|Birth: ||Apr. 21, 1932|
|Death: ||Mar. 21, 2008|
IDA MAE RUSSELL SILLS began this world as Betty Jean Cherry, the daughter of Howard Cherry and Betty Thompson of Middle Tennessee. In the 1930's it was unthinkable for a child to be born to a single mother. The Thompsons contracted Georgia Tann at the Tennessee Children's Home. Georgia, now famous for selling babies, found a couple who was willing to purchase the child. Everett and Elsie Russell were chosen, who had already adopted one high profile Memphis baby. The Russells renamed their new baby Ida Mae. Ida Mae had a rich but strict childhood. Ida graduated from Messick High School in 1950 and attended Memphis State University. Ida married High School friend, Karl Hadaway.
On January 31, 1953, a child was born named Mary Denise. The marriage decayed and the couple divorced in 1954. Ida's marriage to Karl was a three ring circus, engagement ring, wedding ring and suffering. Ida met and married Albert Sills in 1960. Ida said "I never knew what real happiness was until I got remarried, then it was too late". Ida Mae and Albert settled down in Fox Meadows area of Memphis. Albert wanted a son, Ida wanted a dog. Ida quoted "with my way we just ruin the carpet". But on March 6, 1966 a son was happily born named Lee. Albert and Ida owned several dry cleaners and restaurants. Owning your own business with your spouse in the best of times is challenging. Ida worked all day as a Supervisor at the phone company, she would come home and prepare a home cooked meal for the entire family. She managed to pay all the bills, balance the books of the family business and at the end of a long day still be a supporting mother and loving wife. Ida said "Children grow up so fast they're like sand held in your hand. Held loosely, with an open hand, the sand remains where it is. The minute you close your hand and squeeze tightly to hold on, the sand trickles through your fingers". Ida grimaced daily with anticipation of what her gifted children would bring home and ask "Mom can I keep it?" for Lee it was stray animals but Ida's daughter Denise, well she brought home a steady stream of poor hungry musician friends (are there any other kind). No one was ever turned away or left hungry.
It is still a mystery how Ida fed, supported and influenced so many individuals on her budget. At Ida's house gravy was a beverage. Albert retired in 1985, Ida said "great I now get twice the husband and only half the income". Lee went off to college and Denise got married and had a son named Josh. Ida retired from Ma Bell in 1989. After a long illness, Albert passed away from Lung cancer. In Ida's spare time she became an assistant coach to the University of Memphis Tigers, The Memphis Grizzlies, The LA Lakers and The Miami Heat, if not in reality in her mind. As a professional armchair consultant to the NBA, Ida was nick named Hoop Mama Two. Ball handling and dribbling was Ida Mae biggest weakness. If Albert was the frog prince, Ida was certainly the frog queen. Ida loved and collected frogs from all over the world.
Ida moved to Waverly Gardens with her dog raven where she made a lot of new friends. Ida developed a cold that progressed into pneumonia. Now Ida was a smoker. She said "to quit smoking well that's easy. I ought to know. I have done it a thousand times" but the years of smoking left Ida's lungs damaged and beyond repair. On this Good Friday March 21, 2008 Ida Mae Russell Sills slipped away and joined her beloved daughter in Heaven. Fortunately her husband Albert preceded her and joined his mother in a much warmer climate. Ida leaves behind a best friend Betty Brown of Memphis. Few people in this world are privileged to have such a beloved sister. They had many adventures, loves and tragedies over their 70 years of friendship and sisterhood. Ida also leaves one of her greatest joys her grandson Josh. Josh has been the light of her life since his birth. Ida regrets not being here to influence his future children, but she will be watching. Ida lost her daughter Denise Sills Barnes 2 years ago. Denise was a successful local Memphis singer and musician and was a manager with Nike for 15 years. Ida also leaves her son in law Roland Barnes an engineer with Federal Express. Roland has been devoted when many would have moved on after their wife's death. And finally she leaves her son, her baby Lee. Lee lives in Orange County California and is President of Kredit Banque. Ida influenced so many people, too many to list. Ida is now a falling star who has finally found her place next to her daughter in a lovely constellation, where she will sparkle in the heavens forever. In Lieu of flowers please give the gift of life to Saint Jude Children's Hospital in Ida's name. There will be a celebration of life, Saturday April, 19 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Waverly Gardens on Knight Arnold Road.
Published in The Commercial Appeal on April 13, 2008
Follow-up story from the Commercial Appeal:
When he saw his mother at Christmas, Lee Sills says she told him, "Honey, I just want you to do what you need to do and tell the truth."
