Of course there will always be the memories of yesteryear. There will always be the memories from the times of our youth as well as the things we remember about the kids from the neighborhood.
We will always remember the shows we watched on television. We will always remember our favorite meals and the way our bedroom looked when we were little. Or, maybe I should speak for myself here.
I’ll always remember my home and my bedroom because this was my own little corner of the world. I remember this because this is where my life began. I held secrets here. I played here and I lived here.
This is where life happened, in a house with the numbers 277 posted right next to the front door on Main Street in a town called East Meadow.
There was Mom. There was my Father, who I affectionately refer to as The Old Man.
We called him Pop, which is what my Father called his Father.
But Mom . . .
Mom came from New Mexico which, to me, was like another planet. I could never think about the southern life or picture the deserts or at least my assumptions of this. I could never picture the cactus or the emptiness of a town that was so far away.
Mom grew up in a town called Carlsbad. I had only been there twice; however, I have very little memory of this. The time was interesting to say the least. I was young, but not too young. What I mean is I was old enough to understand. I was old enough to have an opinion and I was certainly old enough to have a teenage memory. But still, my memory fades when it comes to my trips to New Mexico.
I remember more about the drive from El Paso, Texas, which was long and through the desert. I remember this more than I do about my stay in Carlsbad. For some reason, Mom said it would be better if we flew into Texas because the airport near my Mother’s hometown was small and the flights might be uncomfortable.
Perhaps she might have been right on this one. But I have to call this one out because do you know what else is uncomfortable?
A three or four hour car ride in a small economy rent-a-car from El Paso, Texas to Carlsbad, New Mexico.
Other than the drive, I can’t say that I remember much.
But Mom . . .
She was the nurturer. She was the primary caregiver in our home. Mom was the glue who kept the house together and yes, Mom was a typical housewife.
She took care of the house. She made sure the rooms were clean and when The Old Man came home, there was always dinner on the table waiting for him. Mom was proud of this.
She was proud of this the same as she was proud in the boardroom. Mom was proud of the way she took care of our family the same as she was proud of becoming an emergency medical technician when she volunteered to work in an ambulance. She was proud of this the same as she was proud of building a company with my Father, The Old Man. She built a big business in an otherwise, male-dominated industry. She’d tell me, I don’t care who you are or where you came from. Never let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do.
I am sorry to break this to you.
But my Mom was tougher and better than any Mother in the world.
No really, it’s the truth.
In spite of her faults and in spite of Mom’s challenges, and even in spite of her periodic gullibility and although I admit it, I might have been a tough kid to raise – still, my Mom was better than any other Mom in the world.
Perhaps there are many moms who can have a son to say this about them; but this Mom was mine.
She was there for me when I was in the hospital as a very small boy. She was there for me at my worst, even when I was in trouble. She was there for me at my lowest times and at my best times. But she never lived long enough to see where my best would take me. I can say this in an unwavering fashion because this is true. Mom was always there.
Mom . . .
I can still remember the first time I ever had a glass of Mom’s iced-tea. In all fairness, this was nothing homemade or anything like that. No, Mom’s iced-tea was a store brand that was very popular,
4-C ever try it?
To be clear, Mom always knew how much to put in and how to mix it up. I have tasted this brand of iced-tea when made by other people. But for some reason, Mom always made this best. Maybe it was the way she poured it. Maybe it was the way Mom put ice in the glass. Maybe it was a mixture of things. Or maybe this was because it was made with Mom’s love. Maybe that was it.
Mom . . .
What I wouldn’t give for her mashed potatoes and chicken cutlets. And ah, the gravy. The smell from the kitchen and the quietness at the dinner table that went on in spite of the world around me.
All was well because Mom cooked my favorite meal.
No one spoke at this time because we were all too busy eating.
She always knew . . .
Mom knew when the thoughts were getting to me. She knew that I couldn’t figure things out. I couldn’t do things the same as other people. She tried hard.
She might not have had the answers and, in all fairness, she might not have made the right choices all the time. But either way, life does not come with an instruction manual and when it comes to being a Mom, there is no playbook. There were no “how to” books – or, at least, there weren’t at the time. There is no page 76 which explains what to do when your son is depressed or what to say when your son was bullied and to him, there is no point in doing anything – let alone going back to school . . .
Our time was a different time. I was born on September 20, 1972. This is when I made my big debut.
The world was so much different at the time.
We had less access to information. Then again, we also had less access to misinformation.
We believed what we saw on the television. We believed in the constitution and the flag was more than just a banner. But to me, I came from a background where this was always respected.
I can remember standing up at the start of every day in school. I remember saying the Pledge of Allegiance. I remember the feeling I had beneath my skin and the warmth I always felt when hearing my National Anthem. And yes, I still rise for this. I still love my country, in spite of its faults and flaws because the one thing that Mom taught me is this: When you love something, no matter what goes wrong or what changes need to be made – you don’t quit it – you love it.
You never waver. You never retreat. You stand behind what and who you love.
No matter what!
That’s what my Mom taught me.
I have to say this. I have to express this right here and right now because as challenged as I was and as rebellious as I might have been, and vicious at times; as messed up as I might have been at my worst, I was always respectful of this.
There was something wholesome and untouchable about the flag and the spirit of my country to me. Perhaps this was because I knew The Old Man joined the Army Air Corps as soon as he was legally able.
