In typing up some of my writings I am noticing things that maybe I have perceived wrong for a long time. In “How It All Began” my mama mentioned that she always looked up to my granny for being so strong. She said that granny had stayed in an abusive relationship with papa and that papa sold moonshine and cheated many times. He was physically and emotionally abusive, not only to my granny but to their children. I have reason to believe that there may have possibly even been some sexual abuse, though she’s never said that. Yet granny stayed. She waited on her husband hand and foot, worked in the field, wasn’t taken to the doctor when she needed it, was yelled at and hit, belittled and betrayed, yet she stayed. And it was for this strength, my mama admired her and looked up to her, in her own words.
That’s funny because it was for similar things I donned my own mama weak and vowed to never be like her in those ways. My daddy, though he has a very good side, has got a very mean side as well. Maybe because he was never shown much affection as a child. My parents have a very strict old school mentality when it comes to marriage. I have watched my mama wait on daddy hand and foot all her life, even when she had to hobble to do so. Because that was her duty, she was taught. The husband worked a job making the money and the wife did everything else. I know there was some physical and emotional abuse as well. I don’t think to the extent of what she saw with my grandparents, so maybe in her eyes it wasn’t as bad. No matter what he said or did she would never stand up for herself. In my head I always cheered her on when he was criticizing and belittling her. “Why don’t you say something!!!”. I even remember sitting with her in the dark outside one night when I was young, while she cried and ask her why she didn’t leave. Her answer was because she didn’t have anywhere to go and that her daddy was mean and she wouldn’t go back there. So she stayed. Mama has an innocent naiveté about her and isn’t well versed, but my goodness, she wasn’t even allowed to finish 9th grade. She didn’t deserve to be put down. But I saw her as weak, because she kept allowing it to happen. She saw herself as strong because she stayed. Maybe she is, strong that is. She made it through life married to her first love. She didn’t separate her family. She endured.
I look at myself. Two husbands and two divorces later. Children that had to go through separation and visitation. I saw myself as strong because I wouldn’t stay. I didn’t put up with being mistreated or betrayed. I vowed not to be like mama but, is what I am, better? There are no better women in all the world than my Granny Jackson or my Mama. I was always taught that the Bible says it’s wrong to divorce. That the one out, was adultery. I stayed longer than I thought I should in both marriages, just because of the stigma that divorce has on Christians. I had that “out” in both divorces, but still theirs stigma. Jokes about too many divorces, taunts from people who don’t know how many times I’ve been married and divorced, just running their mouth. I call myself strong because I have endured the stigma, I have provided love to my children, though it may have been in separate homes. I thought I was strong because I scraped the pennies to provide for myself and my kids without a man, strong for maintaining all the work of a home while working full time and at times taking classes to get a better job. I wanted my children to know that they should not except mistreatment, that they could take care of themselves. Was I teaching them to be strong or to run away and not endure, to be weak.
Life is hard, at it’s best. Whether you go or you stay. I guess it all depends on whose eyes you are looking through. I will never marry again without testing the waters by first living with someone. Again the Bible says that’s wrong and Christians will judge as will my mama. But somehow, I know that God knows what I’ve been through, he knows my mind, and he knows my heart and he knows the why. It’s not up to us to judge anyone’s’ strength or weakness, but to love and support what they choose to be right for themselves. Only God knows the why…
Fortunately my daddy has mellowed as he aged, that and I’m there to referee. Don’t get me wrong. We had lots of love and laughter in our home. But there were tough times, really tough times. My mama seems tired and unhappy and at eighty, has recently told me that she wishes she’d never got married. Something to think about.