DOROTHY ALBERTA MILLER - THE UPSIDE
Oh my gosh, this is going to be a long, long blog
Dorothy Alberta was my mother. She grew up Dorothy Alberta Mivelaz. My mother was the oldest of 7 children and from what I hear had to virtually raise most of them. Mother had two sisters Margaret and Mary Jean. She had 4 brothers, Eddie, Buddy , Charles and Ray. I can remember her telling the story of dumping her brother Charles out of the taylor-tot and on to his head.
I cannot describe my mother in one word, as I will let this blog help you all decide what that word would be. My mother was caring, giving and loving. She would literally give you the shirt off of her back if you asked for it.
Mom was also funny and had an excellent sense of humor. I used to tease her a lot about the following, and I use this story a lot at work, when people aren’t aware of their voice inflections and what those inflections might really be saying. My mother was very pleasant and it came across in the way she answered the telephone – with one exception - her brother Charles. Charles was an alcoholic (the one she dumped on his head). My uncle was married to a lady named Edith, who was also a drunk and when on a drunken binge would “cheat.” I wasn’t sure what that meant when I was little, but I do now. I could always tell when it was Charles calling, Mom would answer in her cheerful, friendly tone, then her voice would literally drop in disgust and she would say “how are you?” (We all “knew” how Charles was - drunk). Charles drank especially heavy when Edith would leave him, and leave him Edith did. Mom would give Charles a lot of advice in his relationship with Edith. Charles dropped dead from a heart attack at work one day. I do not remember my mother’s reaction to his death, but I remember I could no longer chuckle when he called.
When I was little, mom took good care of us. We lived in a house that was pretty much indicative of our social status - poor. The house was a shambles, but it was always clean. The floors were always mopped. The beds were always made. The furniture was always dusted. Our clothes were always clean. Our meals were always fixed. When you think about caring for 5 daughters and a demanding husband, by today’s standards, my mom’s job seems so overwhelming to me.
My sister Sandy remembers a time where Mom came through for her. It does speak of what type of person my mom really was. Sandy writes:
Before you and the Carol came along and I was very young, I was sick with a sore throat and couldn't speak. Mother was going to this store across the street from Sherman's drug store. It was like a hardware store and they had toys. Since I was sick mother asked if I wanted anything. I was rather lethargic and couldn't think of anything. Mother was right out in front of the house and it was then I remembered a magic set they had at this store. The magic set had a hat and a rabbit popped out of it. I remember standing at the window in the front room trying to holler to mother. I was very hoarse and nothing came out of my mouth. There went my chance to get that hat with the rabbit. I didn't care about the other magic tricks. I was upset. But when mother came home she had that magic set for me. Somehow she knew or had noticed my looking at it at some time or other. At that time I was happy for the toy. Later, I appreciated the fact that she knew me and knew what to do to make me feel better...even without me telling her.
Mom raised us well and instilled in us a good moral sense of life. She taught us how to be respectful, how to laugh at ourselves, and how to love one another.
My niece Lisa, Dorothy Ann’s youngest, remembers,
I loved to go and stay with Mamaw. We could talk about church, soaps, or just funny things. Gum, she always had gum, and cokes in a glass bottle. I just remember thinking how much she reminded me of Mom. They were so much alike. I miss her so much.
Mother always had Pepsi in the refrigerator, and as Lisa pointed out, those Pepsis were in glass bottles. Sometimes mom would run low of Pepsi, and she would hide them from all of us. But, we would many times outsmart her and find them. She would relent and give us her last Pepsi - heck, she would give us her last anything.
I do believe that my mother is reason that almost all of my sisters and me have anxiety issues. Mother was very over-protective with us. She didn’t like us to run, wouldn’t let us cross the street without her walking us across, didn’t want us to have bicycles, and the list goes on. As an adult, if you got sick, Mom would call religiously to check up on you. For me, sometimes those calls would annoy me. Well, it was annoying at the time. That all being said, when I was older and single, and after Mom died, there were periods when I was sick and the phone remained silent. I longed for a call from her. Now when my kids are sick or going through traumas – I drive them nuts. I can’t help it, my mom taught me well and I know where she was coming from now. I long to tell her thanks for all the sick calls, you don’t realize how much you miss them until no one calls to check up on you. Thanks Mom !!!
