I tried other column ideas for today, Mother’s Day.
But it always came back to my Mom.
I’m the youngest of three sons. The baby. You know — rules didn’t apply to me. In hindsight, what rules?
Mom’s been gone for almost 25 years. I’ve held on to her simple, funny, friendly everyday comments. That’s what I miss most about her. The conversations. Her voice. Her laugh. Phone calls. Her advice and comments like:
- Watch the sunshine. On sunny days of my childhood, Mom always advised, “Wear your hat. Keep your shirt on. You’re a redhead. The sun is not your friend.” I remember those words when I golf, ride my bike, or vacation at a beach. Hat on. Shirt on, always. Sunscreen on, usually.
- Place things where you remember. I’m in a daily panic attack because I have misplaced my car keys, wallet or both. “I’m going to put them on a string and tie them around your neck,” Mom said often. Add my cell phone to the list. I’ve yet to tie them around my neck. Or pin them to my butt, which was Mom’s more stern warning.
- Take a nap. When I was having a particularly bad day, Mom would often say, “Go take a nap. Wake up in a better mood.” I don’t take a lot of naps these days. But when I do, I always wake up in a better mood.
- Stay in school. I struggled to find myself and get through college. I wanted to join the Navy or join a trade. Mom remained stern. “You will stay in college. You’ll thank us later.” I’m glad I stayed in school. I would have starved if relying on my hands for a living. I can fix a sandwich. Period.
- Give it your best shot. Mom was symbolic of the Greatest Generation. She and Dad wanted more opportunities for their three sons. They were successful. When I told her I wanted to major in journalism and business, she said go for it. Give it your best. Choose something you like. “Work hard,” she said. “And get really rich and support me someday.”
- Forgive and forget? Mom thought former Cardinals third baseman and manager Kenny Boyer was the most handsome man ever. She got mad at the Cardinals when they fired Boyer as their manager. She never followed Cardinals baseball closely again. But she gently celebrated the 1982 World Series Championship, but mentioned to me that Kenny Boyer could have done it, too, as manager, with more talent.
- Acceptance. Mom had the great gift of accepting others. She had many friends. Her office’s janitor had a troubled son. Mom was always giving him clothes, a few extra dollars. “Everyone has good in them,” she’d say. “Sometimes, you have to look harder …” That was a valuable life lesson, especially today when it often seems we focus more on our differences than similarities.
- Clean your car. My high school car was my mom’s car. A gold, 1972 Plymouth Valiant. Many Sunday mornings, I got the stern look on our way home from church. She’d nod to whatever was on the passenger’s floor. “It had better be cleaned up and the smell gone by the time I go to work in the morning,” she said. Mom always threatened to take the car away from me, or stop giving gas money. She knew I liked riding my bike. “You are going to need that old bike again,” she said. “Keep it oiled up.”
- Practice, practice … no excuses. What did Mom remember most from my high school football games? I kicked off but only because we had no one who could kick well. So I kicked the ball on the ground and made the ball squirm around the field on kickoffs. A squib kick, we called it. I tried to explain my kicks on the ground were intentional and planned. She assumed I could not kick any better. “Go practice in the front yard,” she’d say to me the day after a game. “You might get one up in the air next week.”
- No pity. Mom’s hands were crippled from arthritis. But she kept up her artwork and crafts. No pity for her. “Not a big deal. Go to Children’s Hospital. Visit kids with cancer. Meet their families. That is a big deal,” she said.
Celebrate your mom today, if not in person, then in memory. Mother’s Day was a big deal to Mom. A barbecue at her house. Presents. Cake, pie or ice cream. One treat had to be chocolate.
In my Mom’s honor today, I’m going to find my keys and wallet. Eat chocolate. Reminisce. If needed, I’ll take a nap and wake up in a better mood.