My mother had a life well lived. She was many things to many people. To me she was an incredible cook. I can’t remember ever leaving anything on plate after one of her meals. I think part of that had to do with having two other brothers, part of that is I loved to eat and partly she was such a good cook.
If you had to ask me what she cooked best I would not be able to choose. It would be between her blueberry pancakes, French toast (she could put just the right amount of cinnamon in the mix), coffee cake, oatmeal raisin cookies, spaghetti and meatballs (for a long time my all time favorite), stacked enchiladas, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, Mississippi mud pie and she always had the best gravy for our meals at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
I was spoiled because she was such a good cook that even when I got older I loved coming back home to get her cooking or to have her come visit knowing she would bring something down that I liked. Once she moved to Ooletwah, TN it meant she was closer to the Little Debbie plant which meant more Little Debbie treat especially from their discount store.
She was the kind of parent that we need today. Since she was an educator (she received her doctorate for The University of Tennessee) so took the sides of the teachers and coaches. As kids my brothers and I couldn’t blame the teachers like kids do today. She knew better and we knew better than to try that trick on her. Too bad more parents aren’t like that today, but that is the problem with our kids is that the parents make things too easy their own kids. They take the side of the kid and place blame on the coach or teacher.
Now my mom would think we could do no wrong and believed in us, but when it came to school and doing the work we had to do the work. I can remember her coming home from a Parents Teacher conferences and walking down the hall toward my bedroom and I knew I was in trouble. I could hear the words coming out of her mouth. She already had heard from the teacher and was taking the teacher’s version (which was 99% of the time the truth). I would try to fake being asleep and thinking that if I can fake it till the morning maybe she will forget about everything. No chance with her. I would get the lecture about how you were to act in class and how you were to show respect for your teachers. My brothers and I could talk our ways out of a lot of things with a lot of people, but not my mother. She knew the game and wasn’t going to be fooled by her own sons.
We didn’t get much by her. Maybe my brother and I liked the decorations in the administrator’s offices or spent some much quality time with the assistant principals and principals that we decided to go into education. Not sure that is the reason as much as it was my mom being in education. I think my younger brother and I thought when people said “open door” policy we would take it serious and get called in quite often to the front office. Back then we had corporal punishment. I would still take that versus today when they give kids work detail and make them come early for an hour and stay after school for an hour. I took the punishment gladly because I realized whatever they caught me for was probably only half the stuff I could half been caught for doing.
My brother got smarter and went to a public university and I think he stopped getting into trouble. I went to a small private college and didn’t get the memo and kept getting in trouble. Neither one of us did anything malicious; we were just not too smart. One of us was told he could graduate from our high school with the agreement we were to never set foot on the campus again. I won’t say which one of us it was, but he is two years younger than me. That’s all I am going to say about that.
My mom truly believed in us even when we messed up big time. She had that unique ability to believe we could do anything. She supported us and didn’t put down any crazy dreams we might have or talk about. At critical times in my life she gave me key advice that got through some tough transitions.
She was a very good mother and good wife to Dale, but her true calling I think came in her being a grandparent. Over the years countless times she has been there when we needed here for one reason or another. With the crazy travel of my occupation it made for some difficult times to find someone to watch our kids. She was so willing to drive and meet us to get the kids and bring them back to Chattanooga. She would come and stay with us or stay with the kids. Our kids spent more time over the last couple of years in Chattanooga than I did. My parents were known at our churches and in our schools wherever we lived because they came to see us so much.
It wasn’t anything for at one time or another for each of our four children to cry out “I want my Nana!” when being punished for something. My daughter, Elise, even called her on the phone once to see if she could bail her out of some trouble. My mom wasn’t going to bail out her own kids, but her grandchildren were a different story. That is the area where she shined. She spoiled them and I mean that in a good way. She loved them so much and they loved her back. They really cared about her and I worry how her passing away will affect them in the long run. Some summers they would spend as much time with their grandmother as they would with us. Looking back that is ok and I know they loved it also.
Once while Edie and I were teaching high school in Atlanta we left for school one bright sunny spring morning. We usually took two cars even though we were at the same school because after school activities for each of us may differ. About 10 minutes before the end of my first period class I get a note from the front office and it says “Elise is at home”.
We had left Elise at the house that morning. Well Elise didn’t call Edie. She didn’t call me. She didn’t call school. She called Nana. She didn’t know the other numbers, but she knew Nana’s number. Instead of being able to contact us at a school three miles away she called Nana two hours away. Nana called the school and they contacted me. Not one of my prouder moments as a parent, but I know deep down it made my mom feel good. She was worried about Elise until we got there, but knowing my mom she felt good that she was needed.
She had a well lived life. We have asked for a miracle and for God to remove the cancer from her body. That did not happen, but I am grateful for the time we had with her. Yes, I would have liked to see her live a lot longer and get to have seen great grandchildren. I will thank and praise God for what He did give us. The mother, wife, grandmother, mother-in-law, sister, aunt, cousin, friend to so many that he did give us was blessing that has left an impression we will never forget.
Not sure I will ever eat blueberry pancakes, oatmeal raisin cookies, spaghetti and meatballs and a lot of other things and not think of her and I guess that is ok. OK with me that God blessed us with her life and that she made an impact on so many. Thank you God for giving me a mom that loved me unconditionally, that was tough on me, that believed the best in me, that thought my own kids were great and carved out as much time as possible to spend with us over the years. Now that she is gone she will be greatly missed, but we do have very good memories. We wish for more, but thankful for the life you gave her and the time you gave her here on earth. Like most we never thought this day would come. It is hard to swallow and hard to fathom, but with your strength Lord we will make it through.
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