Tribute to Mom By her loving son, Larry on February 18, 2002
My heroes have always been grandmas. You know, grandmas weren?t born grandmas. they had to earn that title……come to think of it, there were a few years between age twenty-three and forty-eight that Orpha Briggs played a starring role in the drama called motherhood. Born Orpha Jones in 1917, my mother studied under one of the grand old ladies in the business, Lottie Agnes Jones, matriarch to a family of sixteen urchins, thirteen of whom miraculously endured the hazards of farm life and the great depression to reach some semblance of adulthood.
Life on the farm in the twenties and thirties in rural Oklahoma was no walk in the park, but rather a saga of human resourcefulness and courage not to be duplicated in today?s take-it-for-granted family structure. Lottie Jones was a rare individual, rare because she could still function as a center of strength for a house full of lively and many times unruly offspring, after having suffered the pain of childbirth sixteen times. Her unwavering faith in God saw her stubborn but remarkable husband Deck converted after his livestock began dropping like flies following her long travail. She never took medicine and trusted God for every illness and injury to her many charges.
To this great union of Deck and Lottie Jones , four future Pentecostal ministers were born, and none of the thirteen children forgot their teachings. Orpha Jones made good use of Lottie?s and Deck?s examples, becoming in her own right the best momma to be born in the twentieth century.
During World War II, Mom labored over the ironing board in the wee hours of the mornings, transforming Dad?s ordinary khakis into award winning uniforms that would bring him countless best-dressed soldier citations. She fixed sweet potatoes so many different ways that Dad forgot they were the only food in the house until the meager army pay arrived at month?s end. She remained true to Dad during his long overseas tour of duty, and kept clean diapers and clothes on Butch and me during the seemingly unending wait for the war to end.
Our clothes were never fancy, and seldom plentiful, but always clean. My ears were always large, but never dirty for very long at a time. Mom knew every home remedy in the book and some that weren?t. She had a voice loud and clear, and I still remember her standing on the back porch, calling out at the end of a summer?s day to her wandering sons forty acres away.
Mom owned one of the finest plastic belt collections around during the nineteen-fifties, and she could wield one with artistry known to few. This was before child abuse became fashionable. We thought all parents loved their children in this manner. I smoked my first and last cigarette butt at age seven, as the thirty-nine stripes rule came back into effect.
Orpha Briggs could thread a needle from ten paces and could remove a splinter with the skill of a surgeon, after spending hours working a garden growing in poor soil. She would get dad off to work at 6:30 a.m., start the lawn mower at 7:00, and knock rudely on our window at 7:30 for the shift change. Of course, the gravy and biscuits were on the oven door every morning, some of the best food known to mankind.
Mom found time to teach the teen-age girls? Sunday School class, and sing in the ladies? quartet, all the while performing the duties of Ladies Auxiliary president. She gave up her life of luxury every Thursday to oversee the fried pie marathon at the old frame church at First and Birch Streets. And let?s not forget the dollar-a- dozen ironing business that helped Dad?s salary cover the daily expenses. ..white shirts, that is, with heavy starch, and that?s while she babysat from two to four neighborhood children.
Mom?s love for us kids always shone through the stern discipline, and she was a rock-solid pillar of strength. Her prayers echoed through the house nightly, making us ornery kids very uncomfortable after a day of misdeeds.
Orpha Briggs had what amounts to X-ray vision, as she could locate any lost object in the household in a matter of minutes. This skill used to infuriate the rest of us, as we turned the house upside down to no avail.
Mom always sang while she worked, with a pure sweet voice that she possessed until her passing. During the early years, she sang us to sleep every night, whether we deserved it or not.
It was no accident that Orpha Briggs had the most beautiful lawn in town, because her flowers and trees never went begging for attention. She knew the secret for getting the most from every variety of plants, and had dozens of varieties in bloom at any one time. She poured her own concrete for flowerbeds, and owned a huge rock collection that she brought home from our annual trips to Colorado, Arkansas, Missouri and points in between.
Orpha Briggs was the ultimate mother…..caring, daring, dedicated, thoughtful, selfless, talented, loving and kind. She never complained, even though the ravages of disease made sleepless nights a common thing. She continued to fight the good fight, and she definitely kept the faith. I feel like the luckiest man alive to be able to call her Mom, and I?ll love her forever.