My mom would’ve been 89 today. She was a faithful wife to my dad for 61 years and she cooked me all the scrambled eggs and french fries (not at the same time) that I ever wanted. Best mom ever, hands-down.
She had a sharp wit and my dad was often on the receiving end of it. In fact, they were always picking at each other and I wish I could’ve appreciated it for what it was when I was watching it happen right in front of me. It was love. Love that transcended the temporal, born out of the spiritual. You don’t stay happily married for that long, especially with me as your kid, without having a relationship based on the truth of scripture.
Mom ran the business of our family. She always said that if my dad actually signed one of the checks she wrote to pay the bills instead of her signing his name, that the bank wouldn’t recognize the signature. She wrote the checks and dad delivered them like a good boy.
Mom kept us fed, in clean clothes, and she sang hymns while she did. All the time, in fact. For some reason, it bothered me when I was a child but if what comes out of the mouth is the overflow of the heart, then her heart was full of love for her Savior, her husband, and her children.
That’s not to say her saint-like patience with me didn’t occasionally run out. There were some occasions where it did and rather than spank me, she would inform me that she was going to tell Dad when he got home from wherever he happened to be which would then send me into a dramatic fit of tearfully repeating “please don’t, Mama” for the next 30 minutes.
She also defended, maybe sometimes to a fault, her baby boy (That’s me). I once said, under my breath and very quietly, “I wish you’d shut up” to my dad as he was going on to me about something I’d done wrong. He wasn’t supposed to have heard it. Ten minutes later as I came back into the living room, my dad asked me what I’d said. My blood ran cold as I stammered unintelligibly for about two seconds before he was up and had me by the arm with his left hand and was wearing out my backside with his right. I surely must’ve looked like a bullrider who had gotten his hand stuck in the rope as I flailed and flopped in a circle trying to minimize the impact of the stinging pops to my rear. After a few seconds, Mama told him that I’d had enough. Actually, her exact words were, “Stop it, James Earl! You’re gonna break his damn arm!” Feisty, she was. He stopped. I guess if the preacher’s wife uses a cuss-word to beseech the preacher to have mercy on the preacher’s kid, the preacher listens.
She loved Alabama football, Braves baseball, and she loved to see Auburn lose. Her favorite player was Terry Pendleton and she once wrote a letter to Skip Caray, the Braves’ play-by-play guy who also hosted the pregame show, to express her displeasure with Bobby Cox’s language during games. She could barely hear and, as such, she got pretty good at reading lips and she was none too pleased with Bobby’s language. She obviously believed that an occasional, very infrequent swear word could be useful in communicating an important thought or idea. In her estimation, grown men playing baseball on TV did not require such measures.
The TV was always loud because of her hearing loss and to this day, I still talk loud to anyone over the age of 65, regardless of how good or bad their hearing happens to be.
She was an incredible woman who modeled what a Christian wife and mother should be. She sang in the choir and taught Sunday school until arthritis mostly took away her legs. Once she stopped being able to go to church regularly, she would faithfully watch her second favorite preacher behind my dad, Jay Wolf at FBC Montgomery, on TV. Our Sunday afternoon visits always included a conversation that would begin with with “Today, Jay said…”, at which point we would discuss that Sunday’s message.
If there’s a salad bar in Heaven (my dad LOVED a big ol’ salad), she’s making him one just like she did at every Pizza Hut we ever went to as a family. She served. Always. She served Jesus, my dad, her family, and so, so many others in the churches and communities where we lived.
I could go on and on about her, and maybe one day I will. There are just too many wonderful things not to share them, even if only for my own enjoyment.
She’s been in Heaven since July of 2011. I know that up there she sings and walks and hears perfectly. To know that is good for this preacher’s kid’s heart. It keeps me – all of us – from being heartbroken because we can be sure that we’ll be there with her and my Dad again. Sooner rather than later because, for the Christian, whatever time we have left on this Earth is a nanosecond when compared to eternity in Heaven.
What a day that will be.