The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

May 12, 2012

A Mother’s Day tribute: Dying man wants to honor his mother’s sacrifices

CENTERVILLE — Before he dies, Dale Potter wants to be a better son.

“I did this to myself,” acknowledges Dale, 52.

The deep-voiced man looks too tall for the small, makeshift bedroom in his mother’s neatly kept Centerville home. As a 6-foot tall high school athlete in the mid-1970s, he lettered in basketball, football and baseball.

But the athlete turned drug-addict is dying of AIDS, and recently underwent his fifth cancer surgery.

“I’m a swizzle stick. And my immune system’s shot.”

Hospice is doing what they can to allow his mother, Pat Crosson, to care for him in her home.

“I don’t want to die at the hospital,” he admitted. “My mom deserves a medal. She’s 70 years old, and I’m ruining her golden years. I ask myself, ‘Dale, what drove you from the ballfields to the back alleys?’ And I still don’t know. She warned me. And every prediction came true.”

He’s not giving up, he said, but his doctors said he’d have about six months to live. That was in December. This may be the last Mother’s Day he’s alive to say thank you and to apologize for “not being a good son” for so many years.

“This is the first time in 30 years I’m out with my mom planting flowers. After all I’ve done to her, I’m finally doing what a mother and son should be doing.”

His mother said addiction seemed to run through parts of Dale’s family.

“I left his dad because of the drugs,” said Pat, who has a daughter and five other sons. “I wasn’t going to live that lifestyle.”

After a difficult divorce, she said she married a wonderful man in New Jersey. Dale’s late stepfather loved all the children, and Dale loved sports.

“No matter what baseball team [Dale] wanted to get on, they’d make room for him because he was so good.”

Maybe too good, Dale says now. When a Major League scout expressed interest, the teen felt he had it made. He increased his partying, figuring he could stop any time and go pro. Relatives who turned out for high school games, as well as his party friends, agreed. But Mom saw the writing on the wall.

“She said, ‘No, he’s chosen what he’s going to do.’ And she was right. I was headed down the wrong road.”

Dale and Pat hope a young person may hear their story and know how easy it is to fall into addiction and how ruinous a few bad choices can be, even at 17.

“If I could be with my buddies having a beer now or here, I’d rather be here with Mom; I love my my mom, and I’d give anything to plant one more flower with her,” Dale said. “I just wish [one young person could] know how important their mom is. I finally know, but I’ve broken her heart.”

“When you get in that scene, it’s an elevator to hell,” Pat said. “No more sports, no more school. Dale left home and it was drinking and drugs. He never finished high school.”

Partying with his buddies became his life. He ran away to be with more lenient family members in Centerville. He was in and out of jail and, 30 years ago, was shipped off for a stint at the state prison in Anamosa.

“I’ve broke her heart so many times, and now I’m doing this to her,” Dale said, beginning to cry. “I really get upset with myself. I had it made. Now look at me. Broken down, weak, laying in this bed ... I see the pain in her eyes.”

Before he made his worst mistakes, Mom wasn’t shy about warning him.  

“Tough as nails — for all 100 pounds of her. Indestructible. And if the answer is black but she says it’s white, then it is white.”

Yet after he repeatedly messed up, she never turned her back on him.

 “I think with a mother it just comes natural,” Pat said. “Your kids are your kids. And he’s always been so caring, even when he was doing wild things, he was never ruthless.”

Dale said in his younger days, she’d scrape together bail money and get him out of jail. The times he was in trouble for something he didn’t do, she’d tell him she knew he was innocent. When he faced more accurate charges, “she’d tell me, ‘Well, nobody’s perfect. We’ll get through this, Dale.’ Nobody loves me as much as she does.”

Worse than dying seems to be the guilt of feeling he’s taking years off his mom’s life.  

“I see the pain in her eyes. She seems so alone. She never goes anywhere. I’d love to take her out for dinner ... for Mother’s Day, or even send her and a friend to a nice dinner. But how do I pull that off?”

Besides having rough days where he can barely move, his limited income goes toward medication plus some of the utility bills he insists on paying at the house.

“Don’t think I have my hand out. Really, all my material needs are met, but what can I do for her? My mom was always there for me.”

