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Berdine's Corner

Good Times With My Mom

by Kenney X. Dennard

berdine dennard
Berdine Dillard Dennard

Life Lessons from a Matriarch

The Dennard Family
Debbie, Herbert, Roy, Berdine and Kenney

This passed October marked the 6th year anniversary of my mother's death. Since October 27, 2008, each October I automatically begin the month with quite a gloomy feeling. Regardless of what’s going on around me, it seems that something just isn't right and for some reason I begin feeling depressed. This year, as that depression began to hit, I thought about the last days I spent with my mother.

During the first week of October 2008, my entire immediate family flew to Tulsa, Oklahoma. My mom had been receiving treatment from The Cancer Centers of America in Tulsa for the last several weeks. I was the last to arrive. The five of us had not been in the same room at the same time in months. I don't remember who planned it or why, but I am so glad we did it. If we had been home in Macon, we probably wouldn't have had those moments because someone was always coming or going, and there were always visitors.

I walked in around 7p.m. and was the last of the family to arrive. It warmed my heart to see my mom's eyes light up as her "Sugarfoot," (her lifetime nickname for me) walked in. At last, we were all there. We laughed and joked and enjoyed each other like we had done countless other times in Macon. Once again, it was just the five of us.

My family spent the entire next day together doing the same thing. Someone would go get food and bring it back to the hotel we were in, and we would eat together. My mother, always being direct was irritated the way we all sucked up food like vacuums and at one point looked at us and cracked angrily, "I would hate for y’all to have to fast to save me." She never lost her sense of humor.

That evening, we all ended up at the gazebo in the yard of the hotel. For some reason, I was talking to one of my cousins on the phone for most of the time my family sat around and talked. After a while, my brother came and told me my mom had wanted to talk to me one on one. I hurriedly got off the phone and rushed out there. I will never forget my mother asking me, "Why did you come out here?" Confused at the question, I answered, "Cuz Roy just told me you wanted me." She then said, "No, why did you come to Tulsa?" To that I responded, "To see you!" She then said, "You ain't acting like it!" I felt bad as I realized I had been on the phone the last hour as everyone just enjoyed being with her. As I tried to explain what was going on and why I was gossiping on the phone, my mom looked at me under her glasses and interrupted with, "You know we don't have much longer." I said, "Ma, don't say that." She, then, went on to ask me about my future and what did I see myself doing in the years to come." I didn't realize I was having the last real conversation I would have with my mother.

That night, I went to the computer room to play around on the internet. After a while, I felt a tap on my shoulder. When I looked up, there was my mom standing over me. We had been wheeling her around in the wheelchair all day, yet she had walked down the hall by herself to me. It surprised me. I said, "Mama I didn't know you could walk." She shook her head, yes and then started rubbing my back. She said, "Boy, we have had some good times, haven't we." For the years since my mom’s death, I have thought about that moment and regretted that I didn't reminisce with her. Instead I cut her off and said, "Ma don't talk like that! We’re gonna have a lot more good times!" She had come to terms with her death right around the corner. That whole family visit she was trying to prepare us. I don't know about the rest of the family, but I wasn’t trying to hear that. I wasn't ready.

Since then, I have thought about some of those good times she must have been referring to. My family truly did have good times. We were always close knit. From the time I was a little boy, we used to take family road trips to Buffalo, NY, and other places in the summers. Once, we were stranded on the interstate in Cleveland on the way back together. Of course, that wasn’t a good time at the moment, but as years passed, we laughed about that moment and cherished the way we came together and prayed under my mom's leadership in that car as my dad went to get help. I have personally driven my parents from Macon to NYC numerous times. I cherish those 14-hour road trips to and from the big city and the conversations we had as well as the good times in NY.

All five of us used to come together to watch different sports events such as Knicks/Bulls basketball in the 90's or the Mike Tyson/ Evander Holyfield fights. There was always a divide, and we would root against each other and each others' teams or fighters. We've had hundreds of Sunday dinners in the dining room with the good China with our extended family and friends at times, and sometimes just the five of us. Christmas Eve was always a joy in the Dennard family household as we would play games like Taboo and Scattagories with friends and relatives while my mom and sister cooked cakes and pies and served deviled eggs and other hors d'oeuvres. One year, my mom bought a dartboard, and we would stay downstairs for hours talking trash and competing against one another as grown adults, sometimes with extended family.

Yes, we had some good times. At the time, I never thought of my mom passing and those good times coming to a halt. I never imagined what life would be like without her. It's almost like I'm in an entire different world.

I wish I had taken the time and reminisced with my mother. I didn't. But since she has been gone, all I can do is reminisce. I love my family today, but life now just doesn't compare. All October I have thought of my mom and what she said that day. "Boy, we had some good times!"


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