"Sophie, why don't you leave him?" begged relatives, friends and neighbors. "He'll never be anything but a drunken bum."
Sophie was my mother. The drunken bum was my dad. To us, their children, they will always be "ma and pa".
To the well meaning pleas of worried friends, ma always had but one response. "For the children's sake". She would say, "I'll stay with him, and I am praying everyday that he will change".
Life for us could have been happy if Pa had not started drinking. He had not been a drinking man when they were married, but feeling that he had to be good mixer because of his business, he took up social drinking. In a few years he was conformed alcoholic, and by time I arrived pa had drunk up a home and a meat market or two and the family was in desperate condition.
It always seemed in those days that winter came too soon and stayed too long, and Pa could seldom be depended upon to have coal in the house for the old pot-bellied stove. Many a wintry afternoon Ma
dressed herself and some of the older children as warmly as our scarcity of clothing made possible, and with burlap bag trudged the railroad tracks back of our house to pick up the few pieces of coal,which had fallen off the coal wagons. Back in to the house, with feet numb and hands chapped and almost frozen. Ma dragged her pitiful burlap bag of coal, happy that her children would be warm for
Long after the meager supper had been eaten and the children tucked under there the shabby thin blankets. Ma would sit and wait for the stumbling footsteps, which would mean Pa had found his way home from another drunken carousal. When he was to drunk to push the door open.Ma dragged him in out of the snow on cold and put him to bed. For this there was never a word of appreciation.
It was during a great citywide revival campaign that Ma accepted Christ as her personal Saviour, and from that moment she was convinced that she had found the only thing that would ever change
her drunkard husband's life. But when she talked to him about it he laughed her to scorn and out of pure spite apparently drank more than ever. For twelve years it seemed that the devil himself took complete control of Pa.
Pa was soaked with drink as usual the night little three-year-old Minnie, choked to death in Ma's arms from whooping cough. He was barely sober enough to attend the sad little funeral a few days
latter. For a solid year Pa was literally soaked in liquor, his mind a perpetual intoxicated fog. Pa's own sisters pleaded with Ma to take the children and leave before something terrible happened. But Ma's answer never altered. "I have prayed that John's life will be changed." She would say, ` and God will answer. I ` m positive of it.'
One snowy evening late that November Pa reeled home earlier than usual. Ma is helping in the home of a sick neighbor. Little Johnny,only five years old, was home with some of the older children; Pa
very rarely bothered with any of us youngsters, but if he had a favorite it was his little namesake, Johnny. Johnny met him at the door that night with some excited childish prattle about a revival meeting at the Community Hall across the tracks.
"Will you go and take me, ` too, Pa? Will you?' Johnny coaxed. Pa was drunk enough for anything at the moment.
"Sure, Johnny, let's go, "he answered. Pleased, Johnny pinned his own little coat together with a safety pin and pulled a red tassel cap down low on his head. Taking Pa's hand, he and Pa trudged through the snow, past the tumbledown shacks of the neighborhood, and across the tracks where the homes were much nicer. Pa's steps were unsteady and little Johnny half supported him as they made their way over the slippery sidewalks.
As they neared the small community hall where the gospel services were being held, Pa heard the worshippers singing, `Whiter than snow,
yes, whither than snow, Lord, wash me and I shall be whiter than snow,' Only then did it dawn on him that his clothes were unkempt, he was unshaven and very drunk.
"Johnny, "he said, glancing down at the eager boy at his side, "Johnny let's go home and tomorrow night I'll get all cleaned up and we'll come back Tomorrow night, Johnny.''
Johnny happy smile disappeared and he was very near tears.