Less than three months later, his mother, Ida Mae Russell Sills had died, and son Lee took her message to heart, giving his mother a debut and an exit at once in an obituary unearthing family secrets and turning her life into a growing Internet and e-mail phenomenon.
Sills, 75, died of heart complications March 21, but she didn't just die. Her son puts it into a spiritual context: "Ida Mae Russell Sills slipped away and joined her beloved daughter in Heaven. Fortunately her husband Albert preceded her and joined his mother in a much warmer climate."
Sills had been married before to a high school friend named Karl. "Ida's marriage to Karl was a three-ring circus, engagement ring, wedding ring and suffering," as her obituary tells it. She would later tell friends, "I never knew what real happiness was until I got remarried, then it was too late."
Her son Lee, 42, was from the second marriage to Albert, and her "real happiness" with Albert was not a storybook love, as Lee recalls. "He wasn't mean or anything. Albert was a good guy, but he was never in mom's league. He wasn't 'quite right,' as she would say."
Lee, president of Kredit Banque in Orange County, Calif., says he wrote the obituary to try to capture the essence of the 5-foot woman with a bigger-than-life personality. "She would never have forgiven me if I hadn't taken one moment to make people smile," he says.
It not only recalls his mother's one-liner jokes, but begins with the revelation that Ida Mae began life as Betty Jean Cherry, a child given up by a single mother for adoption and sold by infamous baby broker Georgia Tann through the Tennessee Children's Home Society in the 1930s.
That is one reason why some family members were not "thrilled" with the lengthy obituary, which ran Sunday in The Commercial Appeal. It cost $650, but, "I didn't care," says Lee. "It's important how people think of you after the fact."
Lee says he consigned his father, Albert, and his grandmother to a "warmer climate" for their general attitude toward his mother. They were Catholic, and, since Ida Mae had been married once before, her mother-in-law called her "the whore of Babylon." It was only when Lee was born -- the only male child in the family -- that Ida Mae says she "became the Blessed Madonna."
Lee says his father was well off, owning dry cleaners and restaurants, but he wouldn't put in the swimming pool that Ida Mae wanted. "He kept saying, 'Next year.' Every time he said next year, the pool got a foot bigger."
Ida Mae worked as a telephone company supervisor and finally saved up to buy the pool herself. "I came home from school one day and she was bulldozing the backyard. Albert grew roses, and she bulldozed all but one of them. Later, she would say, 'Come on in, Albert, the water's fine.'"
The Memphis Flyer referred its readers to The Commercial Appeal Web site to read "the greatest obituary ever written," and an Internet search shows a spreading readership through blogs and e-mails. Lee says radio stations have begun reading the obituary on the air in preparation for a celebration of her life at Waverly Gardens retirement complex 4:30-6:30 p.m. Saturday.
The Commercial Appeal, Friday, April 18, 2008
By Lee Sills
This story begins with the curtain slowly closing on the very colorful life of one 5ft tall ball of southern dynamite. On March 21st 2008 Ida Mae Russell Sills passed away. For many they are but a foot note in the paper. That might be fine for most, but for mom I felt that was not enough. She had never had the chance to tell her incredible story. So I did. I am not sure I was totally prepared to be all alone at 42 from my entire family. My Father was gone and so was my beloved sister, aunt's uncles and most cousins gone. I do have a nephew but that's another Jerry Springer show. So I sat in a big over stuffed wing back chair at the funeral home and I expressed my feelings. I was not concerned with spelling and punctuation. It has never been my strong suit anyway. I wrote from my heart. What was to transpire I could not even imagine. After making the funeral arrangements, I flew back to California for a meeting I could not get out of. I picked up the phone and it was my brother in law informing me the local radio station was receiving calls about my mother's death notice. After looking it up in the paper, the radio morning DJ decided to read from it on the air. The newspapers website had hundreds of hits and comments. Then the local TV station read it on air it was the second lead in story, the first being the mayors possible resignation. On the internet it became a phenomenon. It moved into the realm of an urban legend. Rumors caused by wide spread speculation as groups of people blogging about the validity of my mothers death notice stating that the obit must be a fake. Our company website was bombarded with e-mails, not hundreds but thousands. I just never though anyone would pay much attention to it.
The Commercial Appeal newspaper did a follow up article a month after and last year on her anniversary we did a remembrance. So the following is the conclusion of the completion of her story for those who are interested, and can now have another serving of Ms Ida.
