Born and raised in Amarillo, October 15, 1935. Youngest of six kids. Father a mechanic, mother a seamstress. Enjoyed music—violin and choir in high school; later played organ and piano for church; also sang soprano in the church choir, often solos. Not intellectual; though, for some reason, enjoyed Russian novelists—Dostoyevsky, Pasternak, Tolstoy.
She was a faithful Christian. Daddy once stated, scornfully, that she was at the church every time the doors opened. He, himself, only attended every once in a while, hoping to obtain salvation through association.
Momma married at nineteen, to a German immigrant many years her senior. Daddy wanted a good life for us all, but he had his demons. His confusion about raising girls in a society that was unfamiliar to him, his unrealistic expectations of us all, his disappointment that he was living a life far short of his intended destiny, his fear of responsibility—all converged to form a controlling and bewildered man. And my mother, anxious to please, submitted to his erratic reign until she could do so no longer.
As a child, I viewed her life, and was exhausted. She worked forty hours a week as a bookkeeper. At home, she cooked the meals, did the laundry, cleaned the house, and was in charge of paying the bills—and she was expected to sit down with my father every Saturday morning and give a full accounting of the weekly expenses, down to the number of pieces of boloney consumed. She attended every softball game, concert, play, and awards ceremony. She made our clothes (taught me to sew, in fact, so that even today it is one of my joys). She believed in supplemental learning, and drove us to piano, tennis, flute, clarinet, dance, gymnastics, and swimming lessons. She taught piano lessons, and was a Sunday school teacher, a Brownie leader, and a room mother.
She was careful about how she conducted herself before her daughters. I never heard her tell a lie. Nor did she curse or gossip. She never let anyone down when they needed a favor. She was dependable, generous, unassuming, cooperative, and optimistic.
And always, there was my father, looming in the background, criticizing and blaming her for every little thing that wasn’t perfect. Sometimes, consumed by his misery, he would go weeks without talking to her.
There came a time when she admitted to herself that she wasn’t happy. When Resi and I were grown, she and Daddy got divorced. After this, during my few years between college and marriage, Momma became my best friend. We formed a tight knot of females—Momma, my younger sister, Trina, and I. The girl cousins were around sometimes. And I usually brought along a couple of friends who are still dear to me. All these happy women, around my mom’s kitchen table. Even our dogs were female.
We had fun every day. Momma dropped her tension. Though she didn’t make a lot of money, she enjoyed deciding what to do with the small amount she had. It was a freedom she’d never known; and she liked making decisions about the little things—what flowers to plant out front, what TV shows to watch, what route to take. And, what I enjoyed most was that she laughed at all my jokes—and who doesn’t like that?
She supported me when, after only two dates, I decided to move to Cairo and live with David. She stood by Resi through three marriages, two of them brutal, and one of them glorious. She loved Trina the most—the youngest daughter, the one who rebelled, the saint who took care of her and held her hand in death.
When Momma was in her early fifties the company she was with transferred her from Amarillo to Houston. David and I thought this was great. Though we were living in England, Houston was where we always came back to; so we’d get to see her more often. She’d get to know the kids and they’d get to know her. And when Trina decided to join Momma in Houston, we were thrilled.
When, in her early sixties, Momma decided to marry Frank Peery and move to Adrian, David, Trina, and I were horrified. Frank was in his late seventies, and he clearly came from a stratum of society where women had always seen to his needs immediately, silently, and humbly. He was ill mannered and he grunted childishly when the conversation strayed from him. He might have been a Methodist minister, but he was not nice. But it was her life, her adventure. Other than tactfully voicing our concerns, we simply had no say.
Adrian is an hour west of Amarillo, and even further away from anywhere else. She was isolated. And Frank wasn’t a talker. When, after a few years, he had a stroke, Momma became his nurse and slave, which is what the scheming old buzzard had in mind all along.
She was distraught when she found out he’d run up debts in her name. She’d gone into the marriage with a comfortable amount of savings, but he left her broke. She sold the rotting old house he’d taken her to, put him in a nursing home in Houston, then moved back in with Trina, into the house she still owned in the Memorial District.
She was in her late sixties by this time, and the damage done by years in a solitary situation, combined with being bankrupted by a man she trusted, had damaged her mental faculties. She repeated herself, forgot things, got lost while driving, couldn’t follow conversations, wasn’t able to make simple decisions, became obsessed with things that happened long ago or never happened at all.
Alzheimer’s. Our mother was lost.
Her heart stopped beating on July 25, 2016.
You were loved, Bea. Rest in Peace.