Skip to main content

Bessie

May 2024
1min read

Well, it was obvious that I was the one who should quit my job, even though Sadie was a mama’s child. We sat down and thought it through, financially. If Sadie continued to work until 1960, she would get a hundred and fifty dollars a month from her pension with the New York City Board of Education. She said, “That would be fifty dollars for Mama, fifty dollars for you, and fifty dollars for me.” She was going to just split it three ways. We figured that the three of us, living together, could do O.K. on one hundred and fifty a month. And Mama got fifteen dollars a month from Papa’s pension. Mama was so funny about that fifteen dollars. She was so proud of it you’d have thought it was fifteen million .

Mama wouldn’t have been at all surprised that Sadie and I have kept living this long. We learned a lot about being old from her.

I was a dentist, working independently, and I had no pension plan. So it was settled. I was to close my practice. Truth is, I was only fifty-nine years old, and I had planned to work for many years yet. But once the decision was made, I accepted it. I remember being at a dinner party just before I retired. There was a woman there, a very flashy, important Negro at that time. And she said to me, in front of all these people, “You’re going to give up your career to take care of your mama? ” And I said, “Honey, let me tell you something. If you had my mama, you wouldn’t think twice .” And that’s something I really felt.

Mama was still full of spunk, right up to the end. I don’t think she would have been at all surprised that Sadie and I have kept living this long. We learned a lot about being old from her.

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this magazine of trusted historical writing, now in its 75th year, and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.

Donate