The First Without You

Mother’s Day May, 8,2016

Of all things I think I said most, I probably said, “Don’t worry about it,” more than anything else.
“Don’t worry about it, Ma” or, “I got it,” was probably one of my most frequent responses to you.
When you asked me if I did my work in school or cleaned my room, I said, “Don’t worry about it, Ma. I got it.”
When you told me not to do something and warned me that I could hurt myself, I told you, “Don’t worry about it, Ma. I got it.” before rushing out the door.

Moms take care of us when we’re sick.
They clean up our messes.
they put band-aids on our cuts and spray that stinging spray on our scrapes when we fall down and skin our knees.
You did these things for me.

There is nothing easy about a mother’s job. Moms worry. They stay up late until we come home. In some cases, moms have to step in when sons like me get into trouble.
They say things like, “You just wait until your father hears about this,” but then mom never tells because dads can be a bit too hard on us.

A mom can go without so their children never have to. Moms are the last to sit at the dinner table. They are the last to eat but the first to get up, clean up, put everything away—and if they’re lucky, mom has a few minutes to herself to enjoy the silence of a happily fed family. If she’s lucky, mom gets a few minutes of silence throughout the day. If she’s lucky, mom has a minute to relax.

Of all things I miss most, I think I miss the dinners when you made chicken cutlets and mashed potatoes. As simple as it sounds, no one else in the world could ever duplicate your breaded chicken cutlets and mashed potatoes.

A mom’s job is thankless. This is a sad but true fact. We as kids or even as adults are bothered by the simple fact that you care that much. And when you call or tell us what to do, we tell you something like, “I got it, Ma,” or “Don’t worry about it.”

We become angry when all you want to do is help because to us,  your helpfulness is not helping because we as kids think we know better. And so it goes.

Except for a few pictures, an old painting of a fiddler, and some photograph albums, I have nothing from the house I grew up in. The remnants of my passed have all faded to memory. Aside from a few pages in a diary, which, even those are mostly gone now—I only have one tangible thing that survived my childhood.

Like every kid, I had a few toys and some stuffed animals. I cannot say what happened to my toys or stuffed animals. I assume their value was either disregarded or forgotten. And like all the other things from my boyhood room in the house at 277 Merrick Avenue, my stuffed animals and toys were either tossed in the garbage or went the way of other forgotten and disregarded toys. All I have of this time is a small stuffed Bengal tiger in a green shirt named Tuffy.

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Tuffy has survived the decades. Like a mother’s love, Tuffy has survived my toughest times. Tuffy survived the angry years and the troubles ones.  Tuffy was there for me when I was in the hospital at 8 years-old and he has not left me since.  I suppose this is because Tuffy is an example of a mother’s love. And as we all know, there is nothing in the world so strong as a mother’s love.

A mother’s love is unending and timeless. It cannot be broken. A mother’s love cannot be replaced, or duplicated. It is unique and of all types of love; a mother’s love is of course the most dependable kind of love there is.

Moms are often under-appreciated. Their love is often disregarded and somehow forgotten. The years a mother spends raising their children sometimes come to the unfortunate role-reversal of old age and assisted living homes.
Instead of moms receiving phone calls about our behavior or progress, and instead of moms taking care of us—the role switches. It is us that get phone calls in the mid-afternoon, which come from places like say, an assisted living home or a nurse in a hospital who explains, “Your mother is here and she is not willing to take her medication.”

I remember when I was in the hospital with Tuffy. I wouldn’t take my meds either. I remember the nurses telling you this and you came in to make me take them. I wanted to rip the I.V. needles from my arm because they hurt so badly. But you were there to help me through it. You were there at my sickest and worst. You were there to pick me up when I could not stand. Your love withstood my addiction and alcoholism. Your love was there in the courtroom visits. This is not to say your love for me was always happy. This is only to say your love has always been unending.

You moved away a long time ago. And I knew this was something you needed to do. I understand there was nothing left for you in New York. I understood The Old Man’s death was hard on all of us. However, it was hardest on you.

