The people's voice of reason

Tears & Laughter: All resolutions begin in the heart

Thirty-two years ago, I lived in Montgomery. I was freshly enrolled as a full-time student at AUM, and a part-time waitress at Country’s Barbecue. I was 18.

Barbara, who was 45 at the time, was originally from where I had just left – having graduated from Chilton County High School in May of 1990 – and that commonality is what helped pave the way that allowed me to live with her briefly when I first moved to Montgomery.

The agreement was $100 a month and a list of things she did not want me doing in her house…and it did not include smoking, even though I was not a smoker. She was. She smoked, unapologetically. If her smoking bothered you, you best not bother her because when she got through cussing about how she could smoke if she damn well pleased…you might have needed a cigarette too. But even smoking, was a habit she would soon kick.

She liked work. She took pride in working. She worked in metal fabrication. She worked her way up to a draftsman. She dressed in jeans and steel-toed boots five days a week.

She had a big backyard that she appreciated. She took care of it. Every Saturday that rolled around she wanted to get up early so we could go out and tend to every plant in the yard. If that meant we had to drive out somewhere to rake pine straw to put around them…then we got in the truck – her truck – and went and got it. And we weren’t slow about it because she would say she didn’t have all day to mess around in the yard. She also liked to clean the house on Saturdays.

The hundred dollars rent a month she charged included kitchen privileges, but it didn’t include cleaning services. I was expected to help, and she had her own definition of doing things right. She was proud of her home. It was to her an accomplishment. A dream come true of sorts. I knew her previous life had not been easy. Old pictures told a story, and she wasn’t shy about it. Life had made her tough. This second phase of her life was different, yet the toughness remained

After tending the yard and cleaning the house, she liked to grill on Saturday evenings. Just before dark. Not after dark, because after dark she wanted to eat and watch TV, or talk back through her memories – there were good times mixed within her tragedies. Life had not been dull.

She would buy dresses and keep them in their plastic covers. Sometimes she would try them on. She would parade through asking for my youthful opinion. She looked forward to still another phase in her life, after she retired, when she could finally wear dresses. I always thought the dresses represented a softness she wanted to eventually put on too.

She had not long married for the second time in her life. Dave was a quiet, soft-spoken man. A veteran who had served in two of our nation’s wars. She kept their wedding pictures on the wall.

Barbara was anything but quiet. for years after I had moved on and distanced myself from things once familiar in my past…I had wondered about her. Her influence stayed with me. I admired some of her toughness, whether I ever managed to mirror it or not.

I also saw through some of it. She gave me back all of the rent money I had paid her when I left. She had saved it for me.

Barbara was one of the many people who left us in 2022. I never thanked her…for the money, the advice, or her example. If you are still searching for a resolution, there is always not allowing a simple thank you to go left unsaid.

Amanda Walker is a columnist and contributor with, The Birmingham News, Selma Times Journal, Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Alabama Gazette. Contact her at or at


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