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Column: What I’d give to be able to call my mama
Harris Blackwood
Harris Blackwood

When I was 3, I had my tonsils removed. Apparently, they didn’t give me enough anesthesia and I flinched. There was damage to my palate. The doctor told my mama that I would never speak normally.

Mama wasn’t buying that.

She took me to all sorts of specialists, including a speech clinic funded by the Junior League of Atlanta. I have made a living most of my life by speaking. I worked in radio and television and have made public speeches to groups ranging from 10 to 1,000. I recently taught a class at Brenau University and one of my students told me how much she just enjoyed listening to me.

Not bad for a kid with a speech impediment.

During a time when my dad was unable to work because of his war injuries, Mama sold World Book Encyclopedias. I believe Mama could sell ice to an Eskimo. She had a tactful way of telling her customers that their child would surely fail if they didn’t have the books.

When my dad was sick, she would try anything and everything to make him better. I think the only time she ever struck me was when my dad was dying with cancer. He was gaunt and pitifully thin as the cancer was brutalizing his body.

“I think he looks better today, don’t you?” she asked me. “No ma’am, he is dying,” I replied. She bopped me with her pocketbook.

I miss her like crazy, especially on Mother’s Day.

Yes, she could be a bit annoying and could worry you. But what I’d give for a day of that.

Mama would be 96 years old this year. I realize that most people don’t live to that age, but she was just 70 when she died. It’s hard for me to believe that she has been gone for a quarter of a century.

She was a confidante, nursemaid, friend and parent. I have some friends who lost the last of their parents in the past couple of years. It's sort of like you were tethering on a rope and somebody cut it loose. You don’t have that connection anymore.

I have other friends who still are blessed to have both parents. Some of them grouse about having to go and see one or both of their parents. If you have that attitude, then shame on you. Especially if you have a parent who sacrificed to get you through college or to buy a car or throw a wedding.

I know firsthand that diseases like cancer can kill you. But I also believe there are a lot of people who die of loneliness.

Your mama doesn’t necessarily want a present, she wants your presence. Hold her hand, kiss her on the forehead and tell her how much she means to you. How hard is that?

If you have an estranged relationship with your mama, maybe this is the year you take a step in the direction of patching things up. Somebody has to take a step in the right direction; it might as well be you.

The late coach Paul “Bear” Bryant recorded a commercial for what was then South Central Bell telephone company. He talked about how he made his players write their mama. He then talked about calling home on Mother’s Day.

“Have you called your mama today?” said Bryant. “I sure wish I could call mine.”


Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns publish weekly.