The Heroines

Roberta Jean Patton

is honored with a Brick from Carolyn Conley.

July 26, 1925 - February 17, 1998

Mother was always too young. She was 16 when she graduated from high school, 17 when she started college, 17 when she married Daddy, and 18 when she had me. If I had pulled a stunt like that I would have been sent to my room until I was 30. Robert came when she was 21, and she thought she was through, but at 28 she had Deanna. Mother was thrilled at a third chance to do what she loved best-- being a mother, but for once she worried she might be too old. "What would the neighbors think?" She was glad we came out girl, boy, girl so each would be special--first child, only son and always the baby. Later we added Norm and Cindy to the family, and she loved them as much as her own.

She was 51 when I told her she was going to be a grandmother. "I'm too young to be a grandmother. I just this week decided to start wearing slacks." Mother was a bit of a prude, but she wore her slacks and threw herself into being the best grandmother she could be. Sean was the "light of her life."

At 54, without warning, she had a massive heart attack - far too young. We lost her then, but she had a taste of heaven and a face-to-face talk with her heavenly Father in which she asked to be returned and as a result, we were given 17 more years. She cherished every additional day she received.

Growing up, she was always "Mother." Robert even told his teacher that her full name was Mother Jean Patton. She told me that nothing could make her blood run cold like answering the phone to hear me say "Mommy" because that meant something bad had happened, and I needed help.

To celebrate her life, I include some favorite stories, not that they are significant, but because they speak to who she was. Mother loved to clean house. I remember her singing songs from the 30s and 40s as she swept and dusted. After we all left home, Mother and Daddy bought a much larger house with a basement besides. I called the day after they moved, and she told me she had such fun that day cleaning the whole house. "Do you realize how much more space I have? This is going to be such fun to take care of." I should have known that she was a sick woman.

Mother often took care of delivery and repair men for us so we wouldn't have to miss work. When we bought our first house, she offered to wait for the telephone installer and said she would shampoo the carpet while she waited. When he arrived, she was on her knees scrubbing the carpet and not dressed for entertaining. Looking good in public was important to her. He asked if she had worked for Mrs. Conley long. Mother didn't want to embarrass me by admitted to this stranger who she was, so she replied, "Since she was a child." He told her she must be like part of the family by now. "Almost," she answered.

When Deanna was born, Daddy was left with the cooking. One night he attempted pan-fried steak and served us charcoal briquettes instead. If we would eat the mess he had made, he promised us a good meal in a restaurant the next day after church. We went to the Continental where the menu featured fried chicken family-style. Daddy asked what that meant and was told the food was served in bowls, and we were to eat as if we were at home. It was delicious! Daddy then went to visit Mother and she asked about lunch. When he told her we had fried chicken, her eyes widened with horror. "You didn't let the children eat with their fingers in public!" she gasped. Daddy explained the waitress said to eat as if we were at home, so we did. When Mother got home, she fixed fried chicken every Sunday for years which she insisted we eat with a fork so as not to embarrass her in public again. To this day, I have trouble eating chicken without a fork.

I remember all-night sessions when I was in college. I would write research papers by hand and as fast as I could deliver a page, she typed, often until 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning. She and Robert did the same thing so I assume Deanna went through college the same way. Mother had only one semester of college herself, but she was very well-read, often sprinkling conversation with quotes from the classics. She said she enjoyed learning as she typed our papers in literature, engineering and economics. I wish she were here to type this for me.

I could go on, but I won't. Suffice it to say, most people know her as Jean or Roberta. I knew her as Mother.

Submitted by Carolyn Patton Conley

September 16, 1998 (for Roberta Jean Patton)