Thursday, September 20, 2012

My Mother's True Love

Nature is known for animals who mate for life. Several come to mind - Wolves, Prairie Voles, Bald Eagles, Turtle Doves, Mansoni parasitic Worms, French Angelfish, Black Vultures, Swans, and Gibbons. And, as an incurable romantic, I can relate - most of the time. I signed up for better or worse and I can honestly say, that at least 27 of the 30 years I have been wed to my true love have been blissful. And, no there was not a three year period of misery, just a total of a 900 or so days, I could have done without, but out of 10,986 - I'm not complaining. But, I digress.

My Mama, God rest her soul, is a whole 'nuther can of worms. She was dearly in love with my father. However, their 32 year marriage ended in divorce (what we referred to in the family as "the recent unpleasantness") due to her proclivity with the bottle. He just could not compete. And, she loved him to the day she died.

He died in 2000, 13 years after their divorce and 11 years into his second marriage. I never realized how much denial my mother was in about her divorce until my father died. At the time of his death, Mama had suffered a horrible fall and broken most of the bones on the right side of her body. She was in a rehab facility recovering. I would have never wished that hardship on her, but God was looking down on me and my brother. 

We had often worried in angst of handling the two grieving wives (the former and the current) at my father's funeral. As much of a lady as my mother was, the jury was out as to how she would handle playing second fiddle at the funeral. But, the old man up stairs gave us a pass on that one.

A week or two after the funeral, I was at my Garden Club (my mother was also a member, but  was unable to attend the meeting since she was still in rehab) and a dear family friend stopped me. "I was so sorry to hear of your father's death. I know your mother has to be taking this hard. They must have been married what, 40 something years?" I just thanked her and politely moved on. Another friend of the family came up. "Oh, you poor dear. And, your mother, I just cannot imagine what she is going through. But she has y'all."

It was at that time, that it dawned on me. My mother had just never bothered to let anyone know that she and my father were divorced. Daddy had been ill for several years and had been out of the social scene due to his health and Mama had just carried on. I guess if anyone asked, she just explained that they liked sleeping in separate houses - on separate sides of town. Surely, someone was surprised to see another lady seated as the grieving widow at the funeral? Only my mother could pull that one off with such aplomb.

I can see her justification now. "Well, it is just not something you talk about in polite company. Besides, no one asked me." Perhaps in her drunken stupor she failed to remember the details of the events. She may not, but the rest of us do, and it wasn't pretty.

When I was telling my brother this story after Mama's funeral. He just laughed. "I can top that one. At her funeral, one of her friends commented about her being a widow for 12 years. I just let it go." "I think one has to be married to the deceased at the time of his death to meet that requirement." "You know Mama, she wasn't into the technicalities if they got in her way.

When we were getting her retirement settled, we learned she had an annuity that was still listed with Daddy as the beneficiary. My brother called to get the details. He hung up the phone and just shook his head. "Oh, she would have changed the beneficiary, except that would have required her signing a form saying that he was no longer her husband." "And, she wouldn't do it?" "Nope. The benefits coordinator said her file shows that she updated it just a year or two ago and said there were no changes, including her marital status and beneficiary."

Southern women - there is their life and then there is reality. Only in the south, do woman get to chose and get away with it. Although some might think my Mama's story would be fitting for some Faulkner novel.  It made my life fall somewhere between ""Sweet Home Alabama" and "Rumor Has It . . ."

3 comments:

Linda Medrano said...

What a piece of work your Mama was.  This story was sad and very funny at the same time, Ann.  I can only tell you my Southern Mama used to gather up her 3 daughters and march out of the house leaving my no-good dad "forever".  In front of a bar a few blocks away, Mom would instruct me quietly to "faint".  I did so with some aplomb after a little practice.  Mom would race in the bar, ask the owner to call my dad and tell him that his eldest daughter had "fainted dead away" on the sidewalk outside.  I was eleven.  I got to be so good at fainting dead away that when my first husband walked into a bedroom at a party and found me in a passionate embrace with a football player, I did the only sensible thing, "I fainted dead away".

Ann Currie said...

Now that is a southern woman if there ever was one. One never exits quietly! Both her presence and her absence must be known. I love it when folks refer to southern women as demur. The only "demur" southern woman I knew were worthless. The only question I have is, were smelling salts involved?

Linda Medrano said...

Of course there were smelling salts!  The only way to bring a girl with the vapors around!