Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Snippet (Part 2 of 4)

I asked Greg what he thought of my previous post. He said, "It was disturbing, but I think it was therapeutic for you and something you needed to write. Does your Mom know you wrote this?" I answered, "A couple of months ago I asked Mom if it would be OK to write about her childhood and she said it was OK, but to be careful."

~ my disclaimer ~

Mom is one of eight children. She is the 5th child. There are seven other points of view out there in this world regarding their childhood. I respect and appreciate that each individual had different experiences and memories. I'm not comparing, contrasting, contradicting any other view. I'm sharing these stories ~ as a daughter ~ of one of the eight. Mom did not ask me to write this. It's something I want to do, as a tribute to her love as my Mom. These are my memories of what has been shared with me.

I'll take care as much as I can with a topic where care is a precious thing.


I asked Mom if Paps ever hit her. She said, "No. He never did. The kids were quiet when he came home. It was an understood rule that children were to be seen and not heard. It wasn't all bad memories...."

When it came time for eye exams, Mom heard the other children in line ahead of her reading the eye chart lines. She memorized the letters, so the doctor never realized Mom's deficiency. This prompted me to ask what Mom could see on the eye chart. She replied, "If I stand really close to it, I can barely make out the edges of the first line, there is a big letter E. That's it."

Nobody realized Mom couldn't see, because she didn't want to be different. But at the end of the third grade, when textbook prints were smaller and she was sitting at the back of the class, Mom failed. The school wanted Mom to take the grade over again.

This is the "not bad" memory Mom has, "Dad (Paps) sat me down and taught me how to play chess. I felt the shape of the pieces...learned how they moved.... Memorized where the pieces were on the board and played a game with him. After the game, Dad got up, called the school and told them, "My daughter is not stupid. I want her evaluated!" That's when they found out about my vision."

Mom was sent to a special school for visually handicapped students. She hated it. She didn't want to be different.


The picture is a painting of my Mom. Her aunt painted this when Mom was a little girl. Mom remembered sitting for the painting, but never saw it until after her aunt passed away and it was given to Mom. Rob and I were late teens by this time. Mom didn't want to look at the painting of herself, nobody did. It freaked us out. She looks so sad, those haunting eyes.

Mom hid the painting in her closet for the longest of time. One day, I went to my parents’ home to visit them; Mom told me, "I'm getting the painting framed." She continued, "This was me. A sad, hurt little girl. She needs love. She's in me, she's the little girl inside of me and the adult me is going to love her."

The painting hangs now in the formal dining room. She's sad; she's beautiful. Maybe that's what my great-aunt saw ~ the frailty of Mom, but also the spirit within.


When I was in Junior High School, I took biology for the first time. I was never interested in science. It wasn't my forte. Until one particular class ~ Our professor talked about recessive genes and the percentages of an outcome based on those genes. Eye color was a main example, how if both parents have the gene, there's a one in four chance that a child will have the recessive eye color. I don't think I was ever a better student than at that moment.

By this time in life, I understood albinism and knew it was a recessive gene. I knew my brother and I were carriers and I knew my grandfather had tried to trace the gene on both sides of the family.

I told my professor about Mom having albinism and that I wanted to do a class presentation regarding genes. I swear, the professor had such doubt in his eyes. He said, "OK, but bring pictures of your mother." The next day I was nervous. I started it with a description of albinism, the physical characteristics.

Then I asked my fellow classmates, "How many of you think I'm a product of albinism?" Not one hand was raised.

I continued, "You're all wrong. My Mom and my Uncle are albinos." As I passed the pictures of my family around, the professor corrected me ~ something I'll never forget ~ "Aleta, your Mom is NOT an albino. She is a human being with albinism."

He was fascinated with the pictures and even more so with the percentages. The theory holds that if both parents carry a recessive gene, there is a one in four chance that a child will show the gene. My grandparents had 8 children. 2 had albinism. 1/4 ratio.


