Monday, March 23, 2009

Happy Birthday Mom

In the hopes that my mother will forgive her loving (and only) son for not sending her a birthday card, I'm writing down a few memories I have of her over the years.

The Deer At The Cemetery
I don't recall exactly what year it was, but I remember my mother and I (and I think my step-father too) visiting the cemetery her father was buried in in the Chicago area. I'm sure we were visiting his sisters and brothers and my cousins for some reason, but the trip to the cemetery was, well, creepy. You see, I've never been fond of cemeteries. In fact for the longest time I would hold my breath when we drove by them for fear the dead would steal my soul (one of those foolish beliefs I picked up from a cousin, I'm sure). While visiting the cemetery, we went and stood by the grave and said whatever it is we say to make ourselves feel better.

At some point during the visit, before or after the grave-visiting, we saw some deer. I thought this a little odd, since we were in a fairly suburban area and seeing deer in a cemetery just seemed odd. Well, the deer either took offense at us or our beliefs and charged me. That's right. It was straight out of a cartoon bull fight. Hooves pawed the ground. Breath was snorted through the nose. And the damned thing charged. Scared the heebeejeebees out of me. I must have gone to the bathroom before the trip because I didn't need to change my undies afterward. That's how scared I was. I mean, being around a bunch of dead people in the ground is bad enough, but to have a deer charge you on top of that just sent me over the edge.

My Mom Gets A Dog And Dates Jesus
When my stepfather died, my mom was distraught. So much so, I didn't know what to do. You hear about women that lose their children or husband and just wail in some un-earthly keening that can strike a man down into the depths of despair and beyond. While I don't remember my mother wailing like this out loud, I know she did inside. Bobby was never the nicest guy, to me or her, but they were still married. So when he died, it was hard. And it was harder since it was such a sudden death.

So when the final arrangements were done and everyone was back home and doing their best to get back into some sort of routine, my mother told me she got a dog. A dog? She must be crazy. Then she said she got a boyfriend. A boyfriend? She must be really crazy. And she's moving in with him? Wow. And he looks like Jesus? She went off the deep end. I just couldn't believe how fast they were moving into this relationship. Clearly it was fast enough for them, but it was way too fast for me.

Fast forward nearly ten years (has it been that long already?). Turns out my mom's boyfriend/fiance/partner/whatever you want to call him, is a nice guy. Granted, I've not spent a lot of time with him, but just seeing how he interacts with Elizabeth and my mom tells me he's better than just a nice guy. And yes, he looks a little like Jesus would with blond hair, but you know what, who cares? I still like him.

The "D" Word
Growing up as a kid, my parents were always divorced. To many people, that was a label they applied to myself and my parents. And it often wasn't a nice label. Even when my remarried, the stigma was still there sometimes, rearing it's ugly head. But for me, it was no big deal. When my friends in school had parents going through a divorce, I couldn't see what the big deal was. After all, my parents were fine, theirs would be too.

Turns out, that's not always the case. As I got older, I learned more from these friends that their parents wouldn't talk. Some would go to the agreed upon meeting spot and get out of mom's car and into dad's car, the parents not exchanging a word the whole time. For me, it was the opposite. My mom and dad would talk. They'd call each other. They'd talk to me. They'd even eat a lunch together if they were swapping me from house to house. So traveling to see my mom in the summers or on school breaks wasn't that big of a deal. It was hard to adjust from one house to another, but I got used to it. Besides, my parents were grown-up enough to be adults about the whole thing, why shouldn't I be? I could go on and on with countless stories about traveling back and forth between my parents, but I'll just give you a few highlights.

Highlights Of Visiting Mom
- When I was about five, I started flying back and forth from east coast to west coast to see my mom for the summer. I flew alone and would get to tour the cockpit, get a free deck of cards, get pilots' wings, and always had a flight attendant take care of me. Mom lived in a trailer in Salinas and I remember taking her picture with my Polaroid camera by the trailer-park pool. For some reason my picture was crooked. I still have it.
- When I was in 3rd grade, I spent the school year with mom in Bellevue, Washington. We lived in a trailer park and I got into trouble a lot. This was the first (and only) year I walked to school. My grandparents came to be with me when she moved, but I don't remember that. I just remember living in that tiny trailer where the rain made so much noise on the little vent in the roof I could barely sleep.
- My moved lived in Salt Lake City once and I remember the apartments they had their. Vaguely. I remember the cat that had kittens under the house or trailer or something and I had to stay away because it would get mean. And I would trim the grass next to the sidewalk with scissors in the front yard. I also got to see my Aunt Susie (my mom's sister) and her family. They lived next to a car dealer and had an orchard in their backyard. They had a weird house; it had a central vacuum!
- I remember my mom living in Madera, California. It was always hot as hell there. We lived in the fifth-wheel there. I had odd dreams there that I still remember to this day.
- I remember traveling with her across Nebraska and we stopped to meet my grandmother (my dad's mom) in a restaurant. I was scared of her (something I'm ashamed of to this day, I mean, what kind of kid is afraid of his own grandmother?).
- I can remember countless adventures with cousins, aunts, and uncles in the Chicago area. Most of the fun time we had was at Aunt Diana's house.
- In sixth grade I went to spend the school year with mom again, this time in Sandy Lake, Pennsylvania. We lived in a house on ten acres and I learned a lot that year (and the summers before). Like turkeys make terrible pets because they are as dumb as the rocks they eat. Having the stray dog you took in as a pet shot in the woods by your step-father can emotionally scar you. When given the choice of moving a wood pile and getting paid or moving it later for free, choose to get paid. Pay attention when cutting the grass because you may run into something (I still have a hard time with this one). When stealing a Christmas tree from your neighbor, make sure you have a getaway car.
- Around the time I was in the eighth grade, my mom got sick. It was a hard time for me because I was trying to be the man of the house (which meant I was butting heads with my step-father) and my mom was in and out of the hospital with an illness I still have a hard time understanding.

Enough Already
I could go on and on and on about anyone in my family given the proper inspiration. But today belongs to my mother. Sometimes she was my mom, sometimes my mother, sometimes my mutha. I never had the chance to grow up with one of those "stay-at-home" moms and sometimes I'm sad I didn't. But I still had a mom as a kid and I still have one now as an adult. I'm hoping she'll stick around long enough to be a great-grandmother, just like Grandma Grace. Maybe she'd even wear those silly glasses.

And in case you forgot why I wrote this, Happy Birthday Mom. I love you.


cinda1212 said...

Nice, Neil!

I remember her wailing outloud at Bobby's funeral. :(

And I'm glad you used the photo of your mom and 'jesus' at my wedding. It's a good one! :)

Anonymous said...

hey thanks for sharing your memories neil. your mom's a peach!

TK42ONE said...

cinda - I remember different parts of the whole funeral event, some good, some bad, but not the wailing.

myolivebranch - I'm not sure I'd call her a peach. Don't they have pits in the middle? I'd say an onion because she has layers. Or a candied apple dipped in nuts because she's a little nutty, a little sweet, but good for you.

Gayle said...

Thanks sweet son of mine....