I want to tell a story about one of the most honest and forthright persons I have ever known. I’ll admit I’m biased, ’cause it’s my Mom I’m talking about.
My Mom and her 3 brothers were born to poor Eastern North Carolina farmers in the late 1930’s. Her parents divorced when she was little and she “raised” her younger brothers in the place of her absent mother who was more concerned with social status than to be bothered by raising four young kids, so my Mom just took over and mothered them.
Mom quit high school in the middle of 10th grade to marry in order to escape an obviously lousy home life. My parents were married for 4 years before Mom got pregnant with me, her only child. My Dad left my Mom in September, 1956 and I was born in December of the year. Suddenly single and a new parent my Mom put her nose to the grindstone and toughed it out. In March of 1957 she got a job with AT&T and stayed with them ’til she retired in 1990.
She worked every double shift, split shift, weekend and Sunday she could. She raised me with virtually no help from my asshole Father. And she never asked for any help from him either. By the time their divorce became official, he had another woman pregnant and my Mom refused child support and alimony because she didn’t want to “take food out of the mouths of his other children.” My Dad went on to have four other kids with his second wife. That’s example number one of my Mom standing up and demonstrating massive integrity.
At AT&T my Mom advanced up the career ladder pretty fast. She started out as an operator, was promoted to supervisor in about 5 years, became a group chief operator in the mid 60’s and in 1970 my Mother was promoted to Chief Operator of a whole office of about 300 operators, with numerous group chiefs and supervisors serving beneath her. The particular office my Mom was promoted to head was called TSPS. It was the change over from the old cord type station to all electronic and computerized switching equipment, and my Mom became the Chief Operator of only the second TSPS office in the Washington DC area. She had been with AT&T for only 13 years when she was honored in such a way, and remember, the woman has a 9th grade education. She never even got her GED. That’s example number two, because AT&T was pretty damn persnickety about who they promoted to such lofty status.
My Mom re-married when I was little, but it didn’t last long because she didn’t like the way her second husband treated me. He was never mean or bad to me, but he and Mom fought and argued and she once told me, after her and #2 split, that should would never allow anyone to again make me have a poor home life like Mom had growing up. That was example #3.
My next example was the first time I ever really realized how much integrity my Mom possessed. My Mom remarried when I was 18 and had left home in 1975. A few years later I was at her house hanging out when we got around to discussing politics. It was just before the 1980 Presidential Election, and she was voting for Reagan. When I asked her why she was voting for him, she exclaimed “We have to do something about this sorry economy!” While her statement was absolutely true, I was dumbfounded for her reasons.
For me to explain the incongruity of the situation one must have a general understanding of Econ 101 and politics. My Mom and Step-Dad lived in a new home, paid for in cash (my Mom obviously was good with a buck and My Step Dad owned a small construction company so he built the home himself), and at that time they had about $100,000.00 in an investment account. Their cars were paid for and I don’t think they even had a credit card, and no kids at home, so they were living the good life.
Where the whole story gets confusing is when I realized my Mom was putting the betterment of the nation over her own well-being. How, you ask? The Prime Interest Rate was about 18%. People with mortgages were paying 19% or more for a home loan, car loans were as high, gas prices were crazy and inflation was rampant as well as high unemployment. Basically a poor economy for those trying to get by. But for those who owned everything they possessed, had no loans or mortgages and had a chunk of change in the bank, these were good times.
My Mom said in 1980 she earned almost 18% on a Paine Webber Money Market account – on a hundred grand that’s $18,000.00 bucks! and that was a lot of money in 1980. Needless to say, she was quite unhappy with me when I told her she was foolish to vote to turn the country around when it would be a personal detriment to her. The result of the Reagan election was a decline in interest rates, a decline in unemployment and a general turning around of the economy. But for my Mom, she went from earning 18% on her investments to about 9 or 10% in a couple of years. So her supporting a change for the betterment of the nation took 8 or 10 grand out of her pocket every year. To further demonstrate how much cash she actually lost (or more accurately, did not earn in interest), figure 10K per year plus interest on the interest (compound interest). How many hundreds of thousands of dollars are we talking in todays money? A bunch, don’t ya think? Never once has my Mom expressed regret for her monetary losses due to her decision. Example #4.
Example number five was shown to me in 1990 when my Mom retired from AT&T to stay home and help me raise my monstrous kid. I was a single parent from just before my daughter’s third birthday. My Mom spent 40K turning her spacious basement into an apartment for me and the kid, complete with separate entrance, kitchen, 2 bedrooms, bath and my own laundry room. And while I worked and went to NC State, she took care of my little toad. My Mom, once again, put her money where her mouth is and sacrificed her desires to do for others.
Today my Mom is 70 years old. Her mother, my Granny, lives with my Mom and Mom takes care of her too. And despite her living in a huge new home, almost completely paid for, she works full-time earning about $14.50 an hour. No matter how many times she tries to retire, she keeps getting another job and working, but not because she needs the money, but because she says it just doesn’t seem right to NOT work. Mom has a healthy retirement from AT&T, collects her SSI, and has her health care paid for as part of her retirement package, yet she keeps working. She says she works so she can put her wages in the bank and save that cash. How crazy is that?
God I love that woman, and whatever integrity I may possess I received directly from my Mom’s example. Thanks Ma.