A mother’s love is forever. A mother’s love is free. It doesn’t matter if you’re good or bad, She’s there for whatever you need.
— Diana Ross
Mary Wheeler will get no flowers today for Mothers Day. It’s unlikely she’ll get a phone call.
She’ll probably spend the day like she does most Sundays. After church, Wheeler (not her true name) will do some work around the house and fix herself a small dinner. Like most other meals, she’ll eat it alone.
Wheeler’s son, Tony, will spend this Mothers Day like he has the last several, sitting in a north Georgia prison cell. While his mother insists Tony’s story is another of the woeful wrong place, wrong time sort, the fact remains that he was convicted of taking part in a violent robbery, one in which he carried a gun. He’s not expected to get out of prison for several more Mothers Days.
Mary Wheeler initially balked at talking about her son, telling a visitor “it’s nobody else’s business.” Finally, though, she relented after being assured neither her nor Tony’s true identity would be revealed. Conversation was awkward at first, hesitant, as Wheeler kept her guard up. Eventually, though, this mother’s heartbreak got the better of her.
“It was them boys my Baby Boy was hanging out with,” Wheeler replied when asked about her son’s crime. “I told him over and over that they were no good, but he didn’t listen to me. Tony was always a good boy; I raised him right. But he wanted to prove himself like young boys do.
“I still don’t think he got done right by the police and the judge. He hadn’t never been in trouble before, but that didn’t matter. They sent him on up there to that nasty prison.”
Tears come to Wheeler’s eyes. She takes a moment to collect herself.
“I don’t think that lawyer the state gave Baby Boy did very much to try and help him,” she continues, and there’s a hard edge to her voice. “I know people who did a lot worse than he did who are walking the streets right now. I just didn’t have the money to pay some big-shot lawyer.”
Again this mother’s emotions get the better of her, and she has to wipe away tears. I take the time to ask her if days like Mothers Day, Christmas and birthdays are particularly hard for her, and she takes a while to answer.
Finally, she let’s out a long breath and the words come in a burst.
“Every day is hard,” she says with a bitterness that is palpable, but her tone softens gradually as she continues. “I pray and pray and pray, asking God to give my Baby Boy one more chance, and every day that goes by it gets a little bit harder. Sometimes it hurts my heart so bad I can’t hardly stand it.
“I know what he did was wrong, but I also know there’s a lot of good in that boy. I just pray that all that good doesn’t get taken away up there in that jail. I pray every day that he’ll come home and start over, that he’ll get a second chance.”
Sons and daughters throughout Southwest Georgia will spend today with their mothers, showering them with gifts and thanking them for years of love, patience and wisdom. Many will take their tokens of lasting love to cemeteries, offering up silent prayers of thanks.
Mary Wheeler — and many other mothers like her — will spend the day alone in her tiny home, thinking about her Baby Boy and what went wrong in his tragic life. Instead of love and affection, she’ll deal with feelings of guilt and loneliness. It’s a sure bet she’ll shed plenty of tears ... and she’ll pray.
Always, she’ll pray.
Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at firstname.lastname@example.org.