My Old Man enlisted at the end of World War II and to me, this is something I am most proud of.
In fact, somewhere I have a box of old memories. I have a box with old black and white photos from before I was born. Mom was young. The Old Man was not so old. My Mom was beautiful.
Somewhere, I have a letter of acknowledgement signed by The President of The United States.
He might not have been a great president at the time – but still, I have this.
I have pictures of my Father from back when he was a young hipster.
The Old Man had a cool look to him.
I have a picture of my Father’s friends sitting at a table in a pub. They were in the Bronx. New York, a place which I will always call my home.
They were all dressed up in their uniforms. People were coming home from overseas. America had just won the war.
The picture was a group of men sitting at a table with cigars. There were big pitchers of beer on the table. Each man had a big, half full mug in front of them which gave a hint that this was not their first pitcher of beer and it certainly wouldn’t be their last.
Beneath the old photo in my Father’s handwriting, it said, “THE BOYS.”
I always wondered what that night was like for The Old Man.
This was long before he met my Mother. This was before I was even a thought.
I always wonder about things like this because as children, we never seem to realize that our parents had a life before we were born.
Mom loved my Father.
She loved him perfectly.
She loved him without question and without blinking.
Mom loved my Father with all of her heart and with all of her soul.
My Father was tough but loving.
He was well-liked but at times, I can say that he was tough to like.
Or better yet, he was tough on me – and rightfully so.
He loved her though. My Father loved my Mother.
He loved her perfectly.
His life wouldn’t have worked without my Mother.
Then again, none of our lives would have worked without my Mom.
She brought me into this world. She loved me. She fed me.
Mom cared for me and stood by me at the hardest times.
And yes, there were several.
There were times when Mom and I would shake our heads and laugh because somehow, in spite of all that went on – the both of us survived.
The one thing Mom could never talk about was my motorcycle accident.
I suppose that was a phone call that no parent ever wants to receive.
I don’t remember much.
I don’t know what happened; aside from what I was told.
I tried to ride a motorcycle. In which case, I didn’t do so well. I was in junior high school at the time.
So no, I was not of age to legally ride or do much of anything.
Then again, I never cared much about the law or what was legal (or what wasn’t).
I was told that my brother Dave almost killed one of the nurses who was running my gurney down the corridor.
For some reason, I sat up. For reasons I cannot recall, I thought I was in the nurse’s office in my junior high school.
I know this because I was told they asked if I knew who I was or where I was.
I wasn’t certain about who I was . . At least, not at the time.
But like I said, I must have assumed I was back in the nurse’s office at a school that I was thrown out of.
I don’t know why.
I suppose I looked a little mangled because I landed on my head. I had a concussion and my shoulder blade was broken. My brother Dave was angry about the way I was being wheeled and rushed down a hallway because I sat up and screamed, “Hold up! Stop the car” and then proceeded to vomit all over the place.
Dave was always a pretty tough kid.
Although my brother Dave and I would fight and there were times when we might have had our brotherly challenges, I was still his kid brother. And Dave? Well, he was sort-of a no-nonsense, knock-around, kind of person when it came to his family.
I was told that he threatened the male nurse who ran me down the hallway.
I wish I could have seen that . . .
But Mom –
Mom never liked to talk about things like this. And yes, there were a lot of stories that went this way.
Some stories are even worse.
But Mom . . .
She stayed with me. She hung in there. No matter what because, “I’m your Mother,” she told me. “And that’s what Mothers do.”
Mom always told me that children are only a loan for a short time.
She always told me that dying is part of life.
She always had a way of explaining things to me.
I agree that all of the above is part of life.
And not all of life’s parts are fortunate ones.
Life is just a loan. It’s a blink of an eye in the grand scheme of so many things.
All I have now is this.
I have my memories. I have a box of pictures.
I have a small stuffed tiger on my desk, sitting right here, next to me at my computer.
His name is Tuffy. He is my most special little friend that Mom gave to me when I was very young and very sick.
I was in the hospital with needles in my arms and a machine was tied up to my body.
I still have Tuffy – only, as hard as this might have been for me; I know this must have been tough for Mom.
In all fairness, I know that Mom is really the tough one.
“I believe in you, son.”
She used to tell me this.
No one else ever said this like Mom.
No one else ever could.
Mom . . .
It’s been a while.
And it’s strange how time works.
It’s strange how one day, years have passed.
Then we look back and ask ourselves “where has the time gone?”
As for that box I was telling you about, the one with the pictures in it. . .
I seldom (if ever) open it. Instead, I keep it safe. I know it’s there. I know where it is and I know what’s inside and yes, it hurts sometimes.
It hurts because there are so many pictures of people who I miss because they’re not around anymore.
Mom . . .
It’d be nice though. Just to hear her voice again.
Just to hear her say, “I love you son.”
Or, “you’ve come a long way, kid!”
I wonder what she would say if she were here now.
I wonder what she would say if she was able to sit in a room during one of my lectures.
I wonder what she would tell the students who waited on line to have me sign their book.
Mom . . .
She was there when I made my debut.
And I was there to see her off
to say goodbye
and I love you.
I did what you told me to. I took care of my Mother, just like you said.
I did this to the best of my ability.
But she’s with you now. Again.
Where she’s supposed to be.