Ida Mae lived every day with the fact that she was in fact a commodity, if by nothing else the very definition. She had been sold and purchased. Ida always kept a clear and level head when discussing this issue by saying "well at least I went for a good price and I wasn't marked down on the clearance rack".
Ida started out as Betty Sue Cherry, the daughter of Howard Cherry and Betty Thompson of Middle Tennessee. Some of you may remember the 1930's. It was a different world. A single mother in society, well, it wasn't done. Most families sent their daughter away on a supposed long trip, or finishing school when an unexpected and unwanted event happened. The Thompsons, the parents of Ida's 17 year old birth mother sent their daughter to Memphis to have her child. Not exactly the world tour.
The Thompsons arranged for Ida to be adopted for a fee and contracted Georgia Tann at the Tennessee Children's Home. Now the stories of Georgia and her famous client lists are all true. The Tennessee Children's Home is where Joan Crawford acquired her children. Ida bring me the ax. It just doesn't have the same Hollywood effect. Now meet the Russell's, Everett and Elsie. They were a loving couple. Everett was known as the whistling postman. He route was Chickasaw Gardens in Memphis. He was well loved and an important part of his local community. Elsie had been ill and went to see a specialist whom preformed unnecessary and controversial procedures including a hysterectomy while Elsie was in her early 20's . So the Russell's adopted. The first child they named Clair. She was a beautiful child. She was the daughter of a famous debutant and the chauffer. It was a famous Southern scandal. She was blond and blue eyed and could do no wrong. But behind those blond curls and dazzling smile was the personality of the spawn of Satan. I guess many siblings think the other is from the devil or should go to the devil. Ida thought so about Clair for about 70 years. Ida would say "Clair, I love you to death, aren't you dead yet".
Elsie got the baby bug again and started yearning for a second child. So off they went to the Tennessee Children's Home to pick out a new baby. I guess it was the Baby Depot of its day. Elsie named her second child after a favorite Aunt Ida. Ida Mae was not the porcelain doll Elsie was hoping for but instead she got a feisty opinionated little tom boy who would rather play ball in the house than play with dolls. Ida managed to make it through puberty without causing too much damage to the family heirlooms, but over one summer as most girls do, Ida began to blossom, and blossom and blossom. Ida transformed from a little tom girl into a full figured young woman. Where did those come from? As she discovered her new surroundings boys discovered Ida.
Mom can I keep it? It was a rhetorical question about the time Ida brought home her first boyfriend. All was not well. He was Italian and very dark olive skinned boy.
Her father was convinced the boy's family was in the mafia. The only thing going for him was he was raised Catholic. Ida's dad put his foot down and forbid Ida to see him again. And when Everett Russell put his foot down grass did not grow back. So like a dutiful daughter and remembering they chose her, Ida just could not face disappointing her daddy so she never saw the boy again. She missed him to the very last.
What PAPOW (her father) didn't know this at the time was by forbidding her to see one; Ida would run into the arms of another. Cause and effect, we know the cause and the effect was Carl Hardaway. Carl and Ida started dating and if all must be told many a virtue was lost in the backseat of an 1948 Oldsmobile. Do you see a family trait arising here? Not to repeat the same mistake her birth mother made, she married the boy. Carl had distant personality swings. Like Jeckle and Hyde but without the doctors degree. Now I am not saying Carl was two faced at all because if he had a choice well he wouldn't picked that one. What I am saying is Carl needed to go into one of those anger management courses. There he could have discovered more positive ways to express his youthful pent up aggression like taken up the game of tennis. He had one terrific back hand. While Ida was pregnant with her daughter Denise, Carl demonstrated this true form by causing Ida to discover a quicker route down a flight of stairs. This single action had devastating effects. When Denise was born she had a facial deformity. It took many surgeries, a team of doctors and a great deal of money to correct this unfortunate event. Carl could not accept the fact that the child was a representative of his genetic gene pool. The last straw came when Carl played with the idea of giving the child a more permanent bath time activity. Fortunately Ida's Dad arrived to take charge and removed Carl from the family. Carl and Ida divorced soon after. So before I get sued for slander this account came from our grandfathers memoirs and confirmed by mom. Just a side note, the doctors preformed miracles and transformed Denise into a beautiful little girl. Strangely, Carl goes on to marry again (HIS NEW WIFE WAS A SAINT) and produce perfect children and using his famous parenting skills, I am sure they grew up happy and well adjusted. I went to school with one of his daughters and she was amazing.
