ROBERT ST. JOHN: Mum didn’t have it easy to raise two boys | Way of life


The more time I spend as a parent, the more I appreciate my mom and the job she did to raise my brother and me. I had it easy. His road was much more difficult. She married at 21 and widowed at 33. She was left with two boys, a house under construction and an art degree. She cut down plans for the house, went back to school, got her masters degree, gave private art lessons, and sold her art to friends, art festivals and gift shops. to keep us afloat for the first few years after my father died.

I was 6 when our father died. My brother was 10 years old. He has become the man of the house. I have become a constant challenge. Our mother played the dual role of mother and father and never remarried. There were a few boyfriends along the way, but nothing ever came to fruition as she dedicated her life to raising her two children. So that’s what she did, and she did it well.

When she was a widow and faced with the prospect of having to raise two boys, she knew she couldn’t play football and she didn’t know how to hunt, but she believed she could learn to fish. So she bought a small parcel of land up the Pascagoula River on Johns Bayou in Vancleave. There had been several generations of Hattiesburg families who had fishing camps in this area. We were the latecomers with the mobile home two blocks from the water. It was the smartest thing a widowed mother of two young boys could do. We spent our summers there and it was in these waters that my love for seafood was born. We had a blast.

The fishing camp also served as a venue which probably kept me from having even more problems sooner than I would have if I was home on the weekends. We were living on an art teacher’s salary, so my brother and I started working very early on. He had a paper road and I mowed the lawns. At the age of 15, he went to work for a demolition service and the newspaper. When I was 15, I started working as a disc jockey in a radio station. If we had to have pocket money or a vehicle to take us to work, we had to pay for it. The three of us were a happy, working family.

We were also fortunate to have loving grandparents who stepped in and often helped. My paternal grandmother and uncle helped pay for the school fees from the start, and my maternal grandmother and grandfather were there to help my mother with aspects of raising the children. My grandfather was the main male influence in my life.

I was not a cake. I was a wild teenager and created many challenges and stressful nights for my mom until I got sober and sober at 21. By then I already knew I wanted to open a restaurant but had no idea how to do it. a thing. So, like my mom did before me, I went back to school and got a degree in hotel management.

When I was 26, I opened my first restaurant. My mom begged me not to. “You’re going to ruin the last name,” she said. I told him, “I don’t think the last name was that good to begin with,” and continued. In his will, my paternal grandfather left a small piece of land in Perry County which I sold for $ 25,000. It was my interest in opening this first restaurant. Despite my mom’s hesitation at first, she became a quick fan and told me many times over the past 33 years that she was proud of me and that my dad would be proud of me too.

She taught art for 50 years and retired at 80. Fifteen years ago she came to see us and told us that she wanted to move from our childhood home to something more manageable. After 10 years there, she came to my brother and I and told us that she needed to be transferred to an independent living center. And just two years ago, she told us it was time to switch to assisted living.

The transition to assisted living only happened last fall and happened in the midst of a global pandemic, which has not been easy on many levels. Change is not easy for anyone, especially for someone moving into an assisted living facility.

The lockdown was ongoing and the lockdown was brutal, especially for older people living in self-sufficient and assisted living. They were blocked almost completely for 10 months. Loneliness is not good at this point in life. We were able to see our mother occasionally, but mostly through safely spaced outside visits with appointments. And even those nominations were limited.

On Christmas Eve we brought her home for a very small dinner and then on Mothers Day we were able to take her to a quick lunch. For several months, she has asked to return to church. Last weekend she had this wish.

I picked her up early in the morning and we had breakfast together at my breakfast. She ate well. With 45 minutes to spare before the church service started, I figured we could walk through our old quarters and see what she remembered. His memory was vivid and vivid that day. We walked past our old house and talked about the neighbors who were still there and the neighbors who had left.

It was a great neighborhood to grow up. My father and several of his childhood contemporaries bought lots together a few blocks from each other and built houses and had children around the same time. It’s unfortunate that he never lived to see the house built and how great the neighborhood has turned out. But I hope that somehow, somewhere, he will be comforted by the fact that we had a very wonderful childhood and that we feel blessed that we grew up in this place.

Then we went next to the house we lived in before that and then next to my grandmother’s house where my dad grew up. It was better than any medicine a doctor could prescribe. My mother lit up as she remembered detail after detail. His memory is not what it used to be, but to whom?

She was delighted to be back in the church of which she has been a member for 67 years. Ten years ago she painted a series of crosses and donated them to the church. After renovations that were undertaken during COVID, the church gathered them all, posted them on a wall, and placed a plaque next to them in his honor. It was a big surprise for her, and she was happier than I had seen her in months.

As we sat down just before the start of the service, she leaned over and whispered, “I feel like I’m at home.” I whispered back, “You are.”


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