Biographical Non-Fiction posted June 12, 2010


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He allowed her to keep her dignity

He was Her Husband

by Annmuma

Happy Father's Day Contest Winner 

Daddy walked through the front door, looked at his railroad watch and then went directly to Mama’s chair.  He kissed her, always on the mouth and as if she was the best sight he’d seen that day.

“Hi, Mary.  How are you feeling today?"
 
"Oh, I'm okay, John.  Let me get you a cup of coffee."
 
"Nah.  I just want about half of a cup.  I'll get it.  You want some?"
 
"I think I do."
 
"There's a breeze blowing. Wanna sit on the front porch and talk?"
 
"That'd be nice."
 
Daddy strode to the kitchen, not looking back as I helped my mom out of the chair and out onto the porch into the hot Louisiana afternoon.  Daddy bragged that we lived on a hill where there was always a breeze.  I rarely felt it, but never doubted it was there.  Daddy's word was pretty much law in our house, and I was sure he didn't lie to us.
 
It was August 15, 1956 in Tioga, Louisiana, and Mama had about another seventy-five days to live.   We'd made a trip to Missouri, just Mama, my younger brother Johnny, and me, earlier that summer.  Mama knew she didn’t have much time left and she wanted to be sure her eldest was okay, but once we came home, she seemed to go down fast.  Now she spent most days in bed, at least until about two-thirty when she would call to Johnny and me.  She would not be celebrating her forty-sixth birthday with us that December, but today she was a mom and wife.
 
"Kids, could you give me a hand?  Your daddy will be home in about an hour, and I need to get dressed."
 
Johnny and I helped her up, into the bathtub and then to get dressed into a clean, starched and ironed housedress.  I combed her hair because she was too weak for even that exertion as she saved her strength for Daddy's homecoming.  A dab of lipstick and a puff of face powder was part of the ritual. Some days, I would rub a little "Nair" on her upper lip to be sure there was no trace of a mustache, and every day she put on her good shoes.  Sometimes she needed to rest between the bath and the actual getting dressed, but she never failed to make it to a rocking chair in the living room before Daddy walked in the door. 
 
Once seated, she would instruct us in making the coffee.  We had a wall coffee grinder and ground together one-half dark roast, one-half light roast Eight O’clock coffee beans to get exactly the blend Daddy liked.  Before it was put in the drip-o-later, the coffee had to pass her inspection.  I thought it silly for her to put out all that effort, while Daddy didn’t seem to even notice how hard it was for her or for us.  I asked once why she did it.
 
“Mama, Daddy knows you are sick, but sometimes he acts as if he doesn’t even notice it.  Why do you try so hard.  Why can’t you tell him to make his own coffee?  You never tell him you don’t feel good.  Why?”
 
“Olevia, you’re only twelve.  You’ll understand as you get older.”
 
“I doubt it!”
 
She smiled and gave me a squeeze.  “One of these days you’ll have a husband and a family.  You need to remember, when you stop looking good enough to come home to, they’ll stop coming home.”
 
Over the years, I’ve never forgotten that lesson and I’ve learned a lot from all the nuances that go with it.  It’s not about the “looking” so much as the “feeling” of home that keeps one coming.  But, this story is about my dad, so let me get back to it.
 
Mama was settled into a rocking chair on the front porch, had caught her breath a bit and was ready for company by the time he walked out carrying their coffee.  I often settled on the top step to listen as they chatted.  Even at that young age, I marveled at how Mama blossomed when Daddy talked with her.  They discussed politics, the neighbors, the railroad, the cows, the chickens, whether or not they should put in a fall garden and the next possible labor strike, which always seemed to be looming on the horizon. 
 
In an hour or so, Mama began to droop a bit.  Without missing a beat, Daddy took his cue.
 
“Mary, I’m going to put these coffee cups up.  I’m a little tired today, and I think I’ll lie down for spell if you don’t mind.  Wanna join me?”
 
“That sounds good.  I think I will.”
 
Daddy rose from his chair and went into the house without a glance over his shoulder.  I helped Mama up, into the house and she made it to their bedroom about the same time Daddy arrived.
 
“Here, let me get that bedspread turned down.  It’s too hot for any covers.  Let’s just lay a spell on top of the sheets.”
 
By late September, Mama was in the hospital for the last time and she died on October 26.  Many times over the last fifty-four years, I’ve pondered those summer afternoons, and pictured the two of them rocking, talking and sipping coffee from white, wartime coffee cups.  I’ve come to recognize Daddy’s courage and love in allowing Mama to keep her dignity even at the lowest point in her life.    He treated her, not as an invalid, but as his partner. 
 
He allowed her the joy of being his wife until she couldn’t be anymore.  At the time, I didn’t realize how difficult that was.  I do now and I admire him for it.

 


Happy Father's Day
Contest Winner

Recognized


The picture is my dad and my firstborn, Ray, in April 1964. Daddy did a lot of things in the background to help my mom when she was ill. He hired a lady to come do the washing and ironing. He had someone come once a month to help in housecleaning. Still, he never treated Mama as if she were too unwell to do anything, only that he wanted it done differently. 953 Words.
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