MY ROGUE’S GALLERY OF MOMS
I’ve met them all, you know. Through the years. “Moms”. Moms aren’t always “Sugar and Spice and everything nice.
From Poverty to Power: A woman’s choice to succeed against all odds.
Frugal to a fault, but “right on” to the end as I look back in hindsight at my mother, Marguerite. By 1943, at the age of 23, she had lost her first two babies within hours of their birth, and then had two girls: Trula Ann (future decorated, pioneer police woman) and Joyce Marie (future author). She lived her life for family and died far beyond the years predicted; outliving some presumptuous specialists who gave her only weeks to live, and she took years. A devout Christian who actually practiced her faith, she was not one who said, “do as I say, not as I do.” She often told new chiropractors coming into clinic practice with my stepdad, “Dr. Smith cleans toilets and bathrooms and takes out the trash. If you can’t live with that job description, leave now.” A survivor of heart damage from childhood Scarlet Fever, and an insulin dependent diabetic, she set the standard for having “a will to live.”
Pioneer Police Woman, Survivor, and Poet: A proud Harley lover, Okie, and Cubs Fan to the end.
There are other moms in my Rogue’s Gallery: my sister Trula for one. With her childhood usurped by chronic illness and living in a broken home where her beloved biological dad was not, she emotionally railed against the status quo. Gifted as an artist at an early age, blessed with an alto voice that belonged in heavenly choirs, she never-the-less “settled” for the “expected” in the ‘50’s. Marriage. Hell bent to make it work, it seemed that life was set on testing her strength. After the birth of her fifth child, she was raped in her home. The subsequent challenges of recovery led her to desperate efforts to cope. Her one choice to “fight back” by becoming a “Pioneer Police Woman” would benefit victims for years to come. As a sex crime expert she would influence the passage of Iowa’s Statute of Limitations Law for rape victims, and helped see it changed to allow rape victims’ more time to get justice against their perpetrator which was something she did not have. A sex crime expert, and advocate/ counselor for domestic violence and rape/sexual assault victims, she worked tirelessly until breast cancer claimed her after 28 years on the Davenport, Iowa Police force.
Prostitute, Shunned, and Devoted Mother.
She lived in the inner-city and until the birth of her son, she made her living hooking on the streets. Shunned by most and tolerated by others, I was humbled when she showed up with her little boy in my office one Christmas to give me a generic kind of Christmas card that she had no doubt gotten at the Salvation Army. She wanted to thank me for providing a housing opportunity for her and her son in my housing project (Project F.I.N.I.S.H.). It was my first year after founding the housing project, and she was the only one who came to thank me, and the only card I got that year. I would learn that at the age of 7 her mother would put her on a street corner, then stood on the corner diagonally from her, and would “bargain” for her “use” with men. That was the only life she knew as she did not get to go to school. When she became pregnant in her early teens, she defiantly kept the boy, quit the streets and lived a meager life shunned by the “good people”. She walked her son to and from school, provided for his every need and the two were happy: happier than most people I know. I remain humble to have been counted among her small circle of friends.
Gang-raped, Abused, Abandoned and Barren: “A Mother not of Blood, but of Heart and Spirit.”
At ten she was led by a family member to a location and gang raped by “his friends”. Left with an angry father and brother, when her mother left, she had often been made to kneel for hours on sugar or corn meal for “punishment and hit if she moved.” Abandoned by her first husband who bankrupted her, leaving her in a hospital with pneumonia then homeless, this woman, this personal “Shero” of mine, brought more joy into lives and to children than had she given them birth. So on this Mother’s Day, I posthumously salute my dear and loving friend, Carol Lynn Bennett. “A Mother not by blood, but of heart and spirit.” She would become my inspiration for “Momma Bets” in my novel, “The Monday Night Flight Club” and be noted as the most beloved character in the Greyhound Lady Walking series. We would spend her last week together in her hospice suite, and then Carol would leave me too soon in August 2011. “Pound for Pound, nobody ever had a better mom than Momma Bets.” *Chase Daniel Grant from the novel Monday Night Flight Club.
Why did I choose these moms, and these stories on such a happy holiday to honor mothers? It is because real mothers were not dressed like “June Cleaver”, nor did they all live where “Father Knows Best.” I am grateful for mothers that fill that role each and every day selflessly and without expectation of a “perfect life”. I am thankful for real mothers.
IN THIS 2013 ROGUE’S GALLERY CONTEST, WE WILL ADD TWO WINNING ENTRIES TO BE PUBLISHED ON MOTHER’S DAY. Be sure to leave an email, phone or way to contact you should you be the winner.