, or when I’m driving, there are so many things that I wish that I’d been able to say to her.  There are so many things about the person that she was, that I appreciate so much more since she’s gone.

My mom had an amazing work ethic.  While we were growing up, she did people’s ironing and cleaned houses before taking a job as a school cook.  When we were started high school, she took a job at the Gospel Publishing House of the Assemblies of God where she worked for twenty-seven years.  There she processed contributions all day.  When she started there, she felt a little out of place, having always been Baptist.  It wasn’t long before she grew to appreciate the differences and realize that God wasn’t Baptist or Assemblies of God, and that although there were things that she didn’t understand, time spent in weekly chapel services could be enjoyed anyway. 

Mom retired with over 400 sick days not used.  She got to work early and walked around the top of the building until time for work.  When she had to be gone, she would work early and late to make up the time. One time she missed work for a funeral.  Before going to the funeral, she took a tumble down the stairs at my sister’s house and broke her finger and sprained her ankle badly.  She missed one day of work and went back way before she was supposed to go back, but she didn’t want to have to make up more time.  She always said, the minute she used a day she didn’t need, she’d get sick and need the days.

Another “fun fact” about my mom is that she never met a stranger.  She’d talk to anyone anywhere.  My parents took me to baseball games because I was a big Cincinnati Reds Fan (I’ve no idea why since we lived in Missouri.  I switched to the St. Louis Cardinals as an adult).  We went to see the Reds several times in St. Louis but one year they drove me and my siblings all the way to Cincinnati.  My dad had connections and we were able to sit right down behind the catcher, along with all the ball player’s wives and kids.  It happened to be during the era of the “Big Red Machine” when Pete Rose was in his 44-game hitting streak. By the end of that double header, my mom was close friends with many of the player’s wives and George Foster’s grandmother, who was inebriated.   That was one time when I wasn’t embarrassed by my mother’s gift of gab.

Being very “thrifty” was also one of my mom’s gifts, although we had a financially comfortable existence.  She was that person who would have a baggie in her purse to take home extra rolls from Ryan’s steakhouse.  She always had a cabinet full of used pieces of aluminum foil since she would re-use it.  She also took the waxy bags in which cereal comes and used them as baggies. She always had “one extra” pack of toilet paper and toothpaste hidden away that she’d bought on sale, even though the toilet paper was thin enough to see through.  We didn’t really use paper towels because she had a stash of embroidered white “tea towels.”  I’m not sure, now that I think about it, how she always kept them sparkling white. 

My mom kept an immaculate house.  We all had our chores and every Thursday night my dad did his one chore, running the vacuum.  I never understood why we did all this on Thursday, but now I do the same thing.  I realized it was a nice feeling to have a clean and tidy house to start the weekend.  She always pulled clothes out of the dryer immediately when the buzzer sounded.  She would hang all my dad’s shirts on hangers immediately when they came out, because she’d gathered all the empty hangers before she started. 

My mom was one of the least judgmental people I have ever known.  She taught Sunday School at the First General Baptist Church for all of her adult life.  The church was in a very poor part of town and often children came in dirty and wearing the clothes they’d probably worn for several days.  My mom would find them clothes and love them anyway because she truly lived like Jesus.  She loved God and she loved that church, and she loved every child that walked in that door. 

Another one of my mom’s most admirable traits was her humility.  She thought she wasn’t important and hated having her picture taken.  The day she died, she’d had a conversation with another lady at church saying that when she died, she didn’t want an obituary, because she didn’t think anyone would remember her.  She was so wrong!  Between her funeral and visitation, over 750 people came to pay their condolences.  People from the Publishing House, from Treasure Lake, and from all over the southwest area came to tell her goodbye.  She made an impression on so many people and was the epitome of a Christ-centered life.

There are many aspects of my mom that I find coming out not only in myself, but in my brother and sister.  We all three inherited the gift of talking to just about anyone.  My sister inherited many of her physical characteristics such as her size and her thriftiness in re-using baggies.  I inherited her weak stomach.  We all inherited her work ethic as both my sister and I struggle with working toward retirement and my brother works when he can. 

My mother loved us unconditionally and although I wish I could take back some of the things I did that upset her, I would not give up any minute I had with her.  She loved God, her church, her family and most of all she loved my dad.  She loved her us kids and her grandkids with her whole heart and I will live each day to be more like her.

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