Remembering Days of Wine and Roses: A Mother's Atypical Journey

by Essie Nail

If you are looking to read a typical Atlanta Mother’s Day tribute, stop here. Read on however for a venture into the up and down world of this mother. She led a life strong and pungent like wine, yet sweet and fragrant like a delicate rose.

“Days of Wine and Roses” the poem or “Vita Summa Brevis” penned by English writer Ernest Dowson (1867-1900), is also the subject of a 1962 film with the same name. In the film, an alcoholic falls in love with and marries a young woman, who he quite methodically addicts to alcohol so they can share his “passion” together. This mother’s journey runs somewhat along parallel lines.

As with many couples who bring out the worst in each other, this mother and her lover, protagonist husband took one another on a quite a trip during the early Fifties. She would begin this part of her journey post high school graduation in Alabama.

After having a child, she enlisted in the U. S. Army. It was not long before she ran into and married an old high school flame. Flame being the operative word for it was a relationship filled with fire, passion, and drinking. Neither knew how to stop the downward spiral. Although the couple later divorced, this mother’s lifestyle changed little except maybe to get worse. In spite of the demons she must have been fighting, she continually wrote to her child, provided clothing, money, and kept in touch by phone. After an Honorable Discharge from the Military, she opted to travel with her last residence being here in Metro Atlanta. Unfortunately, during the ensuing years, she would have several near death episodes due to her addiction.

No, this is not the typical Atlanta Mother’s Day tribute. There were feelings of hopelessness, shame, sadness, and even self-pity at least on the part of her child. Little did the child know that her mother’s secret and volatile lifestyle would ultimately provide an opportunity for growth for family and friends. Although this mother’s journey is not typical, it is universal. Her behavior was a family secret as with many families. This secret was eventually exposed but thankfully rendered impotent.

After many years of the downside of wine and roses, this mother’s mental and emotional fog started to lift. The past slowly faded. Her now adult child and other family embraced and supported her new found sobriety. It is then that she became the mother that is celebrated on Mother’s Day here in Atlanta. Working to improve the community, doing taxes, volunteering in church, being a truly outstanding grandmother, and a caregiver to her own mother, she successfully changed direction.

Her Eulogist (who is her nephew) recently shared his poignant message: “She got it right”. This is a tribute to Fannie Nail Westfield (December 31, 1927 – March 17, 2011). Fannie was my mother.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mama.

Remembering Days of Wine and Roses: A Mother's Atypical Journey by Essie Nail

© Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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