Saturday, May 11, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

My Mom...Betty Tannahill Johnson
I am the daughter of a fabulous mother.  She was strict, loving, wise and fun.  I don’t know if there is a better combination in my opinion.  I had her for thirty eight years until she passed.  I miss her every day and will always miss her.  However, I was lucky.  I had a wise and wonderful mother to guide me, nurture me and love me.  Not all children are as fortunate as I was – and sometimes it takes a special woman to mother a motherless child.

Cappy and her mother Sophie!
My grandmothers were both as fortunate as I…they too had loving mothers who helped guide them through life.  Grandma Cappy had her mother until sixty eight years old and Grandma Marian had her mother until she was almost seventy one years.  While I never had the discussion with Grandma Cappy…Grandma Marian and I agreed that you never stopped missing your mother even if you were lucky to have them a long time.  However, Grandma Sophia (Mom Friddle) and Grandma Florence weren't quite so lucky.  Both lost their mothers had a young age.
Rebecca Jane "Frankie" Pitsenbarger Shawver
Grandma Florence’s mother was Rebecca Jane “Frankie” Pitsenbarger .  Frankie was the daughter of William Pitsenbarger and Mary Amick.  Grandma Florence was the third of six children, she had and older sister and brother and a younger brother and sister.  The youngest sister died at a year of age.   When Frankie died in 1904 tuberculosis, she left behind five motherless children.  The oldest who was 13 and the youngest was only three. When Grandma Florence’s father, George Christian Shawver, remarried two years later, it must have been a daunting task that faced her. 
Tamsey Perry Shawver
Tamsey Omiska Perry was a widow herself, and had one young son.  When she married Chris Shawver, she gained five more children.  From everything that I have heard, she took that role very seriously.  I never heard my Grandma Florence say one negative word about Tamsey and she always called her mother.  I always saw Grandma Florence as one of the kindest and gentlest of women.  I've been told that she was a great deal like her mother…and Grandma Florence regarded Tamsey as her mother.  She took on the care of those motherless children but more importantly, she loved them as a mother should.  Every one of her children held her in the highest regard.  It takes a special kind of strength and love to take someone else’s children and treat them as your own.   I never knew Grandma Shawver, but I know that my Grandma Florence missed both of her mother’s every day for the rest of her long life.

Buena Vista Bailey Dollar
Grandma Sophie’s mother was Buena Vista Bailey and I think that my grandmother knew very little about her mother.  Buena Vista Bailey was born in 1872 and she too lost her mother at the age of five to tuberculosis.  Her father married a widow who also had several children.  Buena Vista married John Dula Dollar on 21 Apr 1889 when she was 17 years old.  She had her son Claude in 1890, daughter Bessie in 1891 and Grandma Sophia was born on 27 Jan 1894.  Just a few short months later on 14 Apr 1894, Buena Vista died.  I don’t know what the exact death cause was…perhaps it was the effects of childbirth, but I suspect from what I have learned of late that it might have been tuberculosis as it seemed rampant within her family.  Her mother died of tuberculosis and I know of two siblings who also suffered from the disease.  Grandma Sophie was left with her Grandfather and step grandmother, Lulu Pearce.  When her father remarried a few years later, (John Dula Dollar m. Cleopatra Gentry on 28 Mar 1897), Grandma Sophie stayed with her grandfather and step grandmother.  Lulu Pearce was absurdly young to be called a grandmother.  She had married Alexander Monroe Dollar when she was nineteen years old and now she was twenty-six.  From what I know of Grandma Sophie’s childhood – she was spoiled and coddled by her adoring grandmother.  She never learned to do the things that young women learned back in the early years of the twentieth century.  When her grandfather died in 1908, her grandmother knew that her father would take his daughter back to live in his house.  Lulu feared that Grandma Sophie would be nothing more than a nanny to her younger siblings and when the time came; she strongly encouraged Grandma Sophie to elope…which she did.  I gather from one of Grandma Sophie’s nieces (through her full sister Bessie) that they weren't too fond of the step mother.  She was called “Old Pate!” and Bessie didn't have much good to say about her stepmother.  She had had to live with her father and stepmother, while Grandma Sophie had stayed with her grandfather and step grandmother.
David Carl Friddle & Sophia Dollar - After their elopment
There is a lot I don’t know about Lulu Pearce…I know that she remarried within a year after her husband’s death and moved to nearby Ashe Co., NC from Johnson Co., TN.  She again took the mothering role to her second husband’s grandson.  Grandma Sophie was able to go back and visit Lulu before she died.  That must have been a wonderful reunion.  Grandma Sophie hadn't seen her for over 40 years, and she was able to be with this woman who was the only mother she had ever known.

So, as Mother’s day approaches…I think of my own wonderful mother as well as my grandmothers.  We share a common bond in that we had wonderful and long lasting relationships with our natural mothers.  However, I must also honor all the women who taken on the role of motherhood to children who they never gave birth too.  So…I honor Grandma Tamsey Shawver and Grandma Lulu Dollar and thank them for taking on the role of mother to Grandma Florence and Grandma Sophia.  As they helped shape them into the wonderful women that they became in life…they have also helped shape me as their great granddaughter.  Happy Mother’s Day Momma…and all of the other Mom’s out there whether you gave birth to your children or took them into your heart!