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THURSDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2006
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REAL PEOPLE
Ronnie Thomas
rthomas@decaturdaily.com

Donna Jackson, right, is dying of Hepatitis C and is staying with her mother in Huntsville. Her daughter, 3-year-old Alicia Marie, left, wrote a letter to Santa asking for transportation for her mother and grandmother.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Donna Jackson, right, is dying of Hepatitis C and is staying with her mother in Huntsville. Her daughter, 3-year-old Alicia Marie, left, wrote a letter to Santa asking for transportation for her mother and grandmother.

A Christmas plea
Letter asks for transportation
for dying mother, ill grandmother

"I want a baby that cries," said 3-year-old Alicia Marie Jackson. "I broke the other one. I usually want candy."

That's what the girl said Tuesday when someone asked what she wanted Santa to bring.

Despite her fondness of crying dolls, spend a moment with her and you see that she's a happy girl. She isn't old enough to know the sadness that envelops her.

And that's a good thing. For if she were, Alicia Marie would learn that her mother, Donna Jackson, 39, is dying.

"I have Hepatitis C," said the woman who was born in Decatur and grew up here and in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Orlando, Fla. She attended high school at West Morgan in Trinity before dropping out.

Daughter is inspiration

"How do I push on?" Jackson asked. "That little girl. I don't know how long it will be, but I do know that Alicia Marie gives me the reason to get through each day of however many days I might have left. She's already saved my life. Having her did that. I drank a lot, and I partied hard. I stopped everything when I found out I was pregnant."

Jackson spoke frankly as she and her mother, Opal Marie Jackson, 65, and Alicia Marie visited Opal's mother, Mamie Bracken, 87, on 12th Avenue Southwest.

Helping out

"I have a small house in Caddo, but Alicia Marie and I have been staying in Huntsville with mother because she needs us. Mother lives there with her sister," Donna Jackson said.

No one would have written this story of a mother on the brink and her daughter had Alicia Marie not sent a letter to Santa Claus at The Daily. But of course, she didn't write the letter. Her mother did. It is obviously a plea for help. And this is what it said:

"If you could get my MawMaw a car, because she is sick and don't have a ride. I have not been too bad. Then if I could have a Christmas wish also, (it would be) for me & Mom & MawMaw to ride together and get to places we need (to go). I will leave milk & cookies."

Donna Jackson doesn't have a driver license. Opal Jackson does, but her car sits in the backyard of her mother's house, inoperable.

"A friend of mine drives us here and there," Donna Jackson said. "If we could get a car, it would be a big help. All of us have doctor appointments that are sometimes hard to keep. And I'd like to have Alicia Marie in Head Start now. She's such a smart girl. If Mother had a car, we could do a lot better."

Donna Jackson's friend also gets her to the Center for Women, Infants and Children in Decatur every three months for groceries. Jackson is 100 percent disabled. She showed the medical documentation, not proudly, just matter of factly.

"The first of each month, I draw $60," she said. "On the third of each month I draw $511."

As Jackson discusses her plight, Alicia Marie listens intently, then smiles and contributes to the conversation.

"I have scissors that don't cut," she said. "But when I can, I cut Rusty's hair. I'd like to have a doggie."

Jackson explained that Rusty is a dog that belongs to her aunt's neighbor in Huntsville.

"Alicia Marie has a way of cheering people up, kids and adults," Jackson said. "If someone's sad, she detects it, and she jumps around and makes faces trying to get them to laugh."

Opal Jackson intervened. "She loves that baby and that baby loves her Mom."

And here's how much. Donna Jackson got with her sister, Mary Robbins, 38, and her husband, Ronnie Robbins, who live in Winter Park, Fla., and drafted a legal document that they notarized, giving them custody of Alicia Marie when the time comes.

"I feel so much better knowing that," Jackson said.

And her mother said she "couldn't stand the thought of losing any more of them."

Opal Jackson had three boys and three girls. Her youngest son, Mark, died at 22 on Aug. 24, 1994, in Decatur from a self-inflicted gunshot. Another son, Tim Jackson, 36, a daughter, Opal Marie Danos, 28, and a niece died in a single-car wreck in Tanner on Aug. 7, 1999.

And her house at 12th Avenue and Second Street burned the night of Aug. 14, 1998.

"I had just come in about 1 a.m. from my job at a convenience store," she said. "There's only a vacant lot now. August has been a horrible month for us."

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Ronnie Thomas Ronnie Thomas
DAILY Staff Writer

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