In my younger years my Mom’s passion and pastime was Bingo. She would go every Saturday night to Nelligan Hall at 20th and Portland to play Bingo. Many times me or Carol would go with her. There were instances when I would elect to stay at home with my father and watch TV. I can’t remember mom ever winning at bingo, but she loved to play. My aunt Margaret would often go as well. My mother would bathe, wash and roll her hair, then wrap her curlers in a scarf and off she’d go to Nelligan Hall. Sometimes she would pin-curl her hair. She also wore some cherry-berry red lipstick too. You wouldn’t think that the scarf and lipstick would be attractive, but she always looked real nice. She had to roll her hair so it would be nice for church the next day.
I loved going to the bingo with my mom. I would get all kinds of snacks and play out front with some of the other kids. We would always walk to the bingo. Sometimes we would walk home, and sometimes we would take a cab. When my mom would go alone, I was always glad she would take a cab home, because I would worry about her walking home at 10 at night from such a distance.
My favorite bingo caller was a lady named Bratchie. She was very old, and would call games rather slowly. Mom was always kind of annoyed with Bratchie because she was so slow. “G-50 (five-oh)”. The bingo balls were in a little round cage that the caller would turn by hand. There were no bingo dabbers, electronic boards or floating balls. My how bingo has changed! Nelligan Hall is still there, and every time I see it, I think of Bratchie and my mom.
Sunday’s after bingo were always followed by a trip to mass. That is when the curlers would come out of mom’s hair, but the Cherry-Berry lipstick remained a staple. Mom and we girls went to church every Sunday, and after church we would sometimes frequent a bakery on the way home. It was nice to be free of church and have nice fresh baked goods to boot.
My mom, like my dad was somewhat of a character. She loved listening to the radio. I can remember one station that she listened to had a contest. When you heard the dogs bark you would call the radio station, and win records. Well, as the story goes, the Phelps, who lived next door, had hound dogs. Like all dogs - they would bark. My dear mom called the radio station one day, saying she heard the dog bark and was hoping to win something. She won all right - embarrassment. It wasn’t the radio dogs, but those darn hounds of the Phelps. Funny. They really were like the Bumpas’ dogs.
Growing up in the 50’s in the west end of Louisville was interesting. There not too many big supermarkets around, just local, neighborhood grocery stores. My mom shopped at Bloom’s. Bloom’s was at the corner of 21st and Market Streets, which was about 2 blocks from our house. Mom would take her pull along grocery cart there when she would walk to Blooms, however, many times, Blooms would deliver the groceries. Mom would call in a grocery order, and within an hour, the groceries would be delivered by a gentleman named Bunny. Bunny was a small, short black man. He would come into the side door, which would enter right into the room where we slept. Of course, when the groceries were delivered, my sisters and I would still be asleep. Bunny would always say, and I mean always. . . .”Lazy bones, sleepin’ in the noon-day sun.” I can still hear him in my head to this day. I’m not sure my mom did the politically correct thing and tipped Bunny, but Bunny was a small part of my childhood, and the life that my mother had made for us.
Mother and the Blooms (Francis and Milton) had a friendship of sorts. One year, Bloom’s was robbed and Milton was shot. Things seemed to change after that shooting. It wasn’t long before the Blooms closed their store.
On rare occasions (and I do mean rare) me and mom and one or two of my sisters would walk to the Kroger. Kroger was at the corner of 22nd and Jefferson Street. Jefferson Street was a block north of Market, and the street that you never ventured to. I’m not sure why we would go to Kroger sometime, we just did. I always felt as though we were cheating on the Blooms.
My mother had strange relationships with our neighbors. I think how she treated you was determined on which side of the street you lived on.
