Saturday, November 9, 2013

I Am My Mother's Son

     I've been doing the Facebook thing where you put something you're thankful for as your status everyday in November.   Every one of mine has followed the format of I'm thankful for____ women with the blank filled in with different adjectives.   I've been talking about my mom every time.  I've used eight words to describe her so far and they have been inadequate of course.  Truly no amount of words can describe how I feel about her or how grateful I am for her.  Still on this ninth day of November, her birthday, I'm going to write a bunch more words to attempt to explain how appreciative I am of her and also because I have no money to buy her a present.
     My earliest memories of her bring to mind a word I haven't used in my Facebook statuses; patience.  When I was four I can remember having just learned right from left but not understanding that they didn't change no matter which way I faced.  So while my mom was hanging clothes on the line in our yard I asked her which was right and which was left.  Then I turned another way and asked again.  Then again and again and again.  In my mind it seems like I faced fifty different directions and asked her which way was which fifty different times.  She looked at me and answered each time.  I suppose she could have explained to me that right was right and left was left no matter what but I think it amused her watching me figure it out.
     The other memory I have of her from when I was four that brings to mind patience is Uno games every afternoon.  We'd get my pain in the butt brothers off to school then I'd watch cartoons or read while she made us while she did what she needed to do and then made us lunch.  After that it was Uno time.  We played and laughed and she never rushed me as I stratigized to beat her.  I almost never did beat her but it was good times just being with my mom and her being patient enough to play with me.
     Patience isn't a word many people would associate with my mom but as I grow older I realize how patient she was and is.  She was a working mom for most of my life.  She had three boys that were always on the go with sports and stuff.  She had no time for herself that I could see.  Then there's the matter of the men in her life.  There have never been four men love a woman more than my father and his sons love my mother and we show it often in our separate ways.  We are, however, four of the most frustrating, smartass, and at times insensitive men that have ever lived.  It's a wonder of patience that she never burned the house down with the four of us in it.
     If this seems a little rambling it's probably because that's my style.  It's also because I don't know where to start or go or end with Mom.  How do I pick and choose memories when every memory with her seems important?  Besides, she seems to be in almost every memory.  Mom is the constant, the strength, in my life so to do this right I'd probably have to write an autobiography.  So if I bounce around a bit I apologize.
     I got my revenge for the Uno games when we got a Nintendo.  Mom wouldn't play Super Mario much because she claimed that the little man wouldn't jump when she pressed the button but when we got Dr. Mario she was right there with me.  She could rarely beat me but she tried a lot and we had much fun.  It felt good to be better than Mom at something because she was so good at everything.  I think that's why I play Candy Crush Saga  now.  It's similar to Dr. Mario and I still get to brag to Mom about how much farther I am in it then she is.
     Of course, Mom didn't always have time for fun and games with me and her other sons but it seemed like she did.  I'm not sure how she did that.  She went to work when I started school but she would never consider herself a feminist.  She's the reason I consider myself one, though.  Growing up with her as my mom there is no conceivable way I could ever feel like a woman isn't as strong or as capable at anything as a man.  She never had that working parent's guilt either. She never worried about a work/life balance.  She was working because her family needed her to.  After work she was cooking, cleaning, running kids to sports, and generally wearing herself out because that's what had to be done.  She didn't worry about not having much time to herself because her family needed her time more than she did.  It's from her and Dad that I learned the most important lesson of my life.  You do for family.  That's it. That's the secret of life and that's what I try to do.  I do for family like Mom and Dad did though I rarely live up to them.
     It wasn't all fun and games, of course.  Life isn't that way.  I've written before about how she held me after her mother died and told me she would be my buddy now.  She is too.  As a parent I realize now that she was drawing comfort from comforting me but it's still remarkable to me that while grieving for her own mother she was able to remember what her mother had said to me when her grandma had died.  Then again my mom's mom had thought to say it to me in the first place when her mom died so I guess it runs in the family.  I'm blessed with strong women that do for family.
     I can remember bawling like a baby in Mom's arms when she told me my best friend Brad was going to move after his father died in third grade.  She held me and told me that it would be alright and promised me I would still see him.  She knew how important Brad was to me even at such a young age and she didn't try to tell me that I'd make new friends or anything like that.  She told me I'd still see him and obviously she kept that promise because I ended up naming my son after my friend.  Once again, and always, she did for family.
