In her retirement years, Mama had a coffee cup that on one side said, “The kitchen is closed due to illness,” and on the other said, “I’m sick of cooking.”
She loved her children and grandchildren, and somehow had the ability to make each one think that he or she was her absolute favorite. Mama sat on what we called her throne in the living room, surrounded by newspapers and books in a house that had enough bookcases to fill a public library.
It was here that those grandchildren were introduced to the world of ideas and wonder of books, as she had done earlier with her children.
In later years I would park my semi at the end of the block and, entering the house, I would encounter little neighborhood girls of all ages and races with books in their hands being told how smart they were.
Mama was born in the wrong time. Today, she would have been a college professor.
In addition to being rather absent-minded at times, she loved reading, learning, teaching and traveling. One year she would immerse herself in Greek history, another it would be ancient coins, English poetry or learning French. What other woman would start reading Nietzsche in her 70s?
Earlier in life, as I was of a Libertarian bent, I would have many arguments and battles with Mama.
Sometimes they would end by her saying, “Yes, dear” — which in Texas woman-talk means, “Are you really serious?” Or I would be faced with heavy breathing creating a whistling sound, furrowed brows, and/or a look that promised retribution.
Many times this would be brought on by the bare mention of Ronald Reagan. I feared for the television’s life when he appeared on the screen.
Mama was a Great Depression child who, like many in her generation, idolized FDR. She grew up at a time when jobs were hard to find and hunger was a constant and real threat. She was a hopeless romantic who twice divorced and twice remarried my dad, who was sinking hopelessly into alcoholism. She always defended him by saying, “You should have known him before.”
On their gravestone is inscribed “Together Forever.”
Though I know she resented the fact that she did not have the opportunities afforded my generation, she always pushed us and took pride in our accomplishments, especially those of her daughters and granddaughters.
My police officer nephew is of a conservative bent. We both believe that the other is crazy politically, but enjoy the back-and-forth banter. He is married to a beautiful, sweet woman. They are a fine couple raising three children, and both work full-time. She attended college, but was unable to finish since the price of tuition made her dream next to impossible.
To make a long story short, I was able to help. She now has graduated and will start teaching shortly.
My nephew tried to thank me. I told him to thank Grandma. It was what she would have wanted me to do, and I had to honor her wish.
There is another reason. I believe we meet those we love in the afterlife. Maybe this will keep Mama’s “I told you so’s” down to 15 minutes or so.
John Lucas of Lodi is a raconteur and retired truck driver.