Ida meets Albert.
At no time in her life did Ida deserve this. She was looking for love, a great love, a true love, but they were out of those so she got Albert. Ida should have worn her wedding ring on the wrong hand because she defiantly married the wrong man.
You marry the man, but you inherit his family. In Ida's case she was the proud reciplicant of a whole new community she had never experienced before, oh look, white trash. Does it really surprise anyone that mother-in-law's day occurs less than one week before Halloween? Albert had a brother Ernest, he was very nice and his wife was lovely. Albert had three sisters and a swarm of unwashed relatives and the head of this inspiring representation of 200 years of inbreeding was Albert's mother, Miss Sally. Now Albert's mother did not like Ida at all, Ida often believed it was because they weren't third cousins, but such is life. Albert's father had passed away in the 1930's from heart failure leaving Miss Sally to be the sole provider for her five offspring. Later in life "Ida said "although Miss Sally made my life unbearable, I respect that she raised all five of those kids alone during the great depression and one day I am going to dig her up and tell her so."
There are a thousand mother-in-law jokes but this REAL relationship was no laughing matter. Ida came home from a doctor's visit with the news she was going to have a baby.
It was a great surprise. The doctors of the day didn't think Ida would be able to have any more children due to the scaring from the fall cause by Carl, but a Sunday afternoon with her new hubby Albert, a bottle of good wine and a Johnny Mathis record or two and voila. Johnny Mathis should be accredited from a distinct rise of the population growth in the US during his distinguished musical carrier.
This was blessed news to all but Miss Sally. She used all sorts of colorful names none of which she could spell to describe this child of the devil. Ida after all, had been soiled goods, married and divorced with a child in tow. It was like a scene from the body snatchers where the people turn, point and scream not one of us. It was the day of delivery and Ida went into labor, her mother Elsie the very example of a true polished southern woman by her beside giving strength and love and there was Miss Sally spouting obscenities. It was like a meadow of blooming flowers and an open sewer. Well, they wheeled Ida Mae into the delivery room, the whore of Babylon, and in 14 hours 15 minutes later Ida became the blessed Madonna given birth to the only male heir. Ida commented, "If you think I was stacked before well now look I can open my own dairy".
Ida is home soon after with baby Lee and the doorbell rang. Ida opened the door, there was her mother-in-law on the front step. She said, "Ida, can I stay here for a month or so to see the baby?" "Sure." "Stay there a month I'll check back on you" then she shut the door.
Ida Moving to the suburbs:
It was the end of the 1960's and America's population was in midflight to escape the dredges, torments and crowds of city life only to reestablished them in newly completed cookie cutter track homes. Albert and Ida were no exception. Images of gleaming new model homes dulled the senses and transformed the once harsh marsh land into newly designed planned communities. We can be happy here. Do you think all the houses look alike? Maybe I should paint the garage door a bright color so you know which house to come home to. All of these statements described Fox Meadows. In some neighborhoods in many cities you may never actually speak to your neighbors but in the south you just cannot escape it. There is always one isn't there. Every neighborhood has either an old busy body, a Mrs. Caravitz type (see bewitched for a guild reference) or a neighborhood hussy, the lone housewife who works in the yard in a top two small with shorts she has long been out of. Well, we got the hussy. All the men stared and the women all talk and talk. But Albert my dad being the helpful neighbor decides he thinks she has potential. He invests lots of time on developing a unique friendship. After all she is single all alone out here in the fringes of society. So for Ida she thinks for a moment and by a divine inspiration she launches operation gets that heifer married. In choosing a mate for a friend or relative these problems often arise the nice men are ugly. The handsome men are not nice. The handsome and nice men are gay. The handsome, nice and heterosexual men are married. The men who are not so handsome but are nice men have no money. But in this case all he has to be is willing and breathing. And it worked. Now the final and most crucial stage of the plan is for all the ladies of Fox Meadows neighborhood to bombard her with baked goodies and calorie rich treats and the problem will solved its self. If women ran the United Nations just think of the possibilities.
Albert gets transferred.
This is not one of Ida's shining moments Albert had a very good job at Kellogg Cereal Company. Albert was up for major promotion. Now the kids in the neighborhood have enjoyed the new small snack pack cereals Ida gave away by the truck full at Halloween. Albert had a good job and then the call came in, we are beings transferred!
