Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

May 8, 2016


Remembering the influence of my mothers


Each year Mother’s Day reminds me to give thanks for the three women who have so greatly influenced my life. The first is my mother, Caroline Johnson Albritton. The second is Sarah Danford Brown, my wife’s mother. The third is my wife, Dean, the mother of our five sons.  

Last week my son Steve brought me a book he found in the attic of the home in which I grew up. The moth-eaten book is titled Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. Inside the front cover is my name, obviously printed by my mother, with the date “1939.” Assuming the book was a birthday gift, I was seven years old and soon to finish the first grade.

The book reminds me how my mother encouraged me to read. Using McGuffey Readers and a Bible full of pictures, my mother instilled in me a love of reading. Since this was before the arrival of television, books were my great source of adventure. I read voraciously the Rover Boys series and loved the book about Tarzan. He was one of my earliest heroes.

 Mama pushed me to do well in school. I can remember reading by the light of a kerosene lamp, knowing that I had to finish my homework right after supper on school nights. Sometimes Mama would use an alarm clock to make sure I spent what she considered enough time studying. She was in control.

Though I got tired of being told what to do, I realized years later that her discipline helped me become a better person. I suppose most children get tired of being told what to do, when to be home, and to clean up our room one more time. We long to be sixteen and get a driver’s license. We want to escape parental control, become adults, get married and do what we please.

         When we are young we don’t think much about dying and going to heaven. Heaven will be having our own home with no fastidious parents to boss us around. We long to be free of having someone saying, “Make up your bed, pick up your clothes, and take the garbage out!"

         So at age twenty I persuaded my childhood sweetheart to get married. How foolish we were. We had hardly two hundred dollars between us. But Dean and I found an apartment for fifty dollars a month in Auburn, and set up housekeeping. We had very little but we had each other and I was free at last of my mother’s domination. 
         Then I began to discover what marriage is all about. 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 home. There was still a woman with me who wanted me to dress neatly, behave myself and do my best.

         Slowly it dawned on me 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 took over where my mother left off. My job was to figure out how to be her helper too, without sounding like her mother. Like me she needed someone to take the place of her mother in her life.

         Tension took its toll during the early years of our marriage. We struggled to learn 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 the hard way how to live together.  
         Adjustments are seldom easy. I never dreamed that within a few years I would be living with two women. Dean’s mother came to live with us and except for the time she stayed with Dean’s sister Dot, she was with us until she passed away at age 99.         

After the passing of our mothers I realized that God had blessed me with two mothers. Sarah was a good woman who helped me more than twice as many years as my own mother. She was not a career woman, though she did work for some years as a prison matron. Her life was her children and her grandchildren. Her greatest joy was doing something to help her family. 
         Sarah hated dirt. 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 woman who earned the title I gave her – "Mrs. Clean." 
         There were many times when we did not get along well. I thought it was her fault. She was simply impossible to live with. Years later I realized that I was more difficult to live with than she was. After many wars and rumors of wars we found a way to live together. That only happened after I recognized that it was contending with me that made Sarah cantankerous at times. At long last I realized how indebted I was to her for allowing me to marry her daughter and for helping us to raise our children. 
         On this Mother’s Day I know that I am a blessed man. I had the good fortune of having two mothers to whom I am indebted beyond my capacity to repay. One helped me for 18 years to grow up and become a responsible husband and father. The other helped me for 50 years to raise a family and pursue my calling as a pastor. I shall never forget the gracious compliment Sarah paid me one Sunday after church. She said, “Walter, you were born to preach!”
         Caroline and Sarah 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. I wish I had given them the joy of hearing from my own lips how much they meant to me. They both loved me beyond my deserving. 
         Dean, of course, is the gracious lady who has meant the most to me. While we have been married for nearly 64 years, I have known her for 78 years – since we sat near each other on the front row in the first grade.

        Though words cannot adequately convey my affection for her, today I will tell her again how much I love her for her kindness, her faith, her patience, her unwavering love and her constant encouragement. Without her by my side I would have gone down the drain a long time ago. In tough times she has always been a pillar of strength. But she is tender as well as tough. I love it when she sits at her piano and plays old songs, for my ears, about “needing some kissing”!

On this Mother’s Day I give thanks for the three mothers who have made me one blessed man.  Thanks be to God for Dean, Caroline and Sarah! + + +