36: She Was There

36: She Was There

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Mom Ever!

She Was There

Happy is the son whose faith in his mother remains unchallenged.

~Louisa May Alcott

Mama had my brother when she was twenty. I came along two years later. My dad was a juvenile diabetic and lost his eyesight at the age of twenty-nine. They divorced shortly thereafter, and he moved an hour away. We saw him every other weekend and for a few weeks each summer until he died a few years later.

My mother was thirty-one, raising two headstrong boys by herself with very little money. She didn’t have time for housework and she didn’t attend PTA meetings. She wasn’t ever going to be crowned Mother of the Year, but that didn’t matter. She wasn’t a hugger, but we knew she loved us. She disciplined us when necessary and ensured we were in church every Sunday morning.

Mama worked full-time at a factory. I think her pay peaked at seven dollars an hour while my brother and I still lived under her roof. She wound up working there a total of thirty-seven years. It would’ve been longer, but the plant shut down. In the eighteen years I lived with her, I recall her missing only one day of work. She set a great example for her two boys.

It wasn’t easy for her and it wasn’t always pretty. The house was a mess, and I don’t mean just a little clutter here and there. It was filthy. The house was infested with roaches and there was no air-conditioning, so the house was always warm and muggy.

We didn’t have the best of anything, but we always had something, which is more than some can say. We had a roof over our heads, although at one point the ceiling literally fell in. There were times the utilities were disconnected. We had a couple of cars repossessed. Sometimes we had mayonnaise sandwiches for dinner, but at least we didn’t go to bed hungry. My mother did the best she could, and I’m grateful for that.

Somehow, she managed to take us on a vacation every year — to Florida, the Smoky Mountains, and Washington, D.C. Sometimes she had to borrow the money to fund these trips. Perhaps she could’ve spent that money on other things, but I’m grateful she showed us a life outside of poverty. It gave us something to strive for.

My mother wasn’t a strict disciplinarian but she could mete it out when necessary. I remember when I got caught playing hooky from second grade for a whole week. Mama only became aware of my truancy when she received a call from the school secretary. She raced home in her old car, with sparks flying up from the undercarriage when it crested the driveway. When she got through with me, I couldn’t sit down for a week. That was how things were done back then. It worked for me.

She was a devoted fan, too. My brother played football, and she was there for every practice and every game. I wasn’t much of an athlete, but she was there when I was in the fifth grade spelling bee. I came in second and she was proud.

In high school, she let me drive her to work in our one old working car, so that I could drive to school instead of taking the bus. We didn’t have much, but driving my own car to school seemed pretty special.

Shortly after high school, I moved out of the house. I just needed to spread my wings. Since the house was literally falling in, mama moved in with her longtime boyfriend, who she later married. Just a few months later, my wings were clipped, and I thought I had nowhere to go, but I did, of course. They welcomed me in, no questions asked. When I needed her, she was always there.

She was there at midnight when my car broke down on the Interstate when I was going for my Army physical. She was there when I graduated basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. She was there when I received my bachelor’s degree from Auburn University at Montgomery. She was there at Fort Benning to pin on my rank when I was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army. She was there at the armory when I returned from my third tour in Iraq. She was there the first time I worked with comedian Jeff Foxworthy. She was there when I got married, and she was there when I went through my divorce. She was always there.

As my comedy, speaking and writing career continues to grow, I find myself doing some pretty cool things. Recently, I was flown to Tampa on a private plane for an event. My sixty-six-year-old mother had never flown and had vowed to never do so. On a whim, I jokingly asked her if she wanted to go. She did. It was one of the best days we’ve ever had, and the show was one of the highlights of my career, mostly because she was there. As always.

~Jody Fuller

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