     When I was a teenager and my girlfriend had to move away after her own mother died my parents were instrumental in me still being able to see her.  Again, they didn't tell me I'd meet other women or anything like that. Again, they knew how important she was to me.  I wish I knew how they did that. Then when things weren't going well for my girlfriend at her father's house Mom saw this and told me we've got to get her out of there.  So then she moved in with us.  Sherri and I had been working on this for months but it wasn't until we got the force of Mom behind us that it happened.
     Sherri wasn't the only friend of her sons that Mom moved in with us or fed or took care of over the years.  She's Mom to many children she didn't give birth to.  I learned from Mom not only do you do for family but that the definition of family is flexible.  Family can be anyone that needs a helping hand and deserves it.  If they feel like a son or daughter or neice or nephew or mom or dad or aunt or uncle or grandma or grandpa then they are and that's that.  Of course, they can never replace blood so it's a hard balancing act but Mom balanced that like she balanced everything else in life.  Long before Nike thought of the catchphrase Mom was just doing it.
     Still, it was hard for her years later when Sherri and I went through troubles and ultimately a divorce.  Sherri had truly become like a daughter to her.  That didn't stop Mom from talking me through all of it and having my back the whole time.  It did hold her back from saying anything really bad about Sherri though and I love Mom all the more for that.  I could feel her holding back.  It wasn't that she thought I was right and Sherri was wrong.  That wasn't why she wanted to say anything about or to Sherri.  It's just that one of her son's were hurting and in Mom's world that's not supposed to happen. Still, she loved and still loves Sherri so she never said anything too bad about her while still managing to never give me less than I needed. I know it's not but Mom is a remarkable woman whose balancing seems effortless.
     I reached out and got help from many family members and friends to get through my divorce only because I knew how Mom felt about Sherri and I didn't want to burden Mom with all of it.  It was still Mom, though, who ultimately got me through it.  I'm not the only son she's done that for either.  We have our philosophical and religious conversations with Dad and our emotional conversations with Mom and it seems to work out alright.  The funny thing us that these conversations with both of them always come down to the same thing.  You do for family.
     Sometimes my doing for family now leaves me sounding a lot like Mom; screaming my eyeballs out.  It wouldn't seem right to talk about Mom without talking about her ability to project her voice.  Her ability to scream is such that it still leaves my friends with a healthy fear of her even as they express how much they love her.  Everyone knows Mom is remarkable and a sweet, caring woman and that you don't, above all else, want to piss her off.  I've come to realize her loudness is just another expression of her love.  I focused when I was playing sports to such an extent that I didn't hear any of the spectators except for Mom.  She could always make herself heard when she needed to.  Even in anger her screaming was from love.  Every Cardinals manager and closer mysteriously gets the middle name Fucking when she's watching a game because she loves the Cardinals and wants her to win.  Even when she went into one of her legendary screaming fits at Dad and her boys and their friends and whoever happened to be around it was out of love.  She wanted us to shut up and listen and do what she needed us to do so she didn't have to kill us because she loved us and didn't want to do that.
     Whether she says it loud or quietly Mom always seems to know the right thing to say to me.  I already talked about her telling me she'd be my buddy now but I also remember when at my grandpa's funeral, her father in law, I saw her by the casket so I walked up and put an arm around her.  When I did a button on the electronic poker game I had hidden in the inside pocket of my suit got pressed and it made a jingling noise.  I was mortified but Mom just looked at me and said that Grandpa would've loved that. Then we laughed and hugged and wiped a few tears from our eyes.  The best example of her say the right thing at the right time has to be at my wedding.  I was a nervous, not quite twenty one year old groom and I was wondering the crowd before the wedding trying to greet everyone and not let on how nervous I was.  I needed to relax and Mom saw this.  Letting me know how she felt about my bride and using humor to relax me she said, “Paul, I have a question.  Should I sit on the groom's side or the bride's side?"  I often give credit and blame for my humor to Dad but Mom taught me a lot about getting off a good one too.
     I could tell Mom stories for thousands of more words.  She has done for family and if that requires laughing or crying or shouting she does it.  If that requires trips hours away on short notice to help her boys with their kids she does it.  If that requires the right words on the phone or just being their she does it.  She really is the perfect mom and I'm so thankful she's mine.  I'll call her today and wish her Happy Birthday and apologize for not being able to see her.  She'll say well Paul you've got to pay your bills and feed my grandson.  You do for family.  She'll make me feel better on her birthday because that what she does.
     I asked my son what he would say about his grandma.  He said, “She's one of the nicest people I've ever met and without her my life would not be the same."  Perfect.  While I ramble on like my dad he says exactly what needs to be says and goes on about his business.   He is his grandma's grandson.  Happy birthday  Mom.  I love you.

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