I’d just moaned and groaned my way out of bed. Travel had made it a short night.
I said “Thank you” just loud enough for me and Superman, with his extraordinary auditory sense, to hear.
I say “Thank you” a lot. I have so many things to be grateful for. Later in the day, I said, “Thank you” as a granddaughter circled the bases after clubbing a home run. I was grateful I got to see it.
I wished my mother could have lived to have seen it. Mom enjoyed watching softball and basketball. She only watched football games involving Tom Landry, the Dallas Cowboys coach, who wore “that cute little fedora.”
Mother’s Day is just around the bend. This is the time I’d start thinking about what the perfect gift would be for my mother.
I considered a bouquet of dandelions or a field rock painted the color of an Allis-Chalmers tractor. After I married, my wife vetoed those gifts. I’d protest, claiming my mother had liked them before, but my wife had no respect for traditions. We’d take Mom out to eat something she didn’t have to cook instead.
Do I miss my mother? Does Minnesota have bad weather?
Mother was concerned for my health. She reminded me to take a jacket even on 90-degree days. I’ll bet I was thankful for that reminder at least once, but I can’t remember any specifics. If I was doing some adventurous climbing, she told me that if I fell and broke a leg, I shouldn’t come crawling to her. I did that only once. Rain made for a slippery roof and I wasn’t wearing hand-me-down tennis shoes with all-weather treads. Mother was more than willing to apply a Band-Aid, even when it wasn’t needed, just to stifle her child’s despair and silence the wails. She kissed an endless supply of owies. A kiss was the only medicine better than a Band-Aid. This was good during a time when most medical advice consisted of one of three things. “Get up, you’re not hurt.” “Walk it off.” “Chew on the side that doesn’t hurt.”
I remember Mom putting monkey blood on endless cuts and scrapes. It wasn’t really monkey blood — at least I don’t think it was. It was a substance called Mercurochrome, a brand name of merbromim, or Merthiolate, a brand name of thiomersal. Mercurochrome, Merthiolate and iodine preparations stung like the dickens when applied to broken skin. It was never, “Ouch, that stings!” It was always, “That stings like the dickens.” Dickens being a euphemism for the devil or Old Nick. It was useful in a family devoid of cussing.
Mother loved to cook. “People need food,” she said. It was difficult to be a visitor from far away to leave without getting sandwiches and cookies wrapped in wax paper as parting gifts.
She made me a storyteller. “What did you learn in school today?” she asked each day after I walked from the bus into the house. There were days when I hadn’t learned anything. I had to come up with a story. If I could make her laugh, I was golden.
When she told me to put on whispering pants and good shoes, I knew we were going to town. The whispering pants were corduroy. Not my preferred trousers or footwear, but going to town was an exciting time for a boy who was easily amazed.
Mother preached the proper way without appearing to be preaching. She’d sneak it in. Mother would have found comfort in a Spanish proverb that says, “An ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy.”
Yogi Berra said, “Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.”
Mom would have said, “Life is 90 percent attitude. The other half is listening to your mother.”
She walked the walk, talked the talk and smiled the smile. One day, I took her to the clinic for some serious medical things. There was a possibility of her eyesight being lost. For a woman who loved to read and whose eyes found beauty in the world, it was a crushing prospect.
We sat in a waiting room filled with folks fighting various battles. I tried to be strong, but Mom could tell I was fretting. She greeted other patients with her smile and a wave. Then she focused her smile on me before saying something she knew I’d find heartening.
“We might as well smile for a while.”
I’m going to do that right now in her memory.