But moving to the north well I just don't know. On a cold 10 below zero day Ida, Albert Denise and Lee stepped off a plane in the capital of processed cereal, Battle Creek Michigan. Now for Ida's mother Elsie, she still has not forgiven the War Between the States, she describes it as the northern unconvince. Forgiven no and not forgotten. The president of Kellogg stepped up to greet all of us just when a cold burst of wind went up Ida's shirt and she said "It lovely to meet you but I am not living in this freezing hell hole". Needless to say Albert did not get the promotion. A year later he was working for Southwire Corporation and once again a transfer came in. Albert this time did not want to move his mother who was ill and he wanted to be near her. During that time Albert went out to the back yard to find Ida digging a big hole, He said "Ida Mae what the hell are you doing out here? She said "just making a flower bed" Albert "it looks like a grave site". Ida said "Do you think so hun? I wonder if she will fit" Albert said "who my mom, Ida Mae mom is ill not dead" Ida ‘Oh but the afternoons is young and I feel I can dig all afternoon". Albert ‘Ida … Now be nice. Ida "Albert I am trying to give unselfishly to provide you're mother a restful place to lay down her head. Albert "but she is not dead yet, Ida, a minor technicality but I am willing to live with it. Do you know where the big shovel is?
Albert gets another bright idea,
For all those who knew him, Albert always had some harebrained get rich quick scheme. Albert buys a drycleaners. He didn't know anything about it but within a few years he had built it up to three or four of them. Of course Ida had to manage the books as if working her full time job, raising the kids and cooking the meals was not enough, she was also expected to run the front counter as were the kids every Saturday. Albert believed in family labor. So Denise is on the road with a band and Lee is in high school. Every afternoon he had to come to work with the dangerous dry-clean chemicals. He also pressed clothes. Albert was the Kathy Lee Gifford sweat shop of his day. What Albert may not have been aware of it was very dangerous to exposé children to these very toxic fumes. He could not figure out why his son was always seeing a doctor for colds that never went away or did his nose bleeds.. This was the cause of a later problem.
Ida was the real bread winner. She had a good job with ma bell that's South Central Bell company to non southerners. She worked rain or shine, good weather or bad. We did get an experimental phone with a TV screen and camera. It was so cool, built in the wall no one had anything like it. And that was the problem only a few bell employees had it and the phone worked well but the camera? Well, let's just say it was 25 years to early.
Lee almost gets expelled from school,
Lee certainly received Ida's sense of humor and sharp tongue. (After all, you're reading this now). In 11th grade Lee turned in a report that caused a stir. The assignment was a historical figure that made an influence on the world. Lee's selection was Adolf Hitler. Now his point was not that he was a great guy or to diminish the horosities he committed, it was that he indeed influenced the world just not in a positive way. The teacher Ms Hamon was not thrilled with his choice and circled several words as nw's, or "non words". Well, Lee decided to confront the teacher with her error in front of the class and it got ugly, she would insult him and he would reciprocate. It all came to a head when Lee administered the final blow with the Ms Hammons comment, "Mr. Sills, you think you're so smart you can teach this class" Lee, "Why that is obvious Ms Hamon, by your skills demonstrated today yes I think I can". "And since my parents spend a lot of money to send me to this private school with the hope that I will develop with higher education answer me this, who did you sleep with to get this job?" Now pause a moment and let's not reflect on the disrespect, because that is obvious, and the fact that private school teachers or teachers in general do not get paid enough money to deal with out of control youths going through puberty. The comment is a part of history and the next sound you hear is the door slam and Lee in tow to the principal's office. Ida was called and had to leave work.
She opened the door of the school office and saw her son with his head down, she said "what did you say"? Not what did you do but what did you say. She knew her child. Lee had always been a thoughtful and obedient child, but Lee was Ida's offspring and that comes with a bit of a wit and a dash of sarcasm. Another fine service we are happy to provide. It is often used to get out of difficult situations. Ida now had to confront Mr. Amour, the principal. Behind closed doors she heard the teacher explain her position, all valid points as she vents steam, Ida nodded as she acknowledged he was out of line, but Ida became puzzled. So these words, the ones your marked as NW'S, they are not difficult words maybe a bit out of the range of your typical 11th grader but Lee was not typical by a long shot. Ms Hamon said "Well, I see where Lee gets his smart mouth". That's was it, the money shot, Ida turned with that look she always got and said" so tell me honey just between us girls who did you sleep with?". Ms Hamon walked out and Lee was transferred. Ida said on the way home "I think alligators may have the right idea they eat their young now get in the car". A few days later Ida commented, "Lee, your new teacher has sent home a reminder that tomorrow is final exams. She states she won't tolerate any excuses for you not being here tomorrow. She might consider a nuclear attack or a serious personal injury, or maybe death as long as it is yours, but that's it, no other excuses whatsoever!" But Mom "What would you say if tomorrow I was suffering from complete and utter sexual exhaustion?" Ida smiles and said "Well, I guess you'd have to write the exam with your other hand."
