Guest post by Paul James McAllister
My mother, Edythe (Bergstrom) McAlllister, died in July of 1950, two months before I started first grade at St. Sabina’s grammar school in Chicago. She died from a blood clot after a gall bladder operation. I was devastated. My brother, Danny, and my dad took over the household duties. In the summertime my Aunt Margie watched me during the day while my brother and father worked.
The next four years were a sad time for me. Every time a teacher asked us to take a paper home to show our parents or asked us to have our parents sign something, or to make a card for our parents for Christmas or Easter, I was reminded of my mother’s death. The same thing happened every May when we had a procession outside for our Heavenly Mother, the Blessed Virgin. I always tried not to let anyone see me cry.
Dad remarried in May of 1954. Nora McMahon had never been married or had children. She was secretary to a Senior Vice President at Swift and Company in Chicago’s loop. She was financially independent, her boss’s ‘right hand man’ and loved her job. She gave it all up to be my stepmother. In later years, on difficult days, she would reminisce about how she could have retired with a great pension; but she never regretted her decision to become a McAllister. Neither did I.
Immediately Nora solved my biggest problem. When we moved to St. Thomas More parish I was able to introduce her to my friends as my mom. Never again would I have to give the painful explanation about my birth mother’s death. Of course I had to make adjustments. I found that, like Sgt. Joe Friday on TV, Nora wanted the facts and only the facts. I couldn’t get anything past her. She made me recut the grass when I did it wrong; correct the incorrect problems in my math and English homework; and do all my homework properly the first time, or do it over again.
Most of all, Nora loved me. She took me to the dentist that first summer. If she hadn’t I would be wearing false teeth, uppers and lowers, today. She gave me the hugs, the words of encouragement, and the behavioral corrections I needed. In return, I rewarded her with my love, and by calling her ‘mom’, a title she relished with pride. I was lucky. I had two mothers. I will always miss them and love them.
Note: Paul James McAllister is the author of Pauly’s Mother: A Story of Childhood Loss and Recovery. The story is set against a backdrop of growing up on Chicago’s south side, going to Catholic schools, and coming of age in a more innocent era.
It was a pleasure to have Paul McAllister as a guest blogger to give the honor to mothers everywhere. His book is such a stroll down memory lane as well as a compassionate view of a child struggling with life.