The Case
of Mary Lou

• Part One:
An Introduction
• Part Two:
Interview With Mary Lou
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The Case of Mary Lou

A Case History of Love Therapy

The following "interview" is actually a reconstruction, a synthesis of four interviews. This is the heart of Mary Lou's account of her amazing turnaround. She spoke very slowly, with a heavy Appalachian mountain twang, using words like, not “his” but “his’n” and not “ain’t” but “hain’t”...

B. (Brennan Mullaney): Wow! Are you the same young lady I met after the police brought her in? You're like a different girl. What happened?

Mary Lou: (laughing) I guess ol' Mamie happened...But I'm not a differ'nt girl. Mamie says I'm jes becomin' the real me, the me God made.

B.: That's great...But how did you do it -- change so fast?

Mary Lou: I didn't! Mamie kindof done it fer me. She's so funny... How did she do it? 0h, I was terrible to her. I'd scream and yell at her, and call her names, and hit her and kick her...and she'd grab me and hug me (laughing). She'd squarsh me into big ol' boobs and she'd start...kinda rockin' me, and whisperin'... and if I kept fightin' her, sometimes she'd start a-hummin', just a-hummin' and a-rockin', or singin' her church songs...(getting teary). I don't know how she did it, but that of lady's plum pow'rful.

B.: Can you tell me what the tears are saying?

Mary Lou: (more tears) No... 'cept'n...Mamie taught me to cry. I never cried in my whole life! That's the first thing she kept a-whisperin'. She'd say -- you know how she talks -- 'Honey chile, you hain't really mad at me. You're jes hurt, baby. Who hurt my baby so bad?' I kept fightin' her for a long time. I'd cuss her, and she'd hug me harder, ever' day! And she'd hum and whisper, hum and whisper….

B.: What did she whisper that stopped you fighting her?

Mary Lou: Oh, I'll never ferget that! One day I had a real hissy fit -- tore up my room, and I was a-screamin' and a-cussin', and she got me in that ol' bear hug again, and she said it again, 'Chile, you hain't really mad. You're jes kinda hurt' -- and then she said (tearing)...she said,” Baby, when you gonna let me in? Jes let me in. Let me take that hurt. Jes give that hurt to ol' Mamie,"... and I looked up and there was tears a-comin' down her cheeks, and a-fallin' in my face...and somethin' jes broke up inside me. I started cryin' for the first time in my life, and it was like a dam broke. I thought I was gonna die, jes break plum in two. H’it was awful. I cried so hard my throat was a-achin' and my jaws hurt, and there was this terrible pain in here (putting her hand in the middle of her chest). I cried and cried and cried and cried and cried. I didn't think I was ever gonna stop....

B.: But you got through it...

Mary Lou: I reckon. I cried for four or five hours that first time, and off and on all the next week...And Mamie would always jes hold me. She'd say, 'Baby, did you know that tears is the only water that runs uphill? Tears are prayers, 'cause they come straight from the heart, and God sees ever' one. She'd say God was a-cryin' with me -- 'cause he hurt when I hurt... Do you believe that? Do you think God cries with us?

B.: Well, if Mamie said that, I'd say there's a good chance it must be true -- it sounds like she knows God pretty well.

Mary Lou: Oh, she does! She's jes beautiful.

B.: She sure is….But tell me, is that what caused your big change, that Mamie cried with you, and hugged you?

Mary Lou:...I don't know. That was part of it. H’it's kinda wierd. She jes wouldn't give up on me, and lak, she got inside me..(laughing) I'd be a real snot, and she'd hug me and whisper, ‘Hush, chile, that hain't the real you.’ She'd say, “You can't fool ol’ Mamie by pretendin' to be mean, 'cause you hain't!’ Then she'd say, 'I know the real Mary Lou and in her heart she's full o' goodness.' Know what? At first I thought she was plum crazy! Nobody in my entire life ever told me I was good.

B.: You said she got inside you?

Mary Lou: In here (pointing to her chest). H'it don't make no sense a'tall, but she made me believe it... (tears again). She loves me...H'it don't make no sense...but she does. There I go a-cryin' again, (Smiles, wipes her eyes). Mamie always said my heart was a-runnin' down my face.

The case of Mary Lou is an example of love therapy at its best, and it was administered by a woman with a sixth grade education. Mamie had never read a psychology book, nor did she know that "Prognosis -- near­ zero" meant that several very qualified professionals had concluded that she didn't have a prayer of taming the wildcat Mary Lou. Mamie had little knowledge, but more wisdom than the entire professional multidisciplinary team put together. And she had just one simple technique, a love that Mary Lou aptly described, "pow'rful."

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