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One Woman's Opinion

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Mother’s Day, 1959

by Mary Wakefield Buxton

Urbanna, Va.— Every man has a story. Sharing stories help us bear the pain that comes with living. Coming back from Mother’s Day weekend spent in Virginia Beach, my husband Chip remembered a Mother’s Day from his past. I asked Chip if I could share his story with my readers. His story follows:

1959 was a bad year. Not only had I partied so much that I had flunked out of college, but Mother was ill and in the hospital with some sort of undiagnosed ailment. I had managed to get into a small college in North Carolina that had taken me for a trial semester, and I was working hard to get back on track. My plan was to earn good grades and be re-accepted to my other college.

Mother’s Day came and I was feeling really low. I didn’t have any money but I decided to hitch a ride home to Newport News to see Mother. It was a rainy day but I got lucky and picked up a ride all the way to Norfolk. Almost immediately after being dropped off on the highway, I got another ride that dropped me off in front of the hospital.

The neighborhood drug store on the corner was still open so I walked over and bought Mother a card. Then I took the elevator up to the top floor to visit her.

I could immediately see that she wasn’t well. I was 20 years old and it hadn’t yet occurred to me that parents would die. I didn’t know how ill she was, but by June she would die, just 44 years old.

I kissed her and saw how grey she was for such a beautiful, vivacious woman. I could feel how thin her shoulders were. Even her vibrant red hair had dimmed since I had last seen her. “I’m doing well in school, Mother,” I said and told her of my plans to get back to Denison in September, her mother’s college.  I did, too. Denison took all my credits and I graduated on time. Mother would have been so proud.

That evening Father came to the hospital to make rounds and stopped by to see Mother. I already knew my father was a surgeon because his father was a surgeon, and that I was supposed to follow in their footsteps.

“So, you came home, son?” he said, briskly walking into the room. He was a busy man.

“Yes.” I saw that he looked tired.

“How do you expect to get back to your classes tomorrow morning?”

“A bus leaves Portsmouth at 11 p.m. tonight.”

Father sighed and looked at his watch. “Very well, I’ll run you over to Portsmouth.” He let me off at a crossroads where I knew the bus would stop, which would save him some time. It was still raining.

“Goodbye, son,” he said. The bus stopped to pick me up at the crossroads 20 minutes later. I had no money. I had forgotten to ask Father for a loan.

“Could I ride to Roanoke Rapids and cash a check and pay you then?” I asked the driver. He nodded yes, so I walked down the dark aisle and sat in an empty seat. It would be an all-nighter to Louisburg on a bus that would stop in every town in North Carolina.

At Roanoke Rapids I got out and looked for a business that was open that time of night. I saw a garage down the street that looked open, so I headed in that direction.
“Could you cash a $10 check?” I asked an elderly man who was bent over working on an engine.

“Well, who are ya, sonny?”

“Buxton,” I answered.

“Well, there’s lots of Buxtons in town.” There was a pause. “I guess I could cash your check,” he finally said, wiping his hands and pulling out a ten-dollar bill from his pocket. I paid the bus driver the $7 I owed him and picked up some cupcakes and a soda to hold me through the night.

There was real suffering on that bus in 1959. But I was aware of no other troubles but my own. We finally pulled into Louisburg just before my 8 o’clock class. I walked in the door just as the bell rang.

Mother passed away a few weeks later. Mother’s Day never comes without my remembering that weekend. It’s a sad memory . . . but happy too. Happy because I made that trip to be with her on her last Mother’s Day. ©2009

posted 05.21.2009

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