Mattie Boykin and her family were interviewed by Dale Bell.
I feel fine. I don't know why (people are moving me around). I guess it gives them more chance to keep me; I don't know. I'd rather get in one place and stay.
Milton (Matty's son): Well, I guess it all started when one of my sisters was keeping her. And that didn't work at all. And then other people tried to keep her, and it wasn't working for one reason or another, and basically, it just boiled down to us three. We were against putting her in a home. And then the best way we thought was, we'll rotate. But then, well, Larry had her for a year. And that was a lot on him. It started out with 6 of us, and then boiled down to us three.
Gladys: Well, we basically all started when Mama was progressing much better in the hospital, and starting the rehabilitation, and they were saying, "She needs to go in a home," that's basically when we all started getting together, saying, no, she will not go in a home, we could give her the best care that she could ever have. So we all started then, started rotating, right after she got out of the hospital.
Larry: (This has been going on) about 5 years. She had an aneurysm in '96 and that's when it all started. And then leaving the hospital and going into rehabilitation, that's when we knew she would have to be taken care of, and that's what we're been doing ever since. Like they said, we started out with 5 or 6 of us at one time, and eventually everyone went their own ways, till it boiled down to us three. I guess mainly because people just don't want to interrupt their lives. Taking care of her is hard, and you have to rearrange your life basically.
Gladys: I made my decision from my heart. I felt that she gave me all that she had since I was growing up, and now it's my time to take care of her, and I will take care of her. I feel I owe her that. And I'll stick by her. I'll do whatever it takes. Whatever it takes to get the job done; she's first in my life. She's like a commitment of a wedding vow. Till death do us part. And she would do that for me.
Larry: And it's the same thing she would have done for us. If for some reason one of us was in an accident, and we had a spouse that didn't want to take care of us, she always let us know that she would take care of us. It's just something that we intend to do without second thoughts. And like I said, we're fortunate in that we have jobs with a little flexibility that we can do it, and that we have each other. We work around each other.
Milton: Family unity? Well, I guess the best example of it is what you see right here. I mean, we work together, depend on each other. It isn't always peaches and cream; even between us three. We'll have a fight, or a disagreement, but we all know that the one single thing we have in common is looking out for our mother, and that outweighs anything. Everything else, you know, has to be pushed aside. We won't argue in front of her. If we have a disagreement, we won't discuss it in front of her. That's the best way I can explain it.
I think it's probably a fading culture. In the African American culture, at least I know when I was growing up, almost every family on the block had a grandparent that lived with them. There was just not a thought of taking a parent or a grandparent and putting them in a home. It was just a responsibility. You knew it was something you do. I think this day and time, everybody's busy and enjoying their own lives, and you don't see as much if it. It's more of a "me, me" generation.
But you know, we were brought up that way, and it's just something we never gave a second thought to. (Mattie) never really talked about us taking care of her. She always let it be known that if something ever happened to us, that she would take care of us. She wanted us to know we could always come back home and she would take care of us. So it's something that has been a family thing, something that just carried over and until she got sick. She was always so full of life and independent -- extremely independent -- we just never thought about it. But after she got sick it became a reality. But I guess at that point it seemed just natural that we would take care of her.
Like I said, they tried to get us to put her in a home, but we wanted to take care of her. Yeah, yeah, there's some disruption to your life. I'm self-employed; I have a small business, so I have some flexibility. But a lot of times I might have to change my schedule, and I always have customers I can call and let them know and they're very cooperative about it. And I have daughters that help me with her. It gets hard at times. But if you determine that it's something you want to do, like anything, you do it; you accomplish it.
Gladys: Yes, it's disruptive, and it's stressful and it's very hard. But in some way, in my heart I always find a way. At one point it was really hard and I told (my boss), I think I'm going to have to step down, so that I can take care of my mom. I'm gonna have to take a lower position, cause I'm not going to let my mama go into a home. And he said, "Let's see, there's always something that we can work out." And that's what he's been doing, he's been working it out with me. If I need to take time off, if I need to just bring my mama with me to work, that's fine with him, And so that relieves a lot of stress with my job for me. Cause I know I had to do what I had to do.
Whatever it takes, it will be done. It will be granted for her. I love her to death. She has done so much for me. And not only me, but my kids, my family. And even under stress, she was there for her family, always there. For anybody and any need. And that's honor. She honored me and I will honor her.
Mattie: I feel they've all been very nice to me, treat me nice, wait on me, and I feel good about it. Well, in a way, I'd rather just live with one, and just stay there with one, if I could, but I know that doesn't work out for the best for them, and so I'm used to going around now.
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