Lesson Learned From My Mother
My Mom Had A Tough Life
©LaDena Campbell aka justateacher 2012
My mother was born in 1946 to parents who thought they were done having children. They were in their upper 40's and had five children before her. A daughter had died at the age of two from a fever and a son had become mentally challenged from the same fever. There were four boys, two of whom were old enough to have children of their own. Then there was the one with mental challenges who was eighteen years older than Mom was. The youngest boy, Jerry Wayne, was four years older than Mom.
Hope To Heck There Ain't No More!
My mom was a surprise for her parents. Surprise enough that when she was born, her father said, when asked what to name her, said "Joy Hope - Joy that she was a girl and Hope to heck there ain't no more!" (Luckily, her mother, my grandmother, won the fight of the middle name, which became Alice.)
My mother and her brothers had a decent childhood to a point. They were farmers and made a farmer's living. They had enough to eat and decent clothes to wear to school. And had two parents who loved them and doted over them. Mom's oldest brothers joined the military when they were 18 and joined World War II. They were an all-American family.
Times Get Tough
Then, when Mom was six, her wonderful father passed away. He had been out in the fields doing what needed to be done and had a heart attack. He was in his mid fifties. When he died there was still a cotton crop in the fields, and it was left up to my grandmother to find a way to get it harvested. She finally hired some local men with what was left in her savings and they harvested it.
The money that she got from the crop was not enough for my grandmother to feel that she was able to care for her children. She placed the oldest one at home in a facility for the mentally ill, and sent my mother and Jerry Wayne to live with her sister and brother-in-law. My grandmother felt this was a good choice because they were quite wealthy compared to her and she thought that her precious children would be better off living with them.
From outward appearances, things were good for the two youngsters. They had new clothes, plenty of food and an aunt and uncle who loved them as if they were their own children. But appearances can be deceiving, and in this case they were.
From the time my mother moved in with them until she moved out five years later, my mother was molested by her uncle. When she tried to tell other adults about it, they accused her of lying. They assumed that she was making things up so that she would be sent back home to her mother. They did not know the very real horror that she was living through. She always said that if the same thing ever happened to her kids or grandkids... She would kill the SOB that did it... And that's putting it nicely! She also said that she would put the victim's word above anyone else's... She didn't like it that she wasn't believed and didn't want anyone else to have to live through that..
The Move to Kansas
he abuse only ended when her mother decided that it was time for them to move to Kansas. The oldest son was now living there with his family and had asked his mom to bring his youngest brother and sister to live with him. He had converted the garage out back of his home into a small apartment that was big enough for the three of them. My grandmother worked odd jobs, doing other people's laundry and babysitting, and some sewing. This brought in enough money to provide for her two children, and when times were tougher, her oldest son helped out.
They lived in that small apartment for years. Jerry Wayne turned 18 and joined the Army. He was sent to Vietnam almost immediately. He served four tours there and went through some pretty awful times. Some of the horror stories he told were just plain awful.
In between his second and third tours, Jerry Wayne came back home. He met another military man, also named Jerry Wayne. They found they had a lot in common and became fast friends. They did everything together for many months, their favorite thing was to work on their cars. During one of the times they were working on my uncle's car, my mother walked out. With her attitude and good looks, the other Jerry Wayne fell for her...hard. When my mother turned sixteen, they were married.
Mom and Dad Get Married
The Adventures Begin
My mother was kicked out of school when she got married. The principal told her that because she was married she would be a bad influence on the other girls at the school. That was okay with my mother, and she settled down to become the wife that everyone expected her to be. Or at least, that was what she tried to do.
My dad loved adventure. He never wanted to stay in one place for very long. He was always on the lookout for the next big thing. He was a mechanic, a welder, a truck driver...and more...He would work for a few months, a year...and then he would get bored and hear of another, more exciting job somewhere across the country. My mom lovingly followed him everywhere he went.
My dad also loved smoking. He had started when he was a boy and by the time he met my mother he was a two pack a day smoker. He encouraged my mom to start smoking, as well. She smoked nearly as much as my dad.
My oldest sister was born when they had been married for a little more than two years. I was born a year later and in the next seven years, four more children were born. Three of them passed away as babies due to a genetic brain disorder. We ended up being a family of five - mom, dad, and three little girls. We girls loved traveling around the country. We thought we had a great life.
In 1975 my father found out he had non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. He was 35 years old. I was eight. My mother was only 28. Too young to have three young girls and a critically ill husband.
We moved back to Kansas to be around my dad's family. My dad bought his first home. He wanted to make sure "his girls" would be okay after he passed. He also furnished the home and bought a good used car for my mom. He worked as a truck driver during this time. My mom went to work in one of the airplane plants to make extra money and to get the insurance for my dad.
We lost my dad in May of 1977. He was 37. Mom was 30.
Mom On Her Own
My mom had never been on her own. She married my dad at 16. Now she was on her own with three young girls. She didn't know how to handle it. She had just lost her one true love after taking care of him and watching him slowly die. She had to take care of us and try to keep our spirits up while we watched our father die. She lost it for awhile. We didn't see her to much that summer...she began to drink to forget. Her smoking increased from that one and a half packs per day to two or three packs a day.
After a while, she tried to do better. She thought that if we left Kansas it might be easier for her to deal with things. A friend from her childhood had moved to Florida. He told us that we could stay with him for a little while. So off to Florida we flew. I honestly don't remember much about the trip except that the band Van Halen was on the plane with us for the first leg of the trip. We got autographs and bumper stickers and even sat close to them for a little bit. Too bad that back then I didn't really know who they were and later threw away all of those autographs...
