Friday, April 10, 2009

My Momma Done Tole Me

My Momma Done Told me…

Don’t know why she has been on my mind so much lately. I loved my mom from the day I was born until the day she went to heaven with her arms stretched up and with a huge smile. and I still do love her and miss her.

I never heard my mom use a swear word. I rarely heard her say anything bad about anybody, including my father who often deserved to have things bad said about him. They had to be pretty bad people to get one of her looks and a word or two. Funny, it was in the last 15 years or so of their lives together that dad finally figured things out and they would walk around town together, arm in arm. He actually turned into a decent guy. I wish he had done that about 30 years earlier. But, she stuck with him.

I think the last time I saw my mom’s knees was when I was about 7 or 8. After that, they were gone. Mom would never leave the house without a dress and one of her many spectacular hats on. In her latter days, living in a senior center, she would dress as though she was heading for church just to go down the hall for her mail. Mom never drove a car, never smoked, never drank except in her last years, she would have a drop or two of wine at special dinners at our home.

Her last Christmas was at our house with 5 generations of her family mobbed, half buried in wrapping paper around her in the living room. She was so frail, but laughed the whole time. You see, Mom was an orphan. She ran away from the home she was in when she was 16 and married dad. Now she had a horde of a family. I treasure the time alone in the car with her when I drove her back to the care center. We held hands and smiled at each other.

For almost 20 years she was the receptionist and Sunshine Lady for the city Senior Center. The last few years were hard, because so many of her friends had died before her. I am beginning to understand how she felt. I have lost five good friends in the last month. I hate that. It is so hard to say goodbye. I cry a lot more now than I did when I was in my fifties or sixties.

My baby sister died in her early fifties from diabetes. Mom said a parent shouldn’t outlive her children. I understand that only too well. She is right. The pain is always there.

My older sister is in advanced stage four cancer and had already outlived the Doctors’ predictions, but she is hanging on the edge. She told me in January that she wanted to make it to her April 16th Birthday. I told her that she was being selfish again. I told her that if she really loved me, she would stick around for my birthday in November.

Speaking of my birthday, my mom always told me that I was a Thanksgiving baby, born on Turkey day. A few weeks ago, I was on a web site that tells you the day of the week you were born on if you put in your birth date. Mine came up on a Monday. I mean I got really upset with mom. I have been a Thanksgiving baby for over 70 years and now I’m just a regular Monday boy. Glad I didn’t find out when it really mattered, when I needed that special edge. There are some things you just don’t need to know the answers to.

It’s sort of like trying to understand our toaster. I know that when I push the bread down, the little wires get red hot and the bread gets toasted. I don’t understand why the wires get red hot every time and don’t just burn up or why you don’t get an electric shock if you touch them. I actually tested that a while ago. I pushed the lever down when it was empty and touched the not-yet-red-hot-wires. Nothing. I know there is a reason for this being so. I just don’t know what it is.

The older I get, the more I am realizing that there is a lot I don’t need to know and a lot I need to forget.

Well, I had to let the Thanksgiving thing go. It was just that I loved to have a big Thanksgiving dinner at our house and tell everyone to bring me presents.. Not big ones, just fun presents. . Now I need to try some other way. Maybe not tell anyone I was just a Monday boy. At least my birthday does fall on Thanksgiving every few years.

The whole Thanksgiving scam brought up other things from my youth I was better off not remembering. Like the time during the depression when she managed to get a small, whole chicken to bake for dinner. Mom made mashed potatoes and even made a nice apple pie. This dinner was a great leap from the potato soup and bread we usually had for dinner.

When dad came home, he invited the couple next door to have dinner with us. Mom called me into the kitchen and whispered that we didn’t have enough chicken for everyone and said, “Ned, when the chicken is passed around, say, ‘No thank you, I don’t want any.’ That way, we will have enough for the neighbors.”

I did what mom said and chewed on my mashed potatoes, swishing them through my teeth, watching everyone else eat the chicken down to the bone. Trying not to glare.

When the pie was being dished out, mom said, “I’m sorry, Ned, You don’t get any desert because you wouldn’t eat your chicken.” Such was the life of an obedient son.

You know, I appreciate the closeness we had that she could do that with me. Mom worked hard at a ladies’ dress shop all day, cleaned the house and managed my two sisters and me…. Dad stopped off every night at the bar on the corner when he was finished work and missed half our dinners and that was fine with me. When I was older mom would send me down to get him and that was never pleasant. But I did get to drink beer at a pretty early age and I became a pretty good shuffleboard player.

The strange thing was that I never got into trouble as a kid because I didn’t want to shame my mom. Kept me out of a lot of trouble. I was already working at age 11 and brought my pay home to mom until I left for college. That’s what you did in those days. Nobody talked about minimum wage or underage minors. 25 cents an hour for a 12 -14 hour Saturday was enough to feed the family Sunday dinner.

Mom taught me to be polite. It was always, “Yes Ma’am and Yes Sir.” A failure to take my hat off to a lady would get me a rap of knuckles on my head. She made sure she always thanked everyone who helped her in a store or restaurant. I still thank busboys for their service when they clear my table. I read name tags and use the name when talking to someone serving me. I smile, like mom always did for everyone.

I hope my kids will remember some of the things I have passed down to them. But, my wife, Carol, is just like mom. Just like the song…. Made it so much easier.

By the way, we went to the Indio City Hall offices the other day. What wonderful, helpful people work there. Almost like my mom trained them. We left with smiles a mile wide, just for being treated so nice.

Wish it were contagious. Let’s try.


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  2. That was just plain beautifulEd. I hope my children treasure me in like manner. God Bless you.