Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do... but how much love we put in that action.
Some days we would check mom’s pulse before we kissed her goodbye, just to make sure.
There were times when my mom got overwhelmed with life. We now call it bi-polar syndrome (when a person behaves the opposite of how they normally are.) She would operate on cycles. Due to a heavy battle of depression and anxiety, she would function at minimum power for a period of 2 – 2.5 years. She would handle her personal hygiene, watch TV, listen to the radio and get food from the kitchen, but other than that, most of her day was spent in her room, in her bed. Tranquilizers were the medication prescribed in those days. It addressed the anxiety because it made you sleep. It was left to my sister and me to shop, make sure the rent was paid from the public assistance we were receiving, keep the house tidy, cook, go to school, do homework, and make sure we could do it all again in the morning.
We made our first Thanksgiving dinner when I was 13 years old. We were handling things, but kept the details of our existence very quiet. We didn’t want anyone to think we weren’t able to handle all of this adult responsibility and we didn’t want to end up in foster care. After the 24 – 30 month period was over, she would turn into the opposite of the person I just described. This was usually induced by the consumption of straight vodka. I now know that this was due to her illness and the need to mask some mental pain, but as a teenager, it was brutal. All of the televisions, faucets and radios were on at the same time. She would only sleep 2 hours a night. My sister and I took turns staying up with her to allow the other sister to sleep.
I remember one night she insisted that the storage closet needed to be cleaned out. This closet mostly stored the yards of fabric my mom had purchased over the years. She was a good seamstress and loved to sew. Whatever scraps she left from her creations, I could use to make doll clothes. It was my night to stay up, so I unloaded the fabric which was packed to the ceiling, mopped the floor and I got ready to pile the fabric back into the closet. My mom insisted that I spray insecticide in the closet, a preemptive strike against any bugs setting up house in her fabric. I sprayed the closet, but she didn’t see me spray the closet so she takes the can, shakes it up and steps towards me as if she is going to spray me…in the face. Wanting to protect my face, I knock the can out of her hand. This led to her yelling that I was attempting to fight her, which was definitely not the case. She’s calling the neighbors, I am trying to plead my case, I am tired and exhausted from sleeping every other night. These fits would last about 3 months. Then the crash and back to barely functioning. One year we left and lived with my father and stepmother until the crash, which was prompted by a uterine tumor the size of a grapefruit, which had to be removed. We had to move back to take care of her. She didn’t have anyone else.
The last time we had to escape, we were able to stay with a wonderful lady in our church. For the purpose of this blog, I will call her Sister R. She is a very unassuming lady – lean, beautiful and serious about her walk with the Lord. She is gracious to a fault, but has no tolerance for foolishness - my kind of lady. When we needed a place to stay temporarily, she was kind enough to offer her couch. Sister R lived in a one bedroom apartment, but for two young ladies (early 20’s) who needed a place to stay, it was a palace. She wouldn’t let us pay her any rent, so we made sure she di
dn’t have to lift a finger. We always came in at a respectable time, handled the dishes and other household chores and bought groceries. We tried to be as quiet as possible. She was glad for the company, but we wanted to make sure not to wear out our welcome. She sang and thanked God as she walked through the house on a regular basis. To this day I don’t know a lot about her childhood or family.
What I do know is that she showed us a wonderful example of a godly household. That experience has benefitted me down through the years. She came to our church before I joined. The story goes that she got off of the bus, right in front of where our church was holding a street meeting. She talked to the group and decided to give her life to the Lord. She was able to put down her alcohol and straighten her life out. My mom was also able to stop drinking any time she made up her mind to. She just had to get there.
Sister R’s doors are always open to us. Whenever I need some where to sleep when I’m home, she is my first call. Not only do I get the mothering I so badly need (she makes me breakfast, listens to me and doesn’t worry about what time I am getting back to her house, although I still make sure it’s a respectable time.) I so appreciate her love and especially her prayers. She has been the Sunday School superintendent for as long as I can remember. When my church asked me to assume that role here in Georgia, she was my first call. In her inevitable style she reassured me that I could handle it and would do a great job. Knowing that a loving and encouraging voice is just a phone call away is very reassuring. I am thankful to have the love of my natural mom, and Sister/Auntie/Godma R., whose birthday is this week. Happy Birthday and thank you!