I knew I was mainly the reason you never dated anyone else.  I know we still laugh about your first date after Pop passed. We laughed about how I threatened the life a small, shriveling, and certainly week-minded man. He was no one special. He was just a man who simply thought he was going to take a woman on a date.
No, I suppose he did not expect to meet a son like me. I suppose he did not expect to pick up his date and sit in the kitchen while an immature and above all, an overly protective and slightly ill-minded son stood over him as he sat at the kitchen counter.
I remember standing over this man—breathing on his neck while grinding my teeth and asking questions like, “Who are you,” and “Where are you taking my Mother?”
“What time will she be home,” I asked.
“What do you do for a living?”

I asked all these questions with a clenched, and slightly cocked-back fist. Each time I asked, the man timidly attempted to answer. His balding head beneath my chin—his terrible comb-over hairstyle barely reaching across his scalp; each second that passed was an angry one and each question grew more abrasive than the last. Each time this man went to answer me, I interrupted him by asking another aggressive and intimidating question. Of all, this date lasted only 20 minutes.

You moved away because you needed to.  And rather than suffer the sadness of not moving forward or enduring another season of the cold New York winters, you exchanged climate and accents for the warmer scenes of Southern Florida. And me—I stayed her to get my life started. I suppose I needed to grow the same as you needed to grow.

I suppose a piece of me believed you always saw me as you little baby boy, which is not really a bad thing. I just wanted to be seen a man—tough and valid
I was thinking about a lecture I gave in a library. You sat in the back and kept calling out to me and telling me what to talk about.

There I was . . . trying to be this tough author
and there you were
talking to me like your youngest son

I wanted the crowd to see me one way, but that’s a tough thing to do when a guy’s mom is in the crowd shouting, “Tell them about the story you let me read the other day.”
Here it is, I wanted to be seen as tough and there it was; they saw me as this picture I am sharing below

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Moms have this role in our lives. As kids we depend on this role. No matter how thankless or under-appreciated this love may be; a mother’s love is always a mother’s love—unending, unbreakable, irreplaceable, and above all, unable to be duplicated.

Above all the things I said to you, I probably said, “Don’t worry about it,” most.
Take our last phone call, for example. Or better, take our last coherent phone call, for example

You asked me when I was coming to see you.
You told me you needed me to come down right away.
I told you I couldn’t go.

You said, “But I want to see you before I die.”
With frustration in my voice, I told you, “Don’t worry about it, Mom. You’re not gonna die.”

It used to be that you had to sign permission slips for me. When I was a boy in school, you had to sign permission slips for me to go on school trips. When I was sick, you had to sign and give permission for the doctors to treat me.

This time, it was me that needed to sign the permission slip. You had asked that I never allow them to keep you on a machine. You told me that when your life is no longer natural—then life is not life at all.

I did as you told me, Mom.
You went as you asked to go.

So again, I say don’t worry about it, Mom.
I took care of it.

For now, it is Mother’s Day.
This is your first away from us.
For now, it’s just me and Tuffy. We’re sitting here together in the writing loft as I write to you. I wanted to tell you something other than, “Don’t worry about it, Mom,” or, “I got it.”

I wanted to tell you the words I wished I said more often.
I love you Mom

Happy Mother’s Day.

I know I never listened very well. I know I never cleaned my room the way you asked me to. I certainly never handled things the way you told me to. But this—this last thing you told me to handle . . .
I hope I did it exactly as you asked.

Enjoy your Mother’s Day, Mom.
Tell Pop I said hello

I signed the contract for your headstone. It should be ready by the first anniversary of your death. After this is planed, I don’t think I’ll be going to see you there.
I don’t like cemeteries.
That’s where dead people live.

I’d rather speak to you and look for you in the sky because in my heart, that’s where you live

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One thought on “The First Without You

  1. Amazing story bro I read you stuff almost everyday n some of you stories really hit home n you make this grown man that I am break tears you are n awesome author keep it up!!!!

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