Mom was the 5th child, the first child in the family with albinism. When her brother was born with albinism, Mom heard someone whisper, "He's like Gay (Mom's name)." Mom got up and danced around and was smiling, singing, "He's like me!" Then Mom heard people say, "Poor thing. Poor Gay. She's happy that someone is like her. Isn't that sad." Even as a young girl, Mom could hear the pity and could translate it into, "being like me is a sad thing."


I would like to write more about Mom's childhood, but I think what I've shared thus far has given you a glimpse into her past. She was different. Children were cruel to her.... a mother who physically abused her.... a society that didn't understand her..... wanting only to be like everyone else.

To me, she is like everyone else, only better.

The next snippets to come will focus on Mom's college life and how she met my Dad.

To read, Snippet Part 1 of 4, click here

To read, Snippet Part 3 of 4, click here

To read, Snippet Part 4 of 4, click here

To read Interview with Mom, click here


Hillbilly Duhn said...

I think that was cool of the teacher to correct you. To point out to you that it wasn't a disease, but a condition and that she was still human.

I'm facinated by this. Truly. You have my undivided attention.

*Akilah Sakai* said...

"Aleta, your Mom is NOT an albino. She is a human being with albinism." -----

Good job, professor!

Your snippets are a good learning lesson to treat people as you want to be treated. Also about unconditional love.

Dr. Wifey said...

i am really enjoying the snippets from your mom's life. thanks for sharing!

Tammie said...

i love it when you write about your mom. im finding her life so fascinating.

Darlene said...

This is a fascinating story about your mom's life. You are a great writer. I can't wait to read more.♥

Nicki and Mathis said...

Thank you for writing these posts. I know they must have been difficult to write, but I appreciate hearing your mom's story. She had to overcome so much!!

♥ bfs~"Mimi" ♥ said...

Wonderful, Aleta. Simply wonderful!!!

Also, thank you for your precious visit today.

raino said...

what a beautifully written tribute to your mom aleta. this is very nice. although i agree with your husband that it is disturbing, it's only disturbing to those of us who have not experienced such a childhood and we should be eternally grateful for that. your mom is one tough cookie. thanks for being so brave and writing this.

Lilly said...

Wow Aleta another great post. I guess Greg may find it disturbing because what he reads about your Mom as a girl may be so far removed from the woman she is now. It is hard to imagine someone in that horrible place I guess.

But I think its important to document our stories because that is how we learn and get inspired. Life is messy sometimes. Thats reality.

And I agree that it is your and your mother's story and others may have different views.

Well I love the painting of that gorgeous little girl. I see a look of quiet determination and stubborness in her face though as opposed to fear. Just precious.

Your Mom haning it up like that was a very defining moment for her I bet. I have heard that before that you should keep a picture of you as a child nearby - sometimes we have to be the ones to care for the child within us if you hav had a horrible start to life or tragedy of some kind. Oh what a teacher she must be, interesting career choice isnt it given her own childhood.

The professor you had sounds a wonderful person. Yes we are all human beings no matter what our external covering is. All different and unique. But very hard to accpet for large chunks of our life where we just want to fit in and be 'normal'.

Your mother is special and it makes me think how she tried to please others by never wanting to let them know what she was going through. Her Dad may have done her a power of good giving her the chess tuition.

What a role model she is. Aleta, one day I hope you put all this together in a story of her life. Even if you have to make it fictional to protect the family ties. Its a great story of courage. We all need to hear those to put our lives in perspective.

Bravo to you for loving her so much you would do this.

Ugich Konitari said...


I think you are doing a huge service to society by writing these posts. So many of us need to learn these things. Life can be so cruel for a child, and it defines the future life of the child, if we dont take care. Your Mom was so lucky her father took matters in hand regarding her education. I also admire you for doing the gene project in class, and explaining things. Like Lilly suggests, I think all this should be documented in a book and published.... My best wishes to you, your Mom and both families...

DysFUNctional Mom said...

This is so sad, and also fascinating. The painting is beautiful, but haunting.