Happy Mother’s Day

My mother, Flo Ella Cannon Davis, and Brendan Michael Jones, her great grandson

Mother’s Day has never been a favorite holiday of mine. There are many reasons, but the main one is that I felt I could never please my biological mother with any gift. She always found a way to make me (and others) know that she did not like it or that I did not do my best. That was just my mother.

My sister in Atlanta will verify this without blinking an eye. I remember one Mother’s Day when Paula searched the entire Atlanta area to find a gown that was made of a particular material that Mother had come to love. Paula drove to Rich’s to buy two of them and was so proud of her find. When Mother unwrapped the beautiful gift box, she threw it down on the floor, and said, “That is NOT what I wanted. I thought you knew the kind of material I have to have.” I saw my sister’s face crumble and then watched as she regained her composure to get through the day. She whispered to me, “That’s the last gown I will ever buy.”

That was just our mother’s way about most gift giving. Some would tell you that she was a spoiled brat from the time she was a child. She was my grandfather’s favorite of his three girls. Add to that the fact that she was ill as a youngster and later diagnosed with childhood epilepsy, a disease about which little was known at the time. She had seizures, and from what we were told, the entire household came to a screeching halt when one presented. She did not have to do the same work as the other two girls and she got away with murder, according to one sister. “Daddy simply would not discipline Flo Ella like he did us,” my aunt said years later.

My mother grew up, was very lovely to look at, and began liking a handsome young man in the same third grade class that she attended. They were sweethearts from then until high school graduation, were married, and I was born on their third wedding anniversary. Alas, my good looking and very personable young dad did not know that I had been born for he was far around the world in the midst of World War II. We did not even know he had learned I had been born until two years after he was killed in action. My mother was never the same after getting that terse yellow telegram in the middle of the night. He died July 2, 1943, but it was several days before the missive arrived by taxicab to our suburban home. The words, “We regret to inform you …” changed our lives.

Two years later, a young soldier came to my grandparents’ farm house in the Atlanta area and told my mother of the firsthand experience of seeing my dad blown to bits by Japanese artillery that had supposedly been dismantled and cleared from New Georgia Island. They had a ceremonial burial at sea for those killed whose bodies could not be identified. Again, my mother was rendered stricken. She was not required to do anything. My gracious aunts lived there in the home with my Mama Cole and Papa Cole and took care of me. I lacked for nothing except, perhaps, for a mother’s love and affection.

I was past 40 years of age before I realized that my mother probably really did not hate me, even though I had thought so for years. My paternal grandmother explained that I was just so much like Bob, my handsome dad, and that even my actions, my writing and singing little jingles, the way I rolled my eyes, everything about me, was him made over, and that it pained my mom to see me. How was I to know? I never saw him and never knew about his cute little ways or how much people loved him.

I have had a happy life and seen and done many things. My mother eventually married again and had a decent life for the most part, but deep down in her soul, she never loved anyone again like she loved Bob, her sweetheart. Nothing ever measured up in her eyes.

But I want to end on a positive note and write something I have never voiced before. Thank you, Mother, for helping to make me tough and durable, and able to get through this world when pain, illness, disappointment and even death came knocking. I have a part of your strength and backbone, and it has helped to make me strong, resilient, and a survivor of sorts. Thank God I had the love of Mama Cole and Aunt Anna and Aunt Minnie to soften up the edges and add the finishing touches. They taught me to be happy and to live life to the fullest. God had a plan for my life and I learned to dwell on Him. Between you all, I have had a good balance. So thank you from the bottom of my heart. Have a happy Mother’s Day in heaven.


Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at (409) 781-8788 or at brendacannonhenley [at] yahoo [dot] com.