This is the second installment of a series of posts about my mother. The previous post is here.
If there is a God, whence proceed so many evils? If there is no God, whence cometh any good?
Losing a parent changes you. My mom’s first task after the death of her mother in 1959 was to divorce a man she had married after college. She absolutely hated him, but she had married him because she thought she should. I won’t even scan a photo of him. She probably kept the pictures so she could show us later who to avoid.
Apparently, she didn’t have a teaching job that year, because she started working in a local truck stop in early fall 1959. She also started smoking, and probably drinking coffee. I would imagine she may have stopped going to church, but we didn’t really talk about that.
She cut her hair, plucked her eyebrows, and probably tried to avoid the feelings of shock and surreality after her mother’s death.
On January 19, 1960, during a snow storm, she met this charismatic truck driver who told her he loved her right then and there. “He had a goatee, a handlebar mustache and was wearing tight Levis and cowboy boots,” she told me one time. She drove him to a store to “get a bottle of booze.” She didn’t “take him seriously,” or so she said. But she must have taken him seriously enough, because that was my dad, and that day started their seven and a half year relationship.
I imagine he swept her off her feet. She always appeared to keep a cool head, but on the inside, the rumble and tumble of emotions were probably overwhelming. I imagine in some way she needed this – to have the pendulum swing away from her past for a little while. And so she did the exact opposite of what she would have done several months before.
My daddy was already married. He did not go back to the east coast to his family of a wife, two boys, and three girls. He may have fallen for my mom in his own way. She was a very special person, and I know I remember him telling me that, although I am not sure when it could have been, as the number of times I remember seeing him is seven.
I chuckle, because he wanted her to marry him, but she would not do it because he was already married. He wouldn’t get divorced because his religion wouldn’t let him. My dad had his own morals, and as messed up as they may have been, he stuck with them.
She wouldn’t marry him because he was already married, but it was important to her that it appeared they were married. So he fraudulently changed his last name to hers and got a second Social Security Number in about 1961.
They stayed together and lived within the span of three states wherever my mom got a teaching job. Since my dad was a truck driver, he could live (or not live) just about anywhere.
She was ecstatic when she found out she was pregnant, because all she had ever wanted was a baby. She had loved her baby dolls, her doll houses, her little baby cousin, and now she was going to have a baby of her very own, and by the man she truly loved. How she wished her mother could have been there to share in the joy with her!
Congratulation cards, presents, a baby shower, excitement, hugs, lots of smiles all leading up to the day her baby would be born. It seemed like forever!
By March 31, 1962, it had been forever. She had been in labor for over a month. A Caesarean section probably could have prevented what was about to happen, but those were frowned upon. Back then, mothers were even discouraged from being awake during the birthing process. So that day, out came a beautiful little girl with brown eyes and head of dark brown hair.
But this was not as it was supposed to be. It was not as she had hoped or planned. As if my mother had not already suffered enough heartache, the worst yet was about to come.
After she was back in her room and awake, she asked for her baby. Stillborn, she was told. My mother’s baby was stillborn. Mothers were not to hold dead babies. She cried and yelled and screamed, “Bring me my baby!” until the nurses had no choice but to bring her little girl to her.
She named her Ellen Sue. Ellen Sue. Beautiful little Ellen Sue.
And my mother held Ellen Sue. And my mother rocked Ellen Sue. And my mother cried. Oh, how she cried. And she was so alone.
Over thirty years later, Mom and I went to that hospital and got a copy of the records of Ellen Sue’s death. That little baby died of heart failure. Her little heart was broken, too. She wanted her mommy so much, at least as much as her mommy wanted her. What could possibly be the reason for such loss and pain?
It was two years later to the day, on March 31, 1964. Same town. My daddy was driving, and my mom was in the passenger seat. They were hit, hard and fast. My mom was hit the hardest. She went through the windshield three times, lost all but a few of her teeth, had glass embedded in her face for over a decade. She was cursed with a broken hip, a broken pelvis, and ten broken toes. She always said that she died twice on the operating table.
If Ellen Sue had lived, she would have died in that car crash; that, my mother knew, and she said that to me more than once. Ellen Sue would have died on her second birthday in a tragic automobile accident. That little innocent heart was spared the physical pain. As hard as it was to take, my mother found a reason for her baby’s death. Ellen Sue was at peace.
We were never to travel or do anything that could be dangerous or result in something bad on March 31st. I used to make light of it, but as I got older and perhaps a little wiser, I understood how painful it was to her. I also learned how deeply my mother held loss in her heart. So I hold March 31st safely to this day.
She had no choice after “that wreck,” as she would call it. In 1964, she had to start over again.