It was on June 2, 2001, that I told my mom good-bye for the last time. She was surrounded by her family as the angels came to take her home. My heart still aches as I remember it. I think about her every day.
Sometimes when I look at my hands, I think of hers. She had strong hands and they were always moving. I’ve watched her hands while she peeled potatoes, stitched a quilt, set tobacco, squeezed out cat-head biscuits, planted a garden, or played “Rooster, Pullet, Hen” with an unsuspecting child. If you’re not familiar with that little game, it went like this: She would touch a youngster’s forehead and say, “This is the rooster.” Then she’d touch his nose and say, “This is the pullet.” She would touch his chin and say, “This is the hen.” She’d touch his nose once more and ask, “What’d I say that was?” When he answered “Pullet” . . . she would.
She could tie the prettiest hand of tobacco. She tied backwards, but the hands were neat and tight. After Daddy packed them on the basket, it was almost a work of art. Daddy told me that he never once asked Mom to go help him on the farm. She would ask him every night about his plans for the next day. She would be up the following morning and ready to go by the time he got out of bed. She loved to work, whether it was in the field or in the kitchen.
Mom was the best cook I’ve ever known. It was old fashioned country cooking, much of which came from the garden, either fresh or canned. New potatoes, fried corn, green beans, peas, sliced tomatoes – I can taste them now. Sometimes she didn’t even have to go to the garden, for example when she cooked dandelion greens or fried poke stalk. She would bake a pan of cornbread every evening. When there was work to be done on the farm, she made a big breakfast, including biscuits and gravy, so they would get a substantial start to the day. I can’t imagine cooking breakfast, packing lunch (which was called “dinner”), working all day in the field, cooking supper in the evening, washing dishes, then doing the household chores – and never once complaining about it.
I don’t know how many quilts Mom made. It seemed every winter she would piece a new top. She and other ladies in the neighborhood would set up a quilting frame in an empty room or even a vacant house. They would then meet to put the quilt together. I was amazed at the way Mom’s hand rocked back and forth as she made the quilting stitches. The stitches were so tiny, they looked as though they had been done on a machine.
Mom loved to sleep so she could dream. That was the only time she could see. If all the things above weren’t amazing enough, she did them even though she was legally blind. During the last several years of her life, she could only distinguish light from dark. As she held my newborn daughter on her lap twenty years ago, she said, “I can see the light shining in your eyes.”
Mom started losing her eyesight just a few years after I was born. It never stopped her – it just made life more challenging for her. If she wanted to see your facial features, she would “look” at you with her hands. If you were a man with a beard, you could expect to have it pulled as she felt of your face. When the electricity goes off and I’m groping around in the dark trying to find a flashlight, I think about how her every waking moment was like that. I don’t think I could ever be as brave as she was.
I admire my mom for her perseverance, her strength, her love of hard work, and her love of family. I miss her so much and I still love her with all my heart.