The Nicolas’ lived next door, and my mom was on a first name basis with that family. She called the parents Evelyn and Nick. However the Shaw family lived across the street, and my mom and Ms. Shaw called each other Mrs. Miller and Mrs. Shaw. . . Weird how that was. Mind you, not that either was right or wrong, it was just strange.
It seems like we always had company at our house, which consisted mostly of our aunts and uncles from both sides of the family. I remember one night mom had cooked for a bunch of people and, after eating everyone had retired to the living room, leaving my mom alone in the kitchen. I walked into the kitchen and my mom was crying. I asked her what was wrong, and she said she was hurt because everyone left her there to eat all by herself. I felt bad for her. Not only did she cook, she had to eat alone AND clean up the mess. That was one of the first times I remember my mom crying.
In our house on Main Street, we had a coal burning fireplace. It was my mom’s duties to order the coal, and bring it into the house. I can still see her in the side yard, with her coal bucket, hauling coal into the living room. Sometimes we would help her - sometimes we would not. To me that coal was for throwing at Jimmy Nicolas.
For some strange reason, my father earned the money and my mom paid the bills. Once and awhile, my mom worked as a waitress and at one time she wrapped sandwiches for a lunch-truck service. Mom and dad would argue about money on Saturday mornings, and mom would end up with money to buy groceries and pay the bills. Somewhere along the line, my mom stopped paying the house payment. Mom and dad lost the house at 2108 Main Street. My father was livid as I remember, and mom passed it off as not being able to buy groceries, pay the bills with the money dad was giving her. The person who bought the house rented it to my parents, but they didn’t live there long.
When the bus service to Indiana was stopped, Mom and Dad moved to Indiana, and Mom never really did like it over there. She adapted though, and could walk to the store and had all the conveniences right at her fingertips. Dad could literally walk to work. To me, Mom always seemed out of place in Indiana.
DOROTHY ALBERTA MILLER - THE DOWNSIDE
One of the reasons I hesitated to write this part of the blog is for the reasons I state below. I wanted to say all good things about my Mom, but have to be honest with readers but mostly honest with myself.
Somewhere in my adult life my mom found religion. I mean she raised us Catholic and she went to mass regularly, but in my adult years she found another religion and was “saved.” In the beginning of her new-found faith, I would have to say that this bothered me a whole lot, because she seemed to want everyone to then be “saved” and seemed to “push” her new beliefs very strongly. I’m not sure anyone else felt this way, but I did. There were always invitations to attend this event at her church, or that event at her church, and I would not budge, nor would I attend her church. She would even send her preacher to see me. Mom and Dad had a lot of faith in Brother Baker, and loved him dearly. Brother Baker paid many a visit to my house, and would leave mad most of the time. I wanted no part of any of this new religion or Brother Baker. I think he was fired from preaching due to some financial “concerns” and now sells cars in another state. Still makes me happy!
For some strange reason, I had a change of heart one Mother’s day. Of course, mom’s church had a “promotion” where Mother’s got something if their kids attended. All my sisters were going (darn it), and there was a lot of pressure on me. I relented and went. It was a surprise to my mom when I showed up at her church. I can still see her mouth drop open when she saw me.
After that visit to her church, things were better. Mother enjoyed her religion and was no longer “pushy” with it, and that was OK by me. She remained very religious for the remainder of her life. When dad found the religion, I thought “Oh God”, but Dad never talked about it much, which was fine with me.
Since mom had become more settled with her church, I became happier for her, because it gave her a purpose in life. Mom was so very glad that her and my dad attended church together. It seems it had been a lifelong dream of hers.
I found that her religion and her church friends were very important to her, and that was good. She would never fail to attend church, and became very active in it. She was part of a prayer chain and prayed for those folks who were sick or down-trodden. She would also send money to Jimmy Faye and Tammy Baker. That made me growl, but my Mom’s intentions were good, and she gave with her heart. She did not apply any pressure for me to send money to Jimmy and Tammy, so I was happy.
When my dad died, mom seemed to plod right along. She moved back to Louisville in apartments that Sandy and Jerry owned. I was glad that they were close to her. Mom adjusted very well to life without my dad and became even more active in her church, which was a good thing. She mourned my father, but she was strong and bounced back rather quickly.
