This week’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun is to post about a fearless female in your life and I can think of no one more deserving of this title than my mother.
My mom was the middle child of eleven children. My grandfather had been married before he married my grandmother and had three living children with his second wife. He was eighteen years older than my grandmother. My grandmother had grown up in an orphanage having lost her father at age 2 and her mother at age 10.
Momma was eighteen when she married my father. She had quit school to work to help her elderly father pay the family’s bills as many children did in those days. Eleven months after my parents were married, my brother was born, premature. He was a blue baby. Mom and Dad had no idea just how sick their little boy was when they bought him home. In those days, you paid for the child’s six weeks checkup when you left the hospital. Their first clue should have been when the nurse told them he wouldn’t live to be six weeks old.
This baby boy could not suck and so my mom and a friend fed him with an eye dropper around the clock for the first few months of his life. And my brother grew and thrived. One day when he was a few months old, mom was changing a diaper and got some of the baby powder in his eyes. He did not cry. Mom called the doctor, frantic as any new mother would. It was then she learned that her child was blind. Not because there was anything wrong with his little eyes, but because his brain was dead in the places where our eyes and brain talk. The doctors thought he might be able to see light. He could not talk, but his hearing was incredibly good. This was difficult on the young child and mom would often take him to a neighbor’s house, just so she could wash dishes, because the sound of the dishes hitting together would make him cry. He hate clapping with a passion.
My grandfather’s health was failing and he would rock my brother and try and teach him things. My brother only learned two words. My grandfather died when my brother was sixteen months old. Momma and Daddy were now trying to help my grandmother, who was a new widow, raise three young children and an invalid child of their own.
When my brother was four, my mother became pregnant with me. The doctor’s decided that summer, that if they could break both his hips and reset them, that maybe it would slow his scoliosis and he might be able to learn to walk. He was in a full body cast that whole summer from the waist down. Mom would take him to the doctor and then go and see her doctor. She never told his doctor she was pregnant, nor did she tell her doctor he’d had surgery.
Shortly after I was born, Mom took my brother to the doctor and was told that if she loved me, she would lay my brother in the busy street in front of the hospital and walk off. Mom jerked us both up and walked out of that doctor’s office never to return. Unfortunately in 1966, lots of people felt that way. My parents were not one of them.
They determined that not only would I have a “normal” life, but so would my brother. And they determined from that moment on, not to let other people tell them how to raise their children. And so we went spelunking, deep sea fishing, camping, all the normal things families did in the 1960-70s. We just did it with a wheelchair in tow. I became his eyes, telling him about the places that we went. We were active in church, I was a girl scout, I played violin…
Mom wasn’t able to work outside the home, so instead she worked inside the home. By the time I started school, those younger siblings were starting their own families. While they worked, Momma kept the kids at home. Three generations of our family learned if you napped with Bubba, you slept on his left arm or he would beat you to death with it. We learned to walk pushing a wheel chair. We learned that wheelchairs have feet rests, not so the person riding has a place to put their feet, but because they are the perfect height to ram into the person in front of you. No need to say excuse me, wheelchairs have the right of way. You don’t move, we just ran you down.
In 2001, my dad found out he had lung and bone cancer. That same year the doctor’s decided that my brother needed a tracheotomy and a feeding tube. Nine months later, my father passed away leaving Mom to care for my brother all alone. We were blessed that the last request my father had made was for home health nurses to help mom and she was blessed with some of the best.
My brother passed away with Mom caring for him. For 44 years, she had cared for him night and day, day and night. She had only been separated from him a few times in all those years. She had fearlessly cared for him from cradle to grave.
Yes, when I think of a fearless woman, I think of my mom. And I think of this poem written by Erma Bombeck. It was published in the Today Newspaper Sept. 4th, 1993
God Chooses Mom for Disabled Child
Most women become mothers by accident, some by choice, a few by social pressures, and a couple by habit. This year, nearly 100,000 women will become mothers of handicapped children.
Did you ever wonder how mothers of handicapped children are chosen? Somehow I visualize God hovering over Earth selecting his instruments for propagation with great care and deliberation. As he observes, he instructs his angels to make notes in a giant ledger.
“Armstrong, Beth; son; patron saint, Matthew.
“Forrest, Marjorie; daughter; patron saint, Cecelia.
“Rudledge, Carrie; twins; patron saint…. give her Gerard. He’s used to profanity.
” Finally, he passes a name to an angel and smiles, “Give her a handicapped child.”
The angel is curious. “Why this one, God? She’s so happy.”
“Exactly,” smiles God. “Could I give a handicapped child a mother who does not know laughter? That would be cruel.”
“But has she patience?” asks the angel.
“I don’t want her to have too much patience or she will drown in a sea of self-pity and despair. Once the shock and resentment wears off, she’ll handle it.”
“I watched her today. She has that feeling of self and independence. She’ll have to teach the child to live in her world and that’s not going to be easy.”
“But, Lord, I don’t think she even believes in you.”
God smiles. “No matter. I can fix that. This one is perfect. She has just enough selfishness.” The angel gasps, “Selfishness? Is that a virtue?”
God nods. “If she can’t separate herself from the child occasionally, she’ll never survive. Yes, there is a woman I will bless with a child less then perfect. She doesn’t realize it yet, but she is to be envied. She will never take for granted a spoken word. She will never consider a step ordinary. When her child says “Momma” for the first time, she will be present at a miracle and know it! When she describes a tree or a sunset to her blind child, she will see it as few people ever see my creations.” “I will permit her to see clearly the things I see—ignorance, cruelty, prejudice— and allow her to rise above them. She will never be alone. I will be at her side every minute of every day of her life because she is doing my work as surely as she is here by my side.”
“And what about her patron saint?” asks the angel, his pen poised in midair.
God smiles. “A mirror will suffice.”