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Rich: Turning into Mama isn’t such a bad deal

POSTED: October 28, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Now that Mama's gone, it seems pertinent that someone step up and take her place. Or try to, anyway. Regarding the kind of life that Mama had, I think I'd like to step up and volunteer to turn into Mama.

Now, that woman had it made.

I think back to one afternoon when I popped in to see her. I plopped down in the rocker and wearily rubbed my brow.

"Whatta you been doin' today?" She was ready to have a good, long conversation.

"Don't ask," I replied. But because I'm a glutton for punishment, I poured out my story. I began with the financial institution that had made a serious mix-up, which resulted in endless calls between them and my accountant's office and segued into the clause in a publishing contract that was not clear and all the havoc that had wrought. Those were the high points. There had been other problems, but they paled in the aggravation to what those first two had caused. I was completely stressed out.

Mama listened and rather than offer a consoling word or a shoulder, she began her lecture.

"This too will pass. You can't let these things get to you. You have to control your stress and resist pressures."

My eyes narrowed. "Coming from someone who rarely has any pressure in her life, your words are of little consolation. You have never had to deal with stresses like this so I'll pass on that advice."

Mama laughed and shrugged.

This is true. First, Daddy took care of Mama. When he died, Louise and I inherited her so her pressures became ours. From grass cutting to pharmacy errands to bank deposits to tax issues to doctor visits, we took care of it for her. My sister even visited weekly to do Mama's hair for her.

One Saturday, I happened in on them in the bedroom. Mama was situated there in front of the huge mirrored vanity while Louise curled, teased and sprayed. I leaned against the door frame and observed for a moment. I was curious.

"How did you ever get to be a grown woman without learning how to do your own hair?"

The queen smiled grandly and shrugged. "I just never learned."

Well, see, there's the answer. If you don't learn how to do something, you don't ever have to do it for yourself.

My friend Pat in Memphis, Tenn., claims she never learned to pump gas so every time she needs it, her husband takes her car for a fill-up. Stupidly, I've learned how to do too much.

But not Mama. Whatever she needed, someone did for her. It was a wonderful life. She had the right idea, though. You can't blame the woman for that.

I can't fault a woman who is smart enough to find others to do her bidding even if one of those doing the bidding is me.

"I don't want this call waiting on my phone," Mama said one afternoon when I was at her house. "You call and have it taken off for me."

One day, I took her for a checkup with her doctor and dropped her off at the door. When I came into the waiting room, I walked over to sign her in.

"I've already signed in," she grandly informed me. I stopped. I did a double take. Mama had never signed in for herself before.

"You signed in all by yourself?" I asked incredulously. She smiled proudly and nodded. Then I clapped my hands excitedly and cheered.

"Yay!!! You're getting to be a big girl!" Mama threw back her head and laughed while everyone else eyed us strangely.

They say that daughters eventually become their mothers. I hope so. Mama's life was much easier than mine. I want to turn into Mama.

Now, if I can just get my sister to do my hair every Saturday.

Ronda Rich is the Gainesville-based author of "What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should)." Sign up for her newsletter



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