Daddy worked for the phone company, which over time had gone from the Waldron Telephone Company to the Interstate Telephone Company to the Continental Telephone Company and possibly a few other names that I have forgotten. It was probably one of the best jobs available in Scott County; not that we ever got rich, but it was a company that offered lots of benefits. Because of the nature of his work, Daddy was friends with almost everybody in town. He was also very handy at repairing things, and lots of people called him to work on their appliances. He never said no.
Mama was mostly a housewife, except for a brief period of time in the 1960's when she worked as a waitress at the Rock Cafe, and again briefly when she worked at Judy's Drive In. Her main focus in life was her five children; my older brothers Gary, Gene, and Phil, and my twin sister Janet and I. She cooked, cleaned, worked in the garden, provided medical attention when necessary, while never missing a church service at the Assembly of God Church, and making sure that we kids likewise never missed a service. As she went about her unrelenting chores, she could almost always be heard singing a gospel song. I believe, in all sincerity, that Alberta Yates was incapable of thinking a negative thought about anyone.
Their life together was full of both happiness and trials. Daddy fought an ongoing battle against alcoholism, which consumed a large part of his salary and severely damaged his relationships with his wife and children. He was never abusive, but his addiction to alcohol prevented any semblance of normalcy in his family life. For most of his life, he was able to separate his drinking from his work life, but eventually, he had to retire from the phone company due to his alcoholism. Mama was patient and loving throughout the difficult years, as was her nature. She was a devout Christian, and her faith sustained her. She was somehow able to pass this faith on to her children. Her insistence that we go with her to church undoubtedly saved us from lives as alcoholics ourselves, since the disease is often passed down through the generations. Watching her life made us want to have a relationship with Christ; if she could be that happy in spite of her surroundings, so could we!
We knew that Mama and Daddy loved each other, although we never heard Daddy say it. He was doing the best he could; he was just fighting something that was bigger than him. And it was a fight that lasted a long time.
In late September of 2007, Mama had to go into the hospital again for treatment for her lymphoma. Everything seemed to be going well until she experienced a spinal hematoma, in which she had bleeding into her spinal column. In addition to the excruciating pain this caused, it also left her legs paralyzed. But she rallied, and we brought Daddy up to the hospital one Saturday to see her. They shared the most pleasant of days together, with Daddy sitting beside her bed holding her hand, talking and visiting with their children. A few days later, Mama told me, "I hope today is the day I get to go home.. I said that to that nurse, and she didn't know I meant my Heavenly home." Later that night, that's exactly where Mama went.
We all drove down to Waldron early the next morning to tell Daddy. We had to wake him up, and my sister Janet gently told him what had happened. He was quiet as we made sure he understood what we had said. "I just wasn't expecting that," he said.
Later, I found a post card that Daddy had sent Mama when he was in the Navy. He was in Basic Training at the Great Lakes Naval Station, and he must have been missing Mama quite a bit. In the card, Daddy writes, "Hello Sweet. How are you feeling today? How is Memaw (Mama's mother) and all? I just finished writing you a letter and I'm all out of things to write. I haven't got your letter yet. Maybe tomorrow. Bye, Abb"
I'd never heard Daddy speak so tenderly to Mama. That must have been the guy she fell in love with, and that was the man she always saw. I didn't understand that until I found that post card. He called her Sweet.
Be patient, Sweet. It won't be too long now. You'll be holding his hand again soon.