Mother: Tough Love from a Lady

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Three Generations

By Joyce Godwin Grubbs

Tough Love from a Lady
Sisters Trula (left) and Joyce (right) with mother Marguerite (center)

Many things in my mother's childhood were contradictory. You would think being poor in the 1920's; the daughter of sharecroppers, an ultra strict father, two 'ornery brothers, she would have been a tomboy; but she was a lady. Picking cotton in the boiling Oklahoma sun and struggling through the dust bowl and depression didn't offer her much in the amenities of life.

Her mother’s mantra was ‘speak like a lady, walk like a lady and look like a lady at all times’.  Grandma made her own cosmetics during the depression, and was never seen without make up, perfect hair, and dresses starched and ironed: though she was a homemaker, sharecropper laborer with grandpa, and mother of three during my mother’s childhood. My mother emulated her role model.

My husband and I taught our children that ‘education’ was the answer to moving your generation into a higher level of achievement. In my grandmother's world, being perceived as a lady gave you the same opportunity to move up in the world. To this end, she worked successfully to motivate my mother, and eventually her “late in life surprise daughter”.

Picking cotton with strept-throat and 102-degree temperature caused my mother’s heart to be affected; she suffered rheumatic fever, permanently damaging her heart. Her life’s work ethic never reflected it; but her education was cut short after eighth-grade leaving her to self educate herself in her beloved mathematics and reading. Married at 16, she lost her first two babies and almost her third child from a freak accident. Following my birth, she reeled from her violent, domestic abuse marriage. In the 1940’s that meant, “You made your bed, now lie in it”. And she did, until 1956.

It wasn’t acceptable to go to church and get a divorce, but my mother did it: becoming a single mom with two adolescent daughters to raise. She broke the mold and the silence about domestic abuse: about hiding in the grass in the night, trying to run away, only to be dragged back. She got a job by lying: telling the prospective employer she knew how to run his office equipment, then seeing it demonstrated once, she taught herself how to use it.

When my mother died, she had worked as an executive secretary, then was office manager for my stepfather’s clinic. The original “three dimes” were still in her first bank account, and her financial expertise made them millionaires. She taught the family females to be independent; have a strong 'worth ethic', to be ladies first, but never let anyone control them. My sister died a decorated, pioneer policewoman; a champion for victims of sex crimes, domestic violence; and a race relations advocate. I worked in nursing and as a victim advocate for domestic violence and rape/sexual assault, and specialize in putting high-risk victims underground.

My mother, my mom: ‘Not famous or noteworthy’ other than fulfilling her role against all odds. In my book, it counts for something.

Joyce Godwin Grubbs is Available on Cable Blox Blog

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