2018-06-01 / Front Page

The Star Celebrates Mimi

By Mike Maddock

One quiet morning about a week before my mom passed away— before the friends and family started strolling into to visit her at my house—she looked at me from her bed and whispered, “I’m worried about you.”

I bent down close to her and responded, “Mimi, you don’t have to worry about me. I’ll be fine. Besides, you taught me everything I know.”

She looked into my eyes and said, “I know; that’s what I’m worried about.”

That was my mom. Even under the worst possible circumstances, she made me smile.

She made everyone smile.

She was an amazing teacher and a successful businesswoman, but that won’t be her legacy. Years from now, when you, me, or anyone else thinks of Mimi, we will smile.

That is a life well led.

She was as close to an angel on this earth as humanly possible.

That’s not to say she was perfect.

She and I actually got off to a bit of a rocky start.

Mimi was pregnant with me and a month past her due date. Even then I guess I was a mama’s boy and I didn’t want to leave her. But she figured a month extra was plenty, and she decided a trip to the fair and a few rides would help the process along. Well, it did.

This woman, all of 5 feet 2 inches tall, gave birth to the longest baby on record at the time at Providence Hospital. That didn’t come without consequence because I came out with a broken collarbone and I haven’t really grown since.

A few months later, Mimi was befuzzled when I was the only baby at the pediatrician’s office losing weight. How could that be? Mimi had purchased this “great” formula that seemingly lasted forever. Just add water and go. Easy, right? Only she had read the directions incorrectly. This formula was not the mixing kind, so she had been feeding me watered-down food for a month.

Around about that same time, Mimi was driving through town with her parents and Baby Mike in a carrier— not the kind of carrier used today which has kids strapped in like some kind of astronaut in a space shuttle—but the kind that just sat on those pleather bench seats where the only restraint was an adult’s good grip. Turns out nobody had a grip on me when we took a hard right off Gervais. The carrier and I went sliding across the pleather, right through the back passenger side door, which had apparently not been shut well, and into the street. Thankfully, I came away without a scratch, but I think Mimi had nightmares about that one until the day she died.

My kids sometimes like to refer to me as the miracle baby because I somehow managed to survive my childhood. The real miracle was having Mimi for a mother… even if she put me on a tilt-a-whirl to get me out, starved me a little bit, and sent me careening out of her parents’ Buick.

Obviously, Mimi was not the typical mom.

She had movie-star good looks and never left the house without a full coat of make-up, but she still managed to do things like teach me how to catch a ground ball. Of course, it wasn’t on purpose. She was trying to play a simple game of catch, but when she threw a baseball, her long nails would rake the leather and send the ball right into the dirt every time. Don’t laugh; she turned me into a pretty good infielder.

She was the only mom I knew who could jump off a diving board or swim in the ocean without getting her hair wet. She had this sort of patented frog-like technique. I finally asked her one-day why she swam like that and she said, “This hair takes entirely too much effort to fix every time I want to go for a swim.” I didn’t care. She was in the water with me.

Despite her looks and her 62-inch stature, Mimi was truly a steel magnolia.

She taught in inner city Atlanta in the early ’70s where she was threatened with scissors and had to go face … to chest… with the toughest kid in school.

When I was a baby and had a fever, she drove me through a snowstorm in Atlanta to the emergency room only to find it too crowded. She drove me back home, threw me in an ice bath, and took care of the fever herself.

She was stalked by a serial killer in the mid- 70s. A guy named Jack Trawick. Mimi carpooled with his mother and became his first target to harass. Thankfully, harass was all he did to Mimi. Others were not so fortunate.

When her marriage failed, Mimi moved me and our dog, JJ, from Birmingham back to Columbia with little more than a suitcase and some patio furniture.

She raised a teenage boy by herself, never raising her voice or getting mad. My mom gave me a 12 a.m. curfew back then. Unless I could find a phone, I was always home by 11:59, not because I was scared she would punish me but because I did not want her to worry.

