I cannot think of my good Mama withhout considering all that she has endured and accomplished. Born into a family that had a bit of money, thanks to her father’s prosperous newspaper business in Crittenden County, Kentucky. – good, proper and respectful folk, mind you – their fortunes drastically changed when the Great Depression hit. The world suddenly had plunged into a chaotic abyss at the time of her birth.
Barefoot much of the time during those long bluegrass springs and summers, she and her older brother Pat, explored and endured the hardships of those dark times in Marion. Her parents scrambled to find whatever ways they could to survive, with their younger sibs soon joining the family circle: Caroline, Walter, Jimmy and Martha. And two step sibs, Buddy and Elaine, who, although older, exacted a positive influence on so many lives.
Over early morning coffee sometimes when I visit, she recalls the good, bad and ugly of her childhood. Usually the anecdotes are punched with laughter: An African-American woman, the granddaughter of slaves, and her husband George who looked out after my Mom and her sibs when their parents had to work days on end out of town. These surrogate parents taught her, perhaps, tolerance in an age when some were cruelly labeled as “Uncle Toms and Mammies." And worse.
Dummies and bigots see the world and its issues purely as black and white. My Mom sees them as Technicolor 3-D realities.
She matured, this barefooted gal from Kentucky, and eventually moved to Evansville, Indiana. At Central High School she excelled during WW2, developed many educational and artistic talents. But as fate would have it, a grinning, gold-toothed sailor would change whatever dreams she had on an early December day in 1949.
And in the best ways, they meshed, these two unlikely souls, and made a life. For good and ill. Till death did them part.
A life that spawned three children and several grandchildren and grands. Though her husband has been gone nearly nearly 22 years, this woman is the cement, the foundation on which many lives have been built.
For you see, Norma Patricia Henry Stuteville (a.k.a. Pat, Trish, Aunt Trisha, Gramma Pat, etc) has lived a meaningful life at an altitude far beyond the summit of Mount Everest. And I am blessed to have her as a mother.
On this 12th day October in the 2012th year of our Lord, may my Mom always know that she has been, and continues to be, much loved. What you have given is returned in great measure.