To clarify things since it can be all so confusing for the uninitiated, I have had three mothers:
Marian Estelle "Mary" McMahan (1959)
My adopted mother, who shaped my life.
Helen Mae Koethe (1944) before her marriage to Dad in 1948
And my step mother, who saved my life.
Mrs. Myra Cook Morgan Ricketts
and my father at their wedding ceremony June 1968
My birth-mother, Mary, was 17 years old and unmarried. In 1956, this was a tragedy! She dropped out of high school, ran away from home to south Florida to stay with family friends and had me secretly. Two days later, I was property of my new adopted family and she was free to go on her merry way to do more as she pleased.
Helen, my adopted mother, apparently wanted a child. My father did not want something that wasn’t blood-kin. He never said these words directly, but his actions were frequent reminders of this little fact until the day he died. But Helen had a mother’s instinct. My father didn’t permit me to discuss my mother or have photos of her after her death, so, I have few memories of her. But this is one that still lives in my mind:
I grew up in Titusville, Florida, not far from Playalinda Beach (aka Cape Canaveral). We practically lived at Playalinda since it was so close. One day, while at the beach, my cousin Ricky and I were playing in the surf. I think I was about 5 or 6 years old and Ricky was only about a year older. He began pointing at the waves exclaiming, “Look at all the balloons on the water!” So, I ran out there wanting to play with the “balloons” and horrors of horrors, they were Portuguese Man ‘O War! In short order I was covered with poisonous, stinging, grasping tentacles! It’s a bit of a blur, but I do remember Mom suddenly rushing over to me, and with no regard for her own safety, rapidly pulling the tentacles from my young flesh. She became horribly stung right along with me. Thankfully Aunt Helen (Mom’s sister-in-law) was also along and she drove us to the Hospital which was at least 20 miles away. I had to get some rather painful shots and was covered in some kind of salve for days. It was pretty terrible. My father was typically disgusted that I had “caused trouble”, etc. But I just remember how my mother rushed to the rescue of her baby, like a mama bear protecting her cub.
My mother was taken from me suddenly one summer day in 1966. She had had a bad heart acquired at a young age from a bout with Scarlet Fever (thus the fact she could not conceive). The brain hemorrhage was sudden which caused her already weak heart to seize. She wasn’t overweight and she didn’t smoke. It was a total surprise to everyone. Something that today, if caught early, probably would never have happened. She was only 40 years old. I’m told that everybody liked Mom. She was sweet, gentle, physically delicate and ever so kindhearted. And also, thank God, a Christian. I was only 10 years old, but I still remember the phone call my father received from Jess Parrish Hospital that day. I can remember the look of utter anguish on his face and the way he cried. It’s the only time I can remember him crying or acting human. Then I can remember him lashing out in anger.
I didn’t realize that my life would never be the same.
It was a couple days later at the funeral, just moments after they put my mother’s body in the ground, I was crying and asking “Where’s Mom? Why are they putting her in the ground?”. I was so confused and frightened. My father screamed at me inches from my face to “Shut up! You’re only adopted! Why do you care?!” My life stopped at that moment. It’s like he had reached into my chest and stopped my heart from beating. I felt numb and dead inside. Yep. He tore up his parent card, and my heart, that hot day in August. Amazingly, though, I do not dwell on this much or the painful years that followed. It’s all in the past and I know now that he was doolally.
Despite his abuse and neglect I still have a few treasured memories of a sweet, loving mother that shaped my life that carry me though hard times even today.
many a silent tear,
but always a beautiful memory
of one we loved so dear.
God gave us strength to bear it,
and courage to take the blow,
but what it meant to lose you
... no one will ever know.
….TO BE CONTINUED …