Cancer, cornbread and my little ol#039; Mama

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 10, 2003

There's not a day that goes by that I don't think of my mama.

And, there's hardly a day that I don't speak her name.

My mother lost her battle with cancer Jan. 14, 1995. But, really, by the time she was diagnosed, the battle was almost over.

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Hearing the word, "cancer" is devastating, but, when you're told there's nothing that can be done - there are no words to describe those emotions when cancer claims and then takes the life of a loved one.

My mother was brave in the face of her illness - for us - I'm sure. She always put her family before anything else and she did so when she knew she was dying.

Only one time did I hear lament. She asked, almost in a whisper and, not to me, but to God, "Why did this happened to me now? I have everything - my family, my little ol' home and my little ol' job."

Mama attached the words, little ol,' to things of great significance in her life - my little ol' children, my little ol' grandchildren, my little ol' house, my little ol' dog and later in life, my little ol' job.

My mother came to Brundidge and "fixed hair" at Miss E.C.'s beauty parlor. She married my daddy and stayed home to care for her little ol' children.

After her nest was empty of children and, then filled with grandchildren, she ventured back into the work world. First, as a substitute teacher at Pike County High School.

She took great pride in being a "teacher" and, for the first time, mentioned that she would have loved to teach school She never got that opportunity but she would have been a great teacher. My mother was one of those "characters" who loved life and made it a pleasure for those around her. She would have cared about those little ol' children and made them feel very special, just as she did her own.

When "going to the school" got be too much for her, a friend offered her a job working at an antique shop. Seeing my mama among all of that "old stuff" was amusing. She never liked oldtiques or antiques.

"I grew up with all that old stuff," she would laugh and say. "I'd rather have something new and shiny."

That too was amusing because my mother never bought anything new and shiny. If she had money to spend, she would rather spend it on her little ol' children or grandchildren.

The last car she bought was used and I tried my best to get her to buy a new car.

"You've got some money, mama, buy you a nice car."

No, she was going to hold on to that little bit of money.

"I'd don't know what I might need down the road," she said.

"What you need is a new car," I told her, but she got the used one and it immediately became her "little ol' car."

Three times a week she would get in her car and drive down the street to her little ol' job at the antique shop. She'd come home excited about her day and the people she had met. She'd tell what all had been said and what she sold. And, if she didn't sell anything, she would be upset because she didn't' think she had done her job.

"Mama," I would say. "People go the grocery store to buy something. They go to antique stores to look around."

That didn't matter to her, she didn't want to let anybody down and, if she didn't make sale, she felt like she had taken something without giving in return.

We spent many happy hours together at Green's Antiques. I would take dinner and we'd eat together.

One day, I gathered up some old plates, glasses and knives and forks, washed them sufficiently and set an old kitchen table and we sat down and ate just like we were at home.

"What will folks think if they come in?" she asked.

"They'll think we're eating dinner," I said, laughing. "After that, we ate dinner at that old kitchen table and I treasure those days and those times.

We ate early so mama could watch her "story" at noon. She watched "As the World Turns" religiously and I often watched it right with her. We watched mama's story on a Friday and she died the next morning. I've never watched it again.

A few days before, I'd cooked some cornbread, thinking that and buttermilk might taste good to her.

When I took it to her, I said apologetically,

"Mama, I just can't cook cornbread like you."

"You'll learn if you try long enough," she said, with a smile.

Mama was wrong. I've tried and I'll never be able to cook cornbread like my mama.

Nobody in all the world can fry cornbread like my mama.

The other day my son snitched a piece of cornbread off the platter before dinner. "Why can't you cook cornbread like Granny?" he asked.

"I don't know," I said, laughing. But I do know.

My cornbread doesn't have the touch of my little ol' mama.

Today's Mother's Day and, to quote the late Lewis Grizzard, "Hug you're mama. I sure wish I could hug mine."