The Teacher

“Mama wasn’t much for makin’ a fuss over herself. She was more into doin’ things for others. And the biggest thing she ever done for me was findin’ the guts to leave. It ain’t worth gettin’ into, but things weren’t goin’ good back in Oakman. And a lotta women woulda sat there and explained things away while they lived their lives the best they could, but Mama was brave enough to put her foot down.

“Wasn’t til I went off to play ball that I realized just how much she done gave up. She’d lived her whole life in Oakman. And once I went off to college, she was all alone. Ain’t none of her friends ever moved here or even come to visit. A few of ‘em even stopped callin’ after the move. For her, leaving Oakman was like leavin’ everything.

“She knew all that, though. Knew it when she begged me to take the scholarship, too. I woulda just as soon stayed here and found me a job and continued to look after her. But she done talked me into leavin’ and playin’ ball, despite how much lonelier it musta made her.

“After I blew my knee out, Coach asked me to join his staff. Mama said I’d be a fool not to do it. She didn’t want me comin’ back to Ardmore just to keep her company. She wanted me to live my life the way she lived hers – for me.

“It was this time last year when we found out about the cancer, and I came back right on the spot. And boy did she ever raise Cain about it.”

Cal paused to let the quiet laughter run its course.

“ ’Cause even though she lived her entire life for me, she fought tooth and nail to keep me from ever livin’ even just a part of mine for her. Once I finally did, though, she never stopped thankin’ me for it. Right up to the end. Just before she dozed off that final time, she grabbed my hand harder’n she ever had, sickly and weak though she was. She looked me square in the eye… and she said…”

Cal pretended to clear his throat, then looked down and rubbed his brow before refocusing on the mourners and steadying himself with the help of the podium.

“She said, ‘Cal, this past year your love’s been the best gift anyone ever gave me.’

“And I ain’t one to doubt my mama’s dyin’ words, but the way I see it, she’s the one who gave her own self that gift. ‘Cause it was her who taught me about love. And she did it without so much as ever utterin’ a single word.

“I love you, Mama. May God bless your sweet soul.”

Lauren sat in the back pew, unable, unwilling even, to stop the steady stream of tears. Only they weren’t for the woman she’d never met.

They were for the love she never knew.

Image courtesy of kdunham via Creative Commons

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About john cave osborne

John Cave Osborne is a writer whose work has appeared on such sites as DisneyBaby, Babble, YahooShine, TLC and the Huffington Post. He was also referenced by Jezebel one time, but he’s pretty sure they were making fun of him. He and his wife, Caroline, live with their five children and spastic dog in Knoxville, TN. Nothing annoys him more than joke-heavy bios written in the third person, with the possible exception of Corey Feldman.

  • Kristin

    I love this — it’s beautiful.  The last couple of lines gave me a little chill.  Keep going!!

    • John Cave Osborne

      @Kristin — thank you! i’m just messing around with a little something. i submitted an entry to NPR’s 3 minute fiction and i’m kinda filling in some of the blanks. btw… you piqued my interest the other day when you commented that you were grading papers. i wonder what you teach?

  • BethLowe

    I really enjoyed this.  Very touching.

    • John Cave Osborne

      beth, i’m so glad. thanks for saying so. i love Cal. he’s so simple. so earnest.

  • R_Mattocks

    Very nice piece. You have a gift for authentic dialogue. 

    • John Cave Osborne

      thanks, biggs. i appreciate that.

  • muskrat

    Is this story set in Alabama?  Both of those cities are there.  Does Cal coach under the Bear?  If so, this is clearly the best story ever written. 

    • John Cave Osborne

      it is, indeed, set in AL, my friend. but no on the bear. i’m going w/ poor, rural and tiny towns in AL for this one. i’ve spent some time in Ardmore. used to always drive through it on my way from Nashville to Huntsville and i was always taken by it’s simplicity. i used to stop at this donut shop and pick up pastries for the commission-horny brokers i’d soon call on, and there was this one gal w/ red hair who always called me “baby.” nothing new in the south, but just the way she’d say it…i dunno. probably the reason why i always went back to that tiny shop was her and her regionalism that captivated me. i’ve been all over the country. the world, even. and while i’m a big fan of all cultures, there’s just somethin’ about the south, brother. no?

  • Henry Elliss

    You have some awesome writing skills, John. I had tears in my eyes just reading this…

    • John Cave Osborne

      henry, what an incredible nice thing to say. thank you! i’m glad it meant something to you.

  • JC Little

    Nicely done. I need tissues now.

    • John Cave Osborne

      thanks, girl. i appreciate you stopping by, not to mention tweeting it!

  • Lagean Ellis

    Thanks to twitter, I found this. (You can thank @LittleAnimation)

    You are one talented writer. You drew me in. You made me connect with the story and characters, which wasn’t hard. I’m a single parent who’s living her life for her Son and all I do, ever have done, and ever will do, is for HIM. I know that need to hold on but having to let them go so they can grow, learn and surpass all you ever had or have done yourself. But, in the end, they’re all you really need beside you, holding your hand and LOVING YOU.

    You know that I am in tears without me having to tell you, right?!

    By the way, I am also from the South (Arkansas) and a redhead, Baby! 

    Have we met? Lol!

    • John Cave Osborne

      thank you! love anyone from the South. didn’t catch the redhead part, though. what am i missing — or are you just proudly announcing you’re a red head from the fine state of Arkansas? b/c if so, that works for me, girl. until y’all play Tennessee, that is. thanks, again, for the kind words. and keep up that good fight. i love me some single moms. to prove it, i married one.

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