My mother and i did not always get along, but we always knew who was in charge, and up until her last day, she was in charge. Part of that was because she had the strong arm and will of Jimmy Jewell behind her, and there was no way i was going up against him about a disagreement with her.
She was in the emergency room on April 29, five years ago. Her pain, though mitigated by the magic drugs, was still great. She was tired. i suspect she was tired, not of living because she had been full of spunk that morning in Elmcroft’s beauty parlor when i dropped by on our way to Nashville, but tired of living without her husband of 75 years who had left her nine months earlier.
The specialist had pulled me aside and told me there were some serious decisions to be made. Estelle could have surgery, but the percentages of success were about 75/25 against. Even then, there was no guarantee how long she would last. Or we could give her meds and monitor her, but that would likely be the end. Even though i had talked to both of my parents about such a moment and knew well their “living wills,” i knew, as long as she was mentally capable, i would have to ask her.
i walked back into the emergency room, bent over the emergency room bed, and said, “Mother, you have to decide what we are going to do here.”
She said, “No. You make the decision. i don’t want to.”
i knew she had put me in charge, and i had the responsibility of her life in my hands.
i told the specialist, “She doesn’t want surgery.”
After her grandson, Tommy Duff and i had split spending the night with her, she passed away while sleeping a little earlier than expected. Tommy; his mother and her daughter Martha; Maureen, whom she loved unconditionally as a daughter-in-law; and i were in the room with her.
i have thought about that in-charge thing a lot in the past five years. My mother ruled our house with an iron hand. The rubber ball and rubber band had been removed from its paddle. That paddle sat atop the refrigerator, and when Estelle Jewell started reaching to the top of the refrigerator, i knew i was in trouble, big, red-rear-end trouble.
That was the way they knew how to raise their children in those days. It wasn’t wrong because they didn’t know it was wrong. It wasn’t abuse because it was done for mid-course correction of a child. We were to be seen and not heard. We were to say “please” and “yes, ma’am” or “yes, sir.”
We have since learned a lot about parenting. Her rules no longer apply. But her (and my father’s) rules worked because there was never a doubt in my mind they applied those rules and the consequences of disobeying them because they loved me and wanted me to learn to do the right thing.
i suspect nearly everyone out there has had contentious moments with their mothers. Those are forgotten today because we have a national day declared for honoring them. And we remember how they loved us.
So happy and well-deserved Mother’s Day to all of you mothers who have shown your love without limit.
And a special wonderful day wish for Kathie Jewell, who has been the best mother for Blythe and grandmother for Sam because of her unconditional love of them, and for Blythe who has been as good a mother as one could get for my grandson Sam, and Maureen who has been the same for Sarah.
P.S. i’m glad Estelle Jewell was in charge for so long.