April 26, we celebrate the 110th birthday of my mother, who has been residing in her heavenly mansion for 26 years. My mother is the most influential woman in the life of my wife, Cindy. After Cindy’s conversion in 1978, I asked my parents, if I could bring Cindy to our home for a visit. My mother, who was born in NE Pennsylvania and schooled in all the social graces, sent Cindy a formal invitation. Mother served Cindy her first formal dinner. Cindy was raised in a trailer and not one of her step-mothers had a complete set of glasses, let alone authentic silverware and sets of China. Cindy had not been brought up to enjoy the finer things of life. She later remarked that entering our home was like entering heaven.
I was raised in a Victorian social setting. During my hippy days, I had rejected Victorianism for the counter-culture so I was not too taken aback the first time I visited Cindy’s country trailer with an Elvis album covering the hole in the screen door. I ate raw oysters out of a barrel. The men and some of the women were drinking beer. My parents never served alcohol in their home. Cindy’s last stepmother was a sweet lady who was a good southern cook. Although I did not have much in common with these panhandle Floridians, Cindy was always a fun company. Besides, despite my Victorian upbringing, my parents were never snobs but cordial towards all. By the 1970’s, the ruling and professional classes were already relaxing the formalism of Victorians. Therefore, my parents’ way of life was becoming somewhat of an anachronism. I made it a point for Cindy to spend quality time with my parents, so she could learn the waning way under which I was raised. Cindy and I married in 1983, months after the passing of my father. In our early married life, we spent most of the time traveling. We lived with my mother when not on the gospel road so Cindy had the opportunity to learn the social graces from my mother.
Cindy has always been a fast learner. Cindy not only learned all of my mother’s favorite recipes but she added a southern flair to new cooking skills. She developed an interest in China and silverware and decorating an attractive and traditional home. When we established our own home in Central Ohio, pastels were the decorating rage. When she brought home pink drapes for the windows, I nixed that for solid blues.
My mother knew how to entertain a large group of guests or family but Cindy found, as a minister’s wife, she regularly served church folks along with her family for Sunday dinners in our colonial home, not to mention the sinners she invited into our home. Cindy has often served a semi-formal dinner to up to 50 guests.
My mother regarded my father as the family spokesman in public, civic, church and academia. Yet she was perhaps more of a social conversationalist than my father who, like myself, was basically a quiet man outside of the classroom. During the ’70s women were coming into their own as spokesman so I gave Cindy free rein to preach on campus. Now she has become more of a celebrity than I. As Cindy puts it, “Brother Jed is the legend; I am the celebrity.” My mother was a reserved lady, as Northern women tend to be. My friends often remarked, “Your mother has class.” Whereas, Cindy is candid as southern women usually are. There are no secrets in the south. My tactful mother would not have considered using the blunt and coarse language which we use in preaching against sin on campus. My mother did take noted stands for righteousness in her discreet manner. One day at the height of my rebellious hippy days, she said, “Jed, you have become mothering but a glorified bum.” That private straightforward reproof did challenge me to reconsider my ways. After my return to sanity and to the ways of my upbringing, Mother’s manner for expressing her disproval was to ask questions. For instance, I took Cindy and Evangeline to South Africa, which was a dangerous place at the time. Mother repeatedly asked, “Now why are you and Cindy going to South Africa?” However, once we were on our way, Mother was supportive. Upon our return, she edited my book on the experience, “Gold in the Furnace: South Africa on Trial.” Although Mother did not have the scholarly credentials of my father, she had academic skills. She had graduated valedictorian from high school and magna cum laude from Syracuse University. Even though Cindy did not have the educational credentials of my parents, I immediately recognized Cindy’s aggressive journalistic and communication skills and her intuitive intelligence. Years ago, the chairman of the Department of Communication at the University of Minnesota said, “Brother Jed, your wife, Cindy, is the best communicator that I have ever heard.
”A disciple should surpass his mentor. Because the disciple is able to quickly learn what it may have taken his teacher years to learn. Then the disciple has the opportunity and time to build upon the foundation which his master helped him build. Jesus said that his disciples would do greater works than he. As outstanding as my mother was, in some ways Cindy has even surpassed my mother and myself which is the way it should be when teacher/student are doing their job as it should be done. So, watch out world, the fabulous Sister Cindy is just coming into her own! As for Mother, I like to think she is looking down from Heaven on her birthday approving of her children, even though she would still likely be asking some questions, “Now, Cindy, why did you say that?”