Two years old and my mother is diagnosed with glomerulonephritis. Degeneration of the kidneys. At two years of age that means nothing. In the 1950s it was a death sentence. I had a new brother that screamed night and day and a sick mother. That I can remember. At an early age I learned to worry.
I do not remember childhood being traumatic or trying. Yes, I remember being sent to live with my grandmother (mammy) and granddaddy far away from my home. I remember the outdoor toilet and the water-bucket on the back porch. I can feel the sun and smell mammy cooking. She cooked three square meals a day. Rain or shine. I don’t remember her ever looking on me as a burden.
I was allowed to go to the hen house with her. I followed her to milk cows. When I whined I was given a small container and allowed to pick cotton from the field beside her house. I watched her quilt and work. She had all sons and I was a welcome change I guess. I hope.
My brother was sent to live with our other grandparents. I missed him. Our grandparents lived out in the sticks of Louisiana. Back in those days travel was something that required a non-work day. Phones were on a party-line and it was difficult to arrange things even though we were close in proximity.
My mother would, when told by the doctors at Ochsner’s that death was imminent, rise up and get better briefly. My dad would gather us up and we would go home. I still don’t know how my parents managed to hold together. Most men would leave. My dad and mom never gave up.
What is it like to have the opportunity to observe people that do not give up or give in to overwhelming odds? It means you learn resilience. It means you learn you learn to not whine and not give up.