After all that, Mimi showed how tough she really was these last few weeks.

On May 14, after her third straight procedure, the doctor told her she had Stage 4 pancreatic cancer and she had three to four months to live, at best.

Mimi didn’t blink. She never changed expression and never shed a tear. I, on the other hand, lost it. I was shaking and crying.

Mimi looked at me and said, “Man up. We’re not going to do that. We’re not going to feel sorry for ourselves and we’re not asking for sympathy. I want nothing but happy thoughts and good news around me.”

And that’s what we did. She joked with every visitor who came to our house.

She told her long time friend, Ken Richardson, she still needed him to leave his inheritance to her.

I would like to share what she said to her best friends, Betsy Goff and Dianne Light, but it requires a bit of censoring. Let’s just say after Betsy and Dianne gave her a tiara and a couple of feather boas, Mimi said something about “blowing something out” and having a giant party.

She greeted her cousin Al with a huge grin and “AAAAAAAALLLLLLLL!”

People were at my house to make her feel better, but in the end, Mimi did what she always did…she made them feel better.

I came home to work with my mother at The Star 15 years ago. When I would tell people who didn’t know Mimi I worked with her, they would often smirk and give me a sarcastic, “Well that must be tough.” But when I told the people who knew Mimi, they almost always said, “Your mom is so great; I bet that’s a blast.”

And it was a blast. The tough part will be working without her.

Raising three kids and running a newspaper in this day and age can be pretty stressful, but no matter what kind of mood I was in, no matter how bad I thought things were, and no matter what the latest emergency was, Mimi brought me peace.

She always entered the office with a smile, checked on everyone before she did anything, and then came upstairs for a chat.

I could be in the middle of a phone call, buried in page layout, or rummaging through files to find a document for an important client. None of that mattered. Mimi plopped down in the chair in my office and waited patiently (most of the time) for our talks.

Sometimes I tried to fight her off…Mimi, I’m kind of busy. Mimi, it’s deadline day…lots to do.

Nope, she wasn’t going anywhere until we had our morning chat. Looking back on it now, I am so grateful for her persistence because, ironically, after I got over myself, took a deep breath, and realized work could wait; I almost always ended up being the one rambling away in our conversations. Funny how that worked.

She always talked to me. Whether I was sitting in a diaper on that apartment porch in Birmingham; guarding the steaks on the grill from my dog JJ at our house in Irondale; sitting on the patio furniture in the living room of our apartment when we moved back to Columbia; talking on the phone when I was in college or in Salt Lake or Greenville; fending her off at The Star; or beside her bed at my house after the diagnosis of this terrible illness; we talked until she could talk no more.

I will miss her silly sun bonnets, her constant need to show me pictures and videos of her dog, Keeta, her mysterious computer crashes, her ability to drive taking only right turns, her dainty way of texting and scrolling through her phone, her standing in front of doors until I opened them for her, her perpetual optimism, and the fact I’m pretty sure my wife, Tammie, married me for my mom.

Mimi was a bright shining light wherever she went. She attacked the world with humor and, most importantly, love. She loved her friends. She loved The Star and everyone that was a part of it. She loved her dogs. She loved her family.

And she loved me.

For that, I am eternally grateful.

To Mimi

By Ashley Maddock

I know that you’ve taught the angels how to salsa dance, that you’ve sprinted through sunflower fields without breaking a sweat, and that God has already crowned you Heaven’s Queen, but we’ll miss you here Mimi.

We’ll miss the way you could turn an old watch and some toilet paper rolls into a masterpiece. We’ll miss the sound of your tiny feet scuttling off to another adventure, the way your laugh could bring light to a room, and how you saw a person’s soul before you even shook their hand.

So Mimi when the morning sky wears your shade of lipstick, when the firmament’s fairies sculpt puppy- shaped clouds, or when Dr. Phil makes an appearance on the tv guide we’ll know that you’re smiling at us from a balcony in paradise and waiting for us to come home.

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