Sunday, May 13, 2012


(c)Linda Goodman 2012

My mother, Ida Pauline Tackett Wright, was born on March 29, 1929.  She shared her parents' attention with her twin brother, Paul, and her older sister, Helen.

When I say that she shared her parents' attention, I do not mean their affection. Her father, William Tackett, was a man who heard voices that told him what to do, and he obeyed. The results were usually one or more injured children or a badly beaten wife. My grandmother, Roma Gilliam Tackett stood by while her children incurred his wrath.  Was she afraid he would make their suffering worse if she interfered? Or was she worried that her meddling would turn his anger on her?  The answer to that question varies, depending upon which of my relatives  is telling the story.

I will not record here the graphic details of my mother's childhood. Suffice it to say that, prior to marrying my father, she never went to bed without wondering whether she would live to see another day. I consider it a small miracle that, considering what she endured, neither I nor any of my siblings were abused in any way.

I once read an article about concentration camp survivors.  The author said that these survivors tended to be infantile in their eagerness to please, to shudder at unfriendly words spoken to them, and to be plagued by nightmares and anxiety.  My mother mirrored all these symptons.

When I was a teen, I came to the decision that my mother was mildly retarded.  She never understood jokes, never read a book, and never learned to use a seat belt.  After my father died, she came to live with me and my family in Connecticut. Phil spent hours teaching her to use the microwave oven and the TV remote.  She was scared to death of both of them.

My doctor examined her and told me that her time was short.  Take her on walks, he suggested.  Build up her stamina to buy her more time.

Those walks were a godsend.  They got my mother talking about her life and her views of what was going on in the world, as compared to what had been.  I was shocked to learn that there was a deep well of wisdom that had been shut up tight inside her all her life.  During those walks, she taught me how to get along with a surly teenager, to descern and extend true friendship, and to appreciate a good man. Not too long after she came to live with me, she told me that the bank had made a mistake on her account. I checked behind her and learned that she was right; the bank had made a $10.00 error, just as she had said. Statistics tell us that ninety percent of the people in this country cannot reconcile their own banks accounts.  My mother, with just a sixth grade education, had reconciled hers.

My mother, who had been treated like a half-wit by both friends and family, had an active and very sharp mind that she had kept hidden for over fifty years!  Because of my own misguided assumptions, I had denied myself access to that treasure.

In a fit of anger, my mother once told me that before she died she was going to write letters to me and my siblings, and that we were going to be surprised by what those letters said.  I knew that whatever was going to be in those letters would be scathing.

My mother returned home to Virginia just four months before her death. She passed away quietly in the night on March 1, 1989. My sister met me at the airport in Norfolk two days before the funeral.  She told me that Momma had left letters for both of us and our two brothers. I shuddered at the thought of reading mine.

I was indeed surprised.  Instead of recounting all of the hurtful things that I had said and done to her, she thanked me and Phil for taking such good care of her.  She asked us to be good to one another, and she expressed the belief that we would see each other again in God's time.  My mother's last gift to me was forgiveness.  She absolved me of the guilt that she knew would be my be my constant companion otherwise.

If I could see my mother today, I would wrap my arms around her and hold her tight. I would tell her how sorry I am for all the pain I caused her.  I would tell her that I love her and am proud to be her daughter.

I pray that I will one day have her courage, grace, and strength of character.

Happy Mother's Day, Momma.

No comments:

Post a Comment