The big accident
It was a nice summer Saturday and Ida was out working in the yard. There is something about southern women and their gardens. Albert made Lee cut the grass even though he sneezed the entire time with a white paper mask, but on this afternoon, Lee was needed at the drycleaners so Ida decided to give the grass a mow.
Now in the suburbs you get to know your next door neighbor quite well. Next door to Ida was a new family with unruly children. Ida was about to start on the side yard between to the two houses when the phone rang. She could hear it through the open carport window. She rushed in to take the call .There were no answering machines in use at that time. In the meantime the children next door thought it would be funny to watch Ms. Ida run over fun things with the mower, so they placed wire hangers. If only the movie Mommy Dearest had been made then. Yes, wire hangers and Ida returning ran right over them. The hangers shot out behind her straight into her left foot. It mangled it. The sounds of giggling laughter turned into screams from Ida as the children next door saw what their little prank had done. At that moment a neighbor driving by stopped for a moment and saw Ida fall to the ground. Her name was Gloria Owens and she pulled her station wagon up into the driveway and almost single-handed tossed Ida into the back and rushed her to the Hospital. She saved Ida's life. No more tall pumps, but the surgeons were able to repair Ida's foot after 12 or so surgeries. The family next door moved in shame. Lee finally was off to college and Albert and Ida settled into being empty-nesters. One afternoon, Albert was resting next to Ida on the couch with his head near her lap. Ida removed his glasses. "You know, Honey," She said, "without your glasses, you look like the same handsome, young man I married." "Honey," Albert replied with a grin, "without my glasses, you still look pretty good, too!" Time passed quickly. Denise got married. The wedding went off without a hitch or so we thought. What we didn't know, Lee and Denise had an argument and Denise asked that Lee not be in the wedding photos' even though he was in the wedding. Well, no one saw that coming they were so close. We find out why much later, but this illumination of a bad idea would cause a riff between them that will last the next 9 years without speaking. Lee had bought the happy couple a breakfast set (table and chairs) and had it delivered to their house. After the wedding he had the store come and take it back. Christmas that year was hard. Lee would not come home and Denise would not be in the same room with Lee so, Happy Holidays!
It is now Mardi Gras time for those who do not live in the south it may not be a big deal, but people here it is a life style. The tourists think it is about getting drunk on Bourbon Street and showing your body parts for plastic beads. All true, but it is much more than that for the natives. It is the parties, the balls the coming together, the socializing. All types gather on the streets to watch the parades and scream throw me something mister. Ida was standing in a crowded during Mardi Gras when a man standing next to her fighting for beads being thrown from one of the floats accidentally elbowed her in the breast. The man said, "I'm sorry! But if your heart is as soft as your breasts, you'll forgive me." She replied, "oh yea well if your dick is as hard as your elbow my name is Ida." But that afternoon the place where he had elbowed her remained sore. Ida bruised so easily. So she gave herself a full check.
Do you feel a lump here?
Boobs, Breaties, knockers, tits, or even more southern bodacious tatas whatever you call them most men are possessed by them. Empires have been fought and lost over them but when a lump is discover the world as you know comes to an end, now you experience real fear. Breast cancer can turn rational people into desperate hysterical sobbing individuals. Once you get over the shock, IF YOU EVER DO and the endless sobbing has calmed down to a steady trickle and your past the point of saying why me you need to get yourself organized. I swear the second worst thing is telling the family and friends. Many of them mean well, but not only do you have to deal with the cancer but start care taking the care takers. You begin to console them because they feel so bad about how your cancer is affecting them. They can suck what little air there is left in the room. Ida discovered not one lump but two and had to have breast reduction. Ida Said "well at least I have enough to give away free samples". The doctors thought they got it all. They were wrong, so she was back for her sequel, Revenge of the lump monster.
