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Mom and Me

Mick Stratton

mstratton@hlkn.tamu.edu

Beatrice Agnes Roemer was my mother, and I loved her dearly. Mom was born on 21 March 1915 to Beatrice O. and Paul C. Roemer in Houston, Texas.  Mom had four siblings, two brothers and two sisters. Aunt Dorothy and Mom were one year apart with Dorothy being the oldest.  Uncle Paul was next in line being 3 years younger than Mom.  Mom's family called her “Sister,” probably because Beatrice was harder to say; they also called Uncle Paul “Son.” Aunt Mary and Uncle Jack (John) came along quite a bit later with Jack being 12 years younger than Mom and Mary being 13 years younger.


After Mom graduated from high school, she went on to nursing school.  When World War II broke out, Mom joined the Army and went to Egypt.  The Roemers had three of their children fighting in the war at the same time.  Mom and Paul returned.  Uncle Jack did not, and it was truly devastating to all of the family, but especially Grandpa and Grandma.  It is said they never got over it.


I am sure Mom and my sister Mariann (Viet Nam) had a special bond in that both of them took care of wounded soldiers, feeling a unique pain that only war nurses understand as they watched too many of those brave young men they nursed die.  God bless both of them!


Mom met Dad in Egypt during the War, and there they got married.  Mariann thinks she is special because she was conceived in Cairo, Egypt, but in my studied opinion, that makes her…a foreigner.  Our family can be very proud of having two World War II veterans as parents.  And heaven help me, I am also so proud of Mariann for her war service, foreigner that she is.


Mom and Dad had a total of 6 kids: Mariann was the oldest, followed two years later by me, Max Millard II (Mickey), then two years later Rex, another year, Jack (John), four more years, Marsan and then two more years, K. Dawn (who married a cowboy).


It's sad how children can never really know how their parents were when they were young.  This became very clear to me when my niece Jessica sent us all a picture of Mom and Dad in Egypt: so young, full of dreams and so much in love. I know my Mom loved to dance. She sure could yodel. I remember she would yodel for us when we asked; usually when Dad was driving us to a new place to live.  I loved that yodeling!


Aunt Louise, Uncle Paul's wife, told me that Mom was her heroine.  When Aunt Louise was dating Uncle Paul, Aunt Dorothy would pick at her. Mom would intervene and tell Aunt Dorothy to leave Louise alone.  I figured she did this for three reasons: she loved Aunt Louise, she was kind-hearted and she loved to argue with Aunt Dorothy!


There was no doubt that Dorothy and Mom were very close.  Both Grandma and Dorothy would visit us wherever we lived, including in Germany.  These three had an interesting way of showing their love.  They would argue about anything and everything!  This was most often done while playing bridge (a card game). When I was young I thought that one of the rules of bridge was you had to tell your partner how dumb she was for bidding or playing a certain way.  I say “she” because although Dad played with them, he was never included in the arguing part.


Mom was very loving to me, but she could not discipline me very well.  I was hard headed and obnoxious, being capable and willing to accept any pain she could deliver if she caught me.  On the other hand, I was very quick, so Mom had a hard time catching me.  Is it possible that Mariann is right when she says I was a first rate brat?  Mom finally found the perfect way to keep me in line (most of the time) which was to say, “I'm going to tell your Dad when he gets home.”  Dad's ability to inflict pain was much greater than Mom's and he was also much faster.  Unfortunately he would always take her side, so the threat alone was enough to keep me in line.


All in all, Mom was a very good mother taking great care of all of us when we were sick or got hurt.  The problem was she would scold me when I got hurt, which was quite often.  Because of this, I would not tell her I was hurt unless it was pretty bad (bleeding a lot). One time I was climbing up a tree using a chain nailed into it.  As I was climbing the nail pulled out and I fell on my back.  The good news was there was a wood framed sand box below me.  The bad news was I fell on the frame.  After I got my breath back, I felt my back and could tell it wasn't bleeding very much, so no going to Mom.


About three days later I was playing outside without my shirt on. Mom was outside talking to some of the other moms. (This was during the 50's and most moms were stay at home moms.)  One of them noticed my back and asked what happened, so I told them.  Mom said “Why didn't you come to me?” I said “It wasn't that bad, and I didn't want you to bawl me out.” Poor Mom, she was very embarrassed; it bothers me to this day because she really was a good Mom and would have taken great care of me. (She would have also bawled me out.)


