About My Mom
My Mom's name is Ruth Katherine Tilley (Richardson
is her maiden name). Everyone calls her Kitty, like since she was
a kid. Is it a cat thing? I'm not sure, and to be honest, I've
never asked. I know she used to wear cats eye glasses as a teen.
Of all of my direct family (me, my brother and my parents) she is the most
stable. Of course when I say stable I mean that she exhibited the
least amount of characteristics that would lead people to think she was
Life has been pretty tough on her. Her father
was in the Army, but left before she was born. He was a prison warden
so they moved around a lot. Something can be said for the case that
like personalities attract. My father is a mobile minded person,
so is mom . . . there you go. Shortly after my brother was born in
1971, she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, a degenerative nervous
system disease of which there is no cure. It only gets worse.
I have no memories of her being able to walk unassisted. When I was
young, she could get around with the aid of a walker, but as time progressed,
she had degenerated to a wheelchair. If there was ever a definition
of a strong woman, that would be my mom. Many of the traits I have,
I get from my mom. I tend to identify more with her than my dad.
I know her parents love her but I always got the
feeling they were dissapointed with her. After she got MS, they were
concerned about her health. That is cool, but their problem was that
they treated her like an invalid. This caused her to rebel against
them, and there is a definable rift between them, but they still love each
My mom takes no shit from anyone. She's a
Here are a couple of examples:
When she was younger, she played powder puff football.
She had John Madden (of FOX TV) as her Economics teacher at Allen Hancock
Community College. he dated a DJ, and I was given her 45's (records
that is). She could roller-skate like a mo fo. She got Roy
Orbisons autograph when he was considered sexy.
When my mom and dad got married my dad's Commanding Officer gave her a
frying pan. She thanked him and told him that it would be much more
useful than the rolling pin she expected to bang off of his head.
Became known for her "Tacky Tilley" letters, generally aimed at people
who pissed her off. In these little notes, she pulled no punches
and generally, those people that got them, changed their tune.
She let me and my brother pop "wheelchair wheelies" with her in it.
She laughed her ass off every time one of our pets was stupid enough to
let its tail get under the wheels of her chair.
She knows how to handle firearms. Is a crack shot with a 12 gauge
shotgun fired from her chair. Dad actually made a holster for it.
She is also pretty good with throwing stars.
She was and is a homemaker. There was a time
when I used to believe that she had regrets about not doing something "more
important", but time lets you look back and take stock. Let me tell
you, there is no harder fucking job than being a homemaker, especially
with the little shit heads that my brother and I were. She had to
be a paramedic, especially during those times when I walked into the living
room with a blood trail. She had to deal with two boys and a father
who acted like one . . . wrestling that broke furniture, food fights at
the dinner table, convincing the neighbors not to sue us (she could have
been a lwayer). I'm ashamed to admit it, but there were many times
when David and I took advantage of the fact that she was in a wheelchair.
We actually taunted her when she couldn't catch us after we mouthed off
or got in trouble.
But Doug help you if she caught you.
She has this Ninja-like skill where she can find
the most sensitive part of your body, grab hold of it with her fingernails,
subdue you and then magically produce a wooden object to beat you with.
Sometimes it would be a ruler or a yardstick, most often it was a spoon,
but either way, she'd give you a nice little whack on the ass or your fore-arm,
and you went from smart mouth, to tears. This might be considered
child abuse today, but that's a load of shit. I never got a bruise,
I never got a broken bone, and in perspective, it wasn't all that painful,
it just got its point across.
She has a great and warped sense of humor.
She'll laugh at anything. I'm sure that is partially a coping mechanism,
but they was always laughter in our house. Most people don't understand
that. ALl they saw was the down side of everything. When we
went to North Carolina during my dad's "I want to go back home" phase,
the relatives just didn't get it. They felt awkward around her, they
felt the cripple jokes were "just wrong", even when they came from my moms
mouth. Plus that goddamned concept of southern hospitality, which
actually means, don't say anything bad, don't rock the boat, don't be controversial.
Oh and if you are a woman JUST SHUT YOUR FUCKING MOUTH! I hate the
south, and I know my mom hated it, but she loves my dad and she dealt with
Now I know things have been tough for her.
I know that under the joking and the sincere smile, she hurts. Physically,
I know she hurts. She can't walk, she can't got to the bathroom normally,
she is constantly fighting infection. She can't do the normal things
that we take for granted. I know this. She knows I know this.
I know that the constant moving around, the continual leaving behind of
belongings and memories hurts her. I can see it sometimes.
But I know she loves my brother and me. I know she still loves my
dad. It doesn't need to be said, it's understood. She has sucked
down the pain because the gain is greater than the pain.
Some nuggets of what I've taken from my mom:
To My Twisted Side of the World
I can sew. Not well, but I can sew. She taught me.
"If you don't have anything nice to say, make sure they are out of the
Pain can be overcome.
All pets must have broken tails.
A wheelchair is heavy as hell when you are seven years old.
Never be ashamed of anything you do.
"Do you smell something burning?"
You think you have it hard! Try having a permanent fucking catheter!
I have better penmanship that my mother.
I fear my father, but he fears my mom.
"You boys knock that off, or I'll call your father!"
"How the hell did you break your (insert bone here)?"