I was the only daughter who had gotten pregnant out of wedlock, went through two husbands before my mom passed from this earth, and mom NEVER gave me any flack about it. Never! She accepted me for who I was and never preached at me for the decisions I had made in my life, and that is why I found the “religious intimidation” to be so baffling. Maybe she was indeed trying to save me from myself.
Whatever the reason, my mother’s new religion has left an indelible mark on me and how I deal with overly-zealous religious people. As you can probably tell by some of my “comments” in this section, I still have incredible religious issues.
Ok, all that is out, and I’m glad. I loved my mother with all my heart and soul, and at the end of her life, I was glad she had her church and her church friends and her faith. My mother’s faith was pure and very real. Somewhere along the line, I think we just came to terms with this whole religion thing.
DOROTHY ALBERTA MILLER - THE END
My mother started having chest pains in December of 1989 and was taken to the hospital. She was having a series of heart attacks, and needed by-pass surgery. She didn’t make it out of the hospital.
I remember very vividly it being Christmas time. Mother was in a Cardiac Care unit on Christmas, and we were able to visit her. She was able to talk to us and all. We didn’t take her Christmas presents, because we were going to wait until she got home. After Christmas mom was moved to a regular room, and was having chest pains again. The Doctor’s decided to do a cardiac catherization. It was during the cath, that they decided to do emergency by-pass surgery. Mom never recovered from that surgery. The initial surgery was a success, but she had to go back into surgery due to some bleeding complications.
It was three weeks of hell for her. She died due to complications of the surgery. Somehow I think she knew she wasn’t going to make it. She told my sister Sandy on the way to the hospital, “I guess I’m going to be with your Daddy.” Mother was on a ventilator for much of the time she was hospitalized and couldn’t talk to us. She would try mimic words, and we would do our best to try and understand what she was trying to say. When she was near the end, she “mouthed” one word “Pepsi”. It was hard knowing she was thirsty and wanted just a simple Pepsi. We couldn’t give her anything to drink and it broke my heart. With Dad it has been Reeses’ and with Mom it was Pepsi.
On January 7, 1990 my mother passed from this earth and from us. We were all there with her, and it was a peaceful. I was glad she was no longer suffering with all of these medical ups and downs.
I miss my mom a lot. Time does ease the pain, but there are times when I think that mom would enjoy this, or mom would find this funny, or mom could tell me how she made her chili. The little things. . . .
My daughter Dianna says just about all of it in one of her recent blogs:
My grandma passed away awhile back. Some 17 years or more ago. As my adult years roll on I find myself missing her more and more. So much. She pops into my head a lot. She never yelled at me ever. Not once. That's the thing that I miss the most, her kindness and love to me. She never judged me, never did anything but love me. She used to always ask me to go to church with her, but I don't why I didn't. I don't think I was old enough to drive. I don't know. Whatever the case, I would give my eye teeth to just go to church with her once today. The time I remember the most about going to church with her, whoever was driving us, we were in the car and we laughed so hard, I don’t even know over what. But we were laughing and laughing. We had gone to McDonalds and I spilled hot chocolate all down my chest. I had this huge stain and figured we would have to go back home. Instead she took me into the bathroom, turned my shirt around backwards and gave me her good sweater. We walked in and we were joined elbow and elbow and she was taking me all around showing me to everyone under the sun. Her face was just beaming with pride. I remember after Sunday school she came got me and we went into the church for the sermon. During it, she picked my hand up and kissed it and then just continued to hold it through the service. She hugged me afterwards and she always smelled so good. It's now that I just want to go to her and have her kiss my hand and hug me. My heart is absolutely broken because I miss her so much. She was my safe spot. I just love her. Unconditionally without question love her and miss her every day. So today when things are so bad, I just wish to go see her. Just for a second see her and just smell her, feel her arms around me, kissing me on the cheek. Kissing my hand. The things we take for granted in daily life.... the thing I miss most.Her..