Another example of her caring was a situation that happened during my six year old birthday.  Mom and Dad gave me a little party including a cookout.  I was being a brat, so Dad sent me to bed early.  I was outraged, it being my birthday and all.  To get even, I decided to cry real hard while I was in bed.  You know the kind of crying I am talking about.  As you cry, you listen to yourself, wallowing in your own misery, seeing how sad you can make it sound.  You are trying your best to make everyone else feel sorry for you and maybe even rescind the punishment.  I did an excellent job with Mom coming in twice trying to console me.  I thought for sure I was winning when finally Dad yelled out, “If you don't stop crying, I'm going to come in there and give you something to cry about!” Crying ceased immediately. Dad and I always had a strong understanding of each other....


Mom was a good Catholic and a very religious person.  She made sure all of us went to church every Sunday and had a good Catholic upbringing.  She sent us to a Catholic school whenever possible.  She also prayed for us a lot.


The girls think Mom had special feelings for me, especially Marsan. When I would come home from college, Mom would always be asking me if I wanted something to eat or drink.  I would normally say no because usually I was trying to read and just wanted to be left alone.  Mom was always persistent and would eventually ask if I wanted her to make me a sandwich, where upon I would say, “Sure,” hoping I would be left alone to read. She would then tell Marsan, “Go make your big brother a sandwich.”  You got to love Mom....  I never realized it at the time, but this would make Marsan furious.  First, because she thought I should make my own sandwich and second, because it was Mom's idea, so she should do it!  To this day Marsan swears she will never serve me food again, but it seems every time I am at her house, she ends up making me something to eat, usually a sandwich. You got to love Marsan…


While in high school, Mom would get mad at me, usually because I was teasing her.  In the end I would make it right by going up to her while she was still angry and kiss her on the forehead while telling her that I loved her.  She would end up saying, “Oh, get out of here!” But she and I both knew that the kiss made it alright.


An example of my teasing her was when I came home from college one weekend.  I had taught myself to juggle and was pretty good at it.  When she was cooking in the kitchen, I came in, got three raw eggs out of the icebox and started to juggle them saying, “Hey Mom, look at this.”  She was beside herself and started yelling at me, but what could she do?  She finally just went back to cooking, ignoring me. I knew she was upset, so I put the eggs up, turned her around and kissed her on the forehead telling her I loved her. Her response was, “Oh, just get out of my kitchen!”


Mom had more than me to put up with; she often had all three of us boys causing trouble at the same time.  Lord knows how often we would get in arguments in the house.  She would regularly say, “Get out of the house and don't come back until dinner time.”  If we weren't home by dinner, we would be in a heap of trouble. (Dad would be home by then and didn't tolerate excuses.) Mom had six kids, all hard headed and getting into one thing or another all the time. (I have a handful with just two.)


Though Dad was around most of the time, there were times when he wasn't. The Korean War comes to mind (only five kids then, with Marsan being a newborn).   At other times Dad was on TDY (Temporary Duty) and later, in and out of the hospital.  Mom handled it very well.  I think all six of us turned out quite well.  We all are loving, kind people with pride in our heritage.  None of us expect others to be our keepers, assuming our successes and failures are our own doing.  Good job, Mom!


In later years I would go home to visit Mom and Dad for the weekend.  It was nothing but pleasure for me to be with them, particularly when Marsan was around to make me a sandwich.


Toward Mom's end I noticed she was starting to falter and I had a feeling that she might not be with us much longer.  Because of this, I spent more time with her than normal and let her know how much I truly did love her, telling her this without any teasing.  Okay, maybe a little, but she liked it.


Mom passed away 10 November 1980.  I prayed a lot for her before she died which was the first time I prayed in many a year.  Mom's death was one of several factors that started my very slow movement back toward God.  I know she is a saint because of the kindness and unconditional love she gave to a wild and misguided young man.


I hope the girls write about Mom because she really did rear us boys differently than the girls.  It would complete the picture of what a wonderful, wonderful person Mom was.  Also Rex and Jack may have a different perspective well worth hearing.


Mom, I miss and love you so much! I regret that neither you, nor Dad, got to meet my children.

Mick

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