Dale has his own children now and an amazing grandson, he says. He loves them all. He admits his daughters haven’t had an easy life; a drug-addicted dad, their mom — Dale’s wife — died of a drug overdose when the girls were younger, and now their father is dying of AIDS.

Still, the subject of his beloved grandson, age 2, makes him smile.

“They’re at the circus in Ottumwa right now. He was wanting to see the elephants and eat what he calls ‘hopcorn.’ That’s what he says for popcorn: hopcorn!”

Pat said she’s proud when she sees the toddler and Dale interacting: “He has a loving, loving heart.”

On a recent afternoon, Pat was in the kitchen cooking; since her son moved in, she’s pushed him from a low of 116 pounds to his current 131 pounds.  

So how can moms get through the hard parts?

“You say a lot of rosaries. And you never give up,” she said. “There are times you want to rip their head off and, well, just hit them with it ... but you’d be hugging them with your heart at the same time.”

1
Text Only
Local News
  • 0424 OTT Pennsylvania construction B&W photo -M -T Penn Ave. construction begins Thursday OTTUMWA — Motorists are advised that Pennsylvania Avenue will be closing for Stage 1 of the Pennsylvania Avenue Reconstruction and Widening Project on Thursday. Pennsylvania Avenue will be closed from just downhill from the intersection with Jefferso

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0424 OTT Lottery addiction graphic -T -L -M Hoping for riche$ — Part 3

    OTTUMWA — At first, George bought a lottery ticket once or twice a week. Nothing big. Spent $1 or $2 at a time. As the big jackpots rolled around, he’d purchase a few more tickets. No big deal, he thought. Soon, playing the lottery became his obsessi

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo 2 Stories

  • Interpreter bill approved in kidnapping case OTTUMWA — A filing in an Ottumwa case illustrates one of the basic tenets of the American legal system and its costs. Adem Anota is charged with one count of kidnapping. The charge is a Class A felony, among the most serious and one of only a few cri

    April 23, 2014

  • Van Buren OKs teacher pay hike KEOSAUQUA — The Van Buren Community School Board ratified a master contract with its certified staff members recently. Superintendent Dr. Pam Ewell, the Van Buren Education Association and the district reached a settlement which calls for increasing

    April 23, 2014

  • 'Ride With the Clowns' bike event full of fun OTTUMWA — This bike ride is a joke. No, seriously. The 10th annual "Ride With the Clowns" spring tune-up is set for Saturday, May 3, and this fun ride is sponsored by the Ottumwa Shrine Club Clown Unit. "It draws a regular crowd," said Mark Merringer

    April 23, 2014

  • Youth playing with guns panic Fairfield residents FAIRFIELD — The Fairfield Police Department received two calls Tuesday from concerned citizens reporting kids with guns in the vicinity of both elementary schools. In both incidents, the guns were actually pellet guns but looked real. According to a

    April 23, 2014

  • The most fun you ever had

    OTTUMWA — Not every child's idea will be possible — but every idea was recorded. "Kaboom" project manager Brenna Hull of the nonprofit group's San Francisco office was in Ottumwa Tuesday. She asked students at the Ottumwa school district what they'd like to see in a playground.

    April 22, 2014

  • 0423 OTT Recycle center color photo 2 -T -M Where every day is Earth Day

    OTTUMWA — Putting cans in the correct bin, saving electricity and adjusting the thermostat are not new concepts to the Ottumwa/Wapello Recycling Center staff. "We try to practice what we preach," said Janice Bain,

    April 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0423 OTT lottery retailers graph -T -M Hoping for riche$ — Part 2

    OTTUMWA — We’ve all heard countless stories of lottery winners and losers. The winners, some of whom hold down multiple jobs, have modest dreams for now. One wants to buy a new home or car, another wants to pay of their debts or give to charity and e

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo 2 Stories

  • 0423 OTT Byway color photo -L -T -M Bike the Byway coming to southeast Iowa

    OTTUMWA — The first Bike the Byway ride will feature communities along the Historic Hills Scenic Byway and make for a fun day of bike riding. Scheduled for June 21, the ride will begin in Ottumwa and take cyclists through Blakesburg, Unionville, Drak

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo 1 Story

Photo reprints


Obituaries

Facebook
E-edition