The second time Ida lost one nipple. The doctors saved her breasts for the second time but her breasts were unrecognizably mangled and distorted things could never be the same. Albert lost interest. Weather that was a good thing or a bad thing the jury is still out. Coming home from a doctor's visit it was raining and the roads we slick, A women ran a red light and plowed into Ida's car. No one was hurt, thank God. She stood there in the rain shaking her head looked up to see the gleaming lights of a local Cadillac dealership, It was lit up like a Christmas tree, it was dry inside and it was open. She turned to the woman who ran into her, tossed her the keys to the car newly smashed saying "Speedy, you just bought yourself a car, now it is my turn". She marched into the dealer and bough a new car and drove it home.
Albert gets a hobby
When Albert retired Ida "quoted great now I get twice the husband and only half the income". So after driving Miss Ida crazy, Albert wants to go back to school and become a black jack dealer. It will be fun, I make money, I will be out of the house, Ida "where do we sign you up', and a new addiction, gambling, was born. Now Ida liked a good one arm bandit like most older southern women who are drawn to the nickel and quarter slots. Ida said "gambling is the sure way to get nothing for something". Ida was lucky and she always walked away with a little cash. Albert was not. He racked up a lot of dept that would affect Ida long after Albert's Death.
If I only had a heart:
The tin man from the Wizard of Oz was always in search of a heart and many of us take it for granted. It was a cold afternoon when Ida was feeling something was wrong. You know the feeling something was not quite right. Although that was everyday at our house, this time Ida made an appointment to see a heart specialist that turned out to be one of Lee's friends father. Before you can say "clear", Ida was being prepped for surgery. She had several open by-passes. But it was a cruel fate that seemed to follow Ida, as the surgeon left a small piece of gauze inside her before closing her up. Now Ida was highly allergic. Days turned into weeks and the stitches were not healing. By the time the fine representatives of medical science came to the brilliant decision something was wrong, it was almost too late.
Upon opening Ida back up these doctors discovered the surprise left behind by the surgeon. Like opening a box of Cracker Jacks the prize is not worth much. The infection had taken its toll and Ida lost part of her breast plate. Ida could have sued but she wouldn't hear of it. After all her children and the doctors children grew up together. Instead she baked him a Bundt cake. For those who have never experienced a Bundt cake, see Paula Dean's cookbook. It is a southern mouth watering delicacy.
He's Dead Jim:
Now it's time to speak about the late dearly departed. Albert was a heavy smoker and it was no surprise when the doctors told him he was not going to last very long. All the family was called and it was the first time Lee and Denise had been in the same room together in over 9 years. They discovered much in common and began that day to mend the fences. Albert was one of those people who would be improved enormously by death. At the funeral, a lady walked up to Ida Mae and said, "We are so sorry for the loss of your husband." and Ida said, "It's not like I mislaid him. He is not lost anymore, honey, he is right up front for your viewing pleasure." Denise and Lee handled everything including moving Ida into a new condo. The good thing is it brought the family back together. The end became a new beginning. Albert finally did something right.
Ida and Clair, Clair and Ida:
Ida and Clair were more like Crawford and Davis, they fought but had become addicted to each other. They came to California together to spend a month with Lee and like children started fighting on the plane with who was going to sit by the window. Ida was ticketed to the window but whatever Ida had, Clair wanted it. It was a song as old as time and Clair sang it loudly. They fought over food, and souvenirs, even a moo moo, that's ugly attire for 20 points Alex. The moo moo, what can I say, Ida loved that garment. It was not flattering but it was colorful and most important comfy. It would be Clair's last trip. I think it is important to be there for each other at the end, there is another story here about Clair's estranged daughter, but I will leave that for another time. During this visit, Mom and Clair toured all the famous Hollywood sites and tours. They were both bummed that Sardis and the Brown Derby were long gone. After all, where were they going to go to get discovered? The month felt like a year. Clair left and Ida stayed on another month. A year later we got the call to run to Aunt Clair's bedside the doctors did not think she was going to make it. They were right. It was some time later when her estranged daughter got in contact with Ida and wondered what happened. She was disappointed she had not been mentioned in the will. To be honest, she was not mentioned in the obit. Clair's colorful personality was to be remembered - her daughter not at all. Now I am going to jump a head a bit, but I found a copy of my grandmother's will when mom passed. All Elsie's kids and all the grandkids are mentioned with the exception of Clair's biological daughter, Clair Elaine, who would have been young when mama became ill for the last time. I think there may be a great story there as well. I am not sure she got a fair shake. Or what did she do that was so bad the entire family wiped her off the map. There is no mention she even existed. Spooky.