We stayed in Florida for about three or four months. I loved it there. It was beautiful. My mom was back to being herself again. She took walks with us, and sunbathed with us, and took us swimming. We went on a drive to see the ocean and I was surprised to see how huge the ships were...Things were good.
Mom worked as a waitress while we were in Florida. She wasn't making enough money so that we could live on our own. Her friend was helping us, and he didn't mind us living with him. He was a truck driver and was gone a lot, so we had it pretty good.
Until he was pulled over by the police. He had an outstanding warrant for his arrest because he failed to pay child support to his ex-wife.They had to take him back to Kansas to face the charges. We were left alone in the house and soon didn't have the money to stay. Somehow my mom got the money to get us back to Kansas. We were going back to the house my dad had bought for us.
My grandparents - my dads parents - had other ideas. While we were gone they had sold the house. My grandfather's name had somehow been attached to the house deed and they had decided that my mom didn't deserve the house. They didn't think about us girls - we were now homeless, too. They sold the house for more than three times what we had bought it for. We never did see any of the money from that sale...
That put my mom back in the same place she was in before we went to Florida. She was waitressing at a bar and went back to drinking. She got in with a rough crowd. We lived with some of her friends until we eventually got a place of our own. The first place was fairly nice. Plenty of bedrooms, big kitchen, big yard. Decent rent. Then the bank next door bought the property and we were looking for another place.
The next place wasn't so nice. It was a small trailer house...about the size of a large RV. It was one of the dirtiest places I had ever seen. Filled with mice and roaches...it was disgusting. We stayed there for a little bit, til we found a cleaner trailer in another small town. It kept going like this for a few years. Moving from one dump to the next. First, my older sister got married and moved out (she was also 16 when she got married.) Then I got married and moved out. It was just mom and my little sister for a few years. I am sad to say I wasn't around much during the next few years. I know my little sister went through a lot in those few years.
Mom and Ron
hen mom met Ron. Ron had three kids too...two boys and a girl. They met at a bar. Both drank way too much then. But when they met, they both stopped drinking...I don't think they drank anything at all after they met. The soon got married, and I inherited two brothers and a sister.
My mom and Ron had a good life together. Mom put herself through school and became a nurse. Ron had many jobs and then put himself through school and became a HVAC specialist. They bought some land from a friend my mom took care of. The put a double wide mobile home on it and took care of the original friend, plus her mother and Ron's mother. My uncle Jerry Wayne moved in to help care for everyone, but soon Mom was taking care of him, too.
For the next many years things were good. Grandbabies came for Mom and Ron. Things were just good. Of course, with my mother's luck, things didn't stay that way...
Ron found out he had cancer after they had been married many years. It was throat cancer. I was scared...we had all grown to love Ron and didn't want to lose him. But I also didn't want my mom to spiral down into the place she was before. One surgeon told Ron that they would have to cut away the tumor and also part of his neck...then sew his shoulder to his neck to grow some extra skin. Then cut things away and do plastic surgery to make things look decent again. Luckily, another surgeon told him not to do that. This doctor said to just take chemotherapy and radiation treatments and see how they went and then go from there. Ron listened to the second doctor, and it is now seven years later and things are fine. He never did have to have surgery.
Mom struggled through this, of course. She had already lost one husband to cancer and wasn't going to lose another one. I think it was her determination, along with Ron's, that helped him survive. In the middle of this, my grandmother passed away..She was old...99 years old...and was just ready to go, so she did. Like I said, Mom struggled. But she never did go to that deep dark place again.
She Never Gave Up Smoking
Mom and COPD
All of this put extra stress on Mom and it caused her smoke even more than she ever had before. She would light another cigarette as soon as the one before was put out. It was starting to put a toll on her body. Her breathing was becoming more and more labored. She developed asthma. She had chronic bronchitis...she was finally diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, COPD. She also had a pain in her lower abdomen. She went to doctor after doctor after doctor to find out what was going on. No one could tell her. Some doctors even told her it was all in her head. This drove my mom crazy and she began to lose trust in doctors. That caused her to stop going to the doctors. Which caused her health to get worse and worse.
Mom passed away July 20, 2010....It was the hardest time in my life...since I am a teacher, I had the summer off and was at her house daily taking care of her. Watching her die. Watching one day where she was laughing and telling stories of when she was growing up...playing with the kids, grandkids and great grandkids...having a "normal" day...and the next day not even able to sit up in bed...not even able to open her eyes...but still asking for a cigarette....
Smoking caused my mother's death. A few months later, it also took Jerry Wayne. Ron has COPD and is getting worse by the day.
Smoking is an addiction that is as bad as addictions to stronger drugs...maybe even worse in some ways because it is acceptable...I wish my mom had never started smoking...I wish that she would have quit on any one of the hundreds of times she tried and didn't...
I wish she was still here....she had just retired...Ron was going to retire soon...they had some money so that they could live decently and not have to stretch the money too far...but she isn't.
I miss her...I don't smoke...I smoked one or two cigarettes as a teenager...thought it made me cool.
Smoking doesn't make you cool....it makes you dead...don't start...if you smoke - quit...think about the family you WILL leave behind...
Rest in peace, Mom....you can finally relax...
Things got worse again...in 2013 my stepfather - the man I had come to know as my father - was caught molesting my daughter and my nieces. There was a trial in 2014 and he was convicted and sentenced to three years in federal prison. This is something that no one in our family wanted to believe and even I would have had trouble believing if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes. Of course, this has torn our family apart...i don't know that we will ever be the same...I am so glad my mom was gone and did not have to live through this.....