Altar Call - Opelika-Auburn News
May 14, 2000
Walter Albritton

Thankfully I remember both of my mothers

As we grow up through the teen years many of us have a longing to get away from our motherís control. We become weary of being told what to do, when to be home, and to clean up our room one more time. We are in a hurry to become adults, get married, and do what we please.

At age twenty most of us donít think much about dying and going to heaven. Heaven will be having our own home with no fastidious parents to boss us around anymore. We think, "Man, wonít it be great not to have somebody standing over you telling you to make up your bed, pick up your clothes, and take the garbage out!" It was like that with me. So at age twenty I persuaded my childhood sweetheart to marry me. We found an apartment for fifty dollars a month in Auburn, and began to set up housekeeping. At last I was free of my motherís domination.

Then I began to discover that a manís freedom is not all it is cracked up to be. There was still a woman in the house who expected me to make up my bed, pick up my dirty clothes, and take out the garbage. There was still a woman who wanted to know where I had been, where I was going, and what time I would be back home. There was still a woman with me who wanted me to dress neatly, behave myself, and do my best. Since some things did not change, I began to figure out that a man does not do well without a woman in his life. From infancy it had been my mother who helped me. From now on the helper would be my wife. She would take over where my mother left off. My job was to figure out how to be her helper too, without sounding like her mother, for like me, she needed someone to take the place of her mother in her life. There were several years of tension as we learned our roles in this strange thing called matrimony. I had to understand what she meant when she said heatedly, "I am your wife, not your mother!" Likewise she had to learn what I meant when I told her in no uncertain terms, "I am your husband, not your father!" Gradually we learned our roles but it was not easy.

As it turned out, within a few years I had two women in my home. Since her father died when my wife was seven years old, her mother would live with us most of the time until she died not long ago at age 99. So by leaving home and getting married I wound up living with two women who were my helpers. I reckon I needed more help than some men.

Now, as I look back on my life I realize that I was blessed with two mothers. My wifeís mother was not always easy to live with, but all in all, she was a good woman who helped me more than twice as many years as my own mother. She was not a career woman; her life was her children and her grandchildren. Her greatest joy came from doing something helpful for her family.

She hated dirt more than anyone I have ever known. A thousand times I watched her go on a rampage against a dirty floor or a dirty refrigerator, and she always won. Our lives were better because of the tireless labor of the women who earned the title, "Mrs. Clean."

After many years we learned to get along better. That happened after I was able to admit that I was not easy to live with either. In fact I realized that it was having to contend with me that made her cantankerous at times. At long last it dawned on me how indebted I was to her for allowing me to marry her daughter, and for helping me to raise our children.

On this Motherís Day I realize that I am a blessed man. I had the good fortune of having two mothers to whom I am indebted far beyond my capacity to describe. One helped me for 18 years to become a decent man who could become a responsible husband and father. The other helped me for almost 50 years to raise a family and do something worthwhile with my life.

Those two women played a powerful role in my life. My greatest regret is that I did not fully express my gratitude to them while they were living. My greatest joy is knowing that they both loved me beyond my deserving.

One of the three women who have helped me the most remains by my side, my wife of 48 years. Today I will try to let her know, not with flowers or diamonds but with words, how grateful I am for all she has meant to me as my wife and the mother of our children. They are blessed, and I am blessed, beyond measure.

Walter Albritton, sjc