It was no trick and no treat:
As the door bell rang and hordes of hungry goblins opened their bag to receive the night's spoils, Denise started to feel a pain in her chest. After a phone call with brother Lee, she promised to make an appointment to see a doctor. She hung up the phone and returned to the creepy night festivities ending with curling up on the sofa with a good scary movie. It was a few days later when we got the call that Denise had died in the night from heart failure. Our family has been historically plagued with bad health, but a mother never expects to bury her child. Lee flew back to Memphis and Ida flew into pieces. Denise had played music and entertained so many in her life; now who was going to sing for her? Denise gave of herself so often she simply had nothing left to give. She left all of us behind including her son and husband. Ida lost some of her spark that day. She has always been able to handle all the tragedies the universe has thrown at her, but this one was more than she could deal with. Ida reflected all the battles to keep her alive, the surgeries, the endless doctors, and now her first born was gone way too soon. They say God never gives us more than we can handle, but enough is enough. We have a blog planned for the misadventures of Mary Denise, the girl most directionally challenged. Her story should be told.
Ida goes to Hollywood:
Ida traveled out to the west coast every year to spend Christmas with Lee. This year, Lee had planned a big Christmas. Tickets to Craig Kilborn, front row and the chance to meet him after the show. Dinner at a host of famous Hollywood eateries. Universal and Paramount tours not by tram, but by the top brass. A top celebrity fund raiser at Jim Cary's house. All was fun but still there was something missing. It was like all these things were impressive but not the cherry on top. One evening after a day on Rodeo Drive, we went to an out-of-the-way Chinese restaurant in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles and who happened to walk in the front door? None other than the Price Is Right's host, Bob Barker. You would have thought Christ himself walked in and I saw her face, Bingo. Bob being the ever astute professional saw that mom had now turned into a giddy blob of uncontrolled excitement he proceeded to our table. Ida nervously said, "Oh my God, he's coming over, how do I look?" Now these types of questions have been dogged by men since the dawn of time. "You look great Mom". Not that he would have been interested in with his very processed blond escort by his side. If she had been any younger she would have been a fetus. Bob came over and sat down. To his credit and his companion, Ms. Pelvic, he was very aware of his audience. He spent almost 30 minutes with us. Jackpot. That and a ride on the new Queen Mary ended her last Christmas in California. She left for Memphis with a new wardrobe, new energy and a new gossip to make the blue hairs green. If you're going to have a last visit, go out with a bang. Thanks Bob!
Ida came home to Memphis and within a few months she was in the hospital. She went in and out of the hospital several times during the next few months. The cycle continued. Lee came out and spent several weeks by her bed side. Ida seemed to recover and Lee went back to California and Ida back home. We all thought we dodged the bullet again this time but Ida was only home a few days when she collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. This time the doctors informed us she would not be going home. I said maybe not to her house but she is certainly going home. Her daughter is waiting.
Ida was gone.
As a footnote, the phone rang a few months later and it was Memphis Funeral Home. The gentleman was very nice and stated that they appreciated all the press the story brought to them. They received thousands of calls for mom but there was one small tiny problem. "Oh, what is that?" I asked. Well you see sir, your mom is still with us and don't get me wrong, we have loved having her here. It is sort of having a live in celebrity, but we think it is time she had a more permanent resting place. "What are you saying?" I asked. He replied, "Your mom is still here. No one picked up the jar after cremation. We have sent her by FedEx to you, I hope that is ok." "Oh yes," I said so embarrassed, "She loves to travel."
Her orbit was published and Ida became in death what she never achieved in life. Ida lives on in the hearts and minds of all you who read about her. I remember when I was young I complained to mom that a specific relative had been so hateful to me. I asked her, "Mom, I am a nice person so why are people so mean to me?" She said, "Honey, asking people not to be mean to you because you're a nice person is like asking a bull not to charge you because you're a vegetarian. You have to go out charm and outwit them. I have given you the greatest weapons you can have, intelligence as your sword, and a sharp wit as your shield. Now go out there and concur the world. Do it for your momma, but most importantly do it for yourself."
Ida Mae Russell Sills is now remembered by all who are now inspired by her stories. Ida and my sister Denise are resting comfortably in their private jars in Moms favorite room at our house. They both have two silver dollars on top of the urn to pay the fury man across the river sticks. Just in case.
Albert Lee Sills (1930 - 2000)
Cremated, Ashes given to family or friend.
Specifically: Ida and her daughter, Denise, are in a special room at Lee Sills home in California.
Created by: Neil Loftiss
Record added: Nov 20, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 61906372