There are times when I am scrolling through my phone to find a number. I come across a word that means more to me than almost anything. Sometimes, I begin dialing a number and due to the technical intelligence of my cell phone, the dialing screen shows suggestions of whom I might be calling. Every so often, I begin to dial a similar number and the word pops on the screen.
The number I come across is not titled with a name of a client or a friend or anyone else.
The word that comes on the screen is Mom.
Mom . . .
There are many Moms out there but this one is mine. She is the one that stood by me. Mom never gave up. She was not a maid. She was not to clean or cook. She was Mom. She was my teacher. She was my support. She was my biggest fan.
As a young boy, I suppose I never thought much about what Mom did. I never thought much about the jobs she worked or the accomplishments she achieved.
I remember when I was little; Mom was a waitress at Howard Johnson’s. See, I come from a tight to average income family. The Old Man had his business but there were times when business was bad.
Mom was strong though.
She was the real backbone of the family. Mom always knew how to pull everything together.
I was small though and too young to remember much. At best, I have a small, little glimpse of memory from this time.
I remember The Old Man putting me in his truck and speeding over to Howard Johnson’s with a bunch of bath towels from the house.
I remember Mom was bleeding a lot but I was too young to understand why and from where. Something happened while Mom was on her shift. I was too young to know what happened. I was certainly too young to understand the concept of an emergency hysterectomy. I just knew Mom was sick.
I found this confusing because I did not know Moms can be sick. Mom to me was not really human. She was Mom. And my Mom was a super hero. She could do anything. She was not afraid to follow her dreams. She never allowed anything to hold her back.
Mom was nurturing.
There are a few meals, which to this day will never be able to duplicate, match in taste, or taste better than Moms.
There will never be anything so comforting as Mom’s chicken cutlets and her mashed potatoes.
My Father had his tricks too. The Old Man had his kitchen sink omelet. The Old Man called his omelet a kitchen sink because he put everything in it “Except the kitchen sink.”
I’m not sure if I enjoyed the taste of this so much as I loved the experience; however, among all the lessons I learned as a boy; I learned that family is to be synergistic. I learned that to be successful as a family. as a team, and as an individual, unity, teamwork, and cohesion is the most important ingredient.
Mom was an E.M.T. on an ambulance for a while. She worked the overnight shift a few days a week. I watched my Mother study and learn and achieve her goals. Nothing was beyond her reach.
When The Old Man’s company spiraled down, Mom and The Old Man came up with a business plan. Put simply Mom built a company from a sidewalk on Archer Avenue in Jamaica, Queens.
Meanwhile, it would be unfair not to mention that Mom took care of me. She was my biggest influence.
While running a company, mutually running a household, Mom also had to tend to me.
I was not an easy child. I was the youngest. I had special needs. I was behaviorally challenged and educationally challenged. I struggled with depression. I was labeled with various but useless mental health disorders and meaningless labels, to which I believed, but yet my Mom defied.
I was a handful to say the least. I nearly died in a motorcycle crash in my teen years, which could have been much worse, but fortunately; it was what it was and I only suffered from a broken collarbone and severe concussion. Mom handled this too.
I was small and sickly when I was young. I was painfully thin and perhaps the worst eater in the world. I would not eat. I did not like food. I did not have any drive whatsoever nor did I like school or people. But yet, I so desperately wanted to fit in and be included.
I had social anxiety issues. My hygiene was poor because in my depressive state, I didn’t have the drive to clean or bathe myself.
I was lazy. I was angry. In fact, I was rebellious and hateful because I always felt so terribly uncomfortable.
But Mom did not falter. She did not sway. She did what she could to support me. She endured and she remained.
Even through the worst of times and in the stages of suicide and drug use, arrests and rehabs, had it not been for Mom, I’m not sure I would be here to express this message today
It was toughest on Mom when The Old Man passed. It was toughest on her because in her words, he was the love of her life.
If I could reach back and tell Mom anything; I think I would go back to visit her at the time after The Old Man passed. I would tell her that it is okay to live. I would tell her that Pop would never want her to suffer.
I would say that it’s okay to mourn and it’s okay to feel but The Old Man would never want you to live this way. I would go back and tell her she was the strongest person in the world; not the strongest woman, the strongest person. I would remind her of all she accomplished and all she taught me. Mom was the strongest I ever met. I think she just needed a way to see this.
Same as when I was a boy; I thought I was stupid because I couldn’t understand the material in class. Mom explained that I wasn’t stupid. She told me that I just needed to learn a different way to relate to the information.
Of all my wishes, I wish I could reach back in time and find a way to help Mom learn a different way to relate to information. This way she could see how incredible she was.
See, in all my life, I have never met anyone as capable as Mom. She raised her two sons. She ran a company. She saved lives. My Mom was a super hero. Period. End of sentence.
After The Old Man passed away, Mom moved down to Florida to create the life she dreamed of having. This was a goal of theirs.
My Mother and Father were supposed to retire to Florida together. But life had other plans. Instead, Mom committed to do just that. She moved away and created her life. Not only did this take strength; this the bravest thing I had ever witnessed.
God, I admired her.
Mom was not Mom for the last years of her life. She had several painful diseases in her spine, which took her away slowly. She went through surgery after surgery. Along with my brother, we flew down as often as we could. We helped Mom. We took care of her.
I was Mom’s healthcare proxy, which was tough at the end. It was me that had to sign the paper to take Mom off life support. But I couldn’t hold her. No, I had to honor Mom’s wishes, which I did. And I did exactly as she asked.
When I was a little boy, around the age of eight or so, I was hospitalized for a few weeks with gastroenteritis. I don’t really know what that is or what it means. I just know I was in the hospital, crying in pain, vomiting, lying in bed by a window and seeing an outside world that looked beautiful, but yet, meanwhile, I was stuck in a hospital room with an I.V. in my arms and being poked with needles throughout the day.
Mom never left though. She slept there. She was always next to me. The only time Mom was not with me is when I went in for tests that Mom could not be in the room.
After one test in particular, I came back to the room and found Mom there with a little stuffed animal. His name was Tuffy. And Tuffy was a little tiger. I was only 8 then. I am 46 now. Tuffy and me, we go way back. In fact, Tuffy is sitting on a shelf behind me right.
The word empowerment means to give permission; it means to authorize; to enable and to permit. To personally empower one’s self means to authorize, to enable, and to permit one’s self to live to their best possible potential.
When I stood to give the eulogy at Mom’s service, I knew this would be hard for me, which is why I brought Tuffy along to remind me that I can get through it.
After explaining the story about what it means to be tough and how Mom taught me to be this way; after telling the story about Mom and how she encouraged me and how she never left my side when I was in the hospital; I placed Tuffy on the podium to show him to the crowd. Amidst the sighs and sound of emotion, I openly confessed the truth.
You were the tough one Mom.
You always were.
I do not know what it means to be a woman. I do not pretend to understand what women contend with. But my Mom told me a woman can do, think, say, or be anything she chooses. And this has to be so because my Mom told me. And Moms are always right
I miss you, Mom.
PS: I haven’t read all the books you asked me to read yet. But I keep them close by. Maybe one day Tuffy and me will read them together because without him, I’m not sure how I would have made it through.
By the way, I still call your number sometimes. There’s no answer. But I keep your number in my phone to keep you with me.
I keep calling too because there are some things I want to share with you and somewhere in me is that little kid that hopes you’ll answer.
I want to show you what I’ve done. I want you to know that what I’ve done was because of what I learned from you
So thanks Mom
Tuffy thanks you too
Sleep well, Mom
speak to you soon