(I wrote this for Mother’s Day 2013, just a few months before Mom passed away. I was heading home from Arkansas and was going to stop by Madison and take her out to lunch. My brother Andy called me somewhere around Corinth, Mississippi and told me that Mom had experienced a massive stroke and was non-responsive. It was a stark reminder that none of us are promised tomorrow so we should treasure every day that we have with your loved ones).
My mother is a remarkable woman although she would be quick to tell you she doesn’t see herself that way. She’s eighty-one years old and has been without my dad since his passing in ‘94. Since that time she’s had cancer twice and a severely broken arm that required two surgeries. After smoking for over fifty years, she kicked the habit! I’ve told her that her long life is not only a testimony to her perseverance, but a reward for raising three boys (we have a sister too, but she wasn’t the challenge that we were). We weren’t bad; none of us was ever in trouble with the law or anything like that. But we were boys—full of energy, mischievous, always pushing the rules of good sense and many times just flat out ignoring them. We were to some degree, accidents looking for a place to happen.
There were lots of trips to the emergency room (I think we might have had our own wing). My older brother broke a light fixture above his bed and some fragments of glass got in his eyes. There was another occasion when he had an eye scratched as a result of falling into some rosebushes. And no, he didn’t grow up to be an optometrist, he’s a professor of electrical/computer engineering at UAB. He accidentally broke a boy’s jaw in a baseball game with an errant throw and almost broke mine when I stepped too close while we were golfing baseballs one day and I caught his follow through. He was also involved in the worst car wreck of any of us when he wrapped his Volkswagen around a telephone pole but somehow managed to walk away from it unharmed.
For my part, I messed up a tooth while jumping into a lower bunk bed while trying to avoid a well-deserved spanking. My dad had to talk a dentist into a Saturday visit to have it pulled. And that same bunk bed was later involved in me my breaking my collarbone. Mom had the honors of taking me in on that. I raised a huge knot on my younger brother’s forehead when I whacked a softball off it (I thought it was fascinating that you could see the softball’s seam marks on the lump but he showed no appreciation whatsoever for this oddity). He later required a few stitches over his eyebrow when I pushed him during an altercation and his head struck a chair. I had a couple of stitches of my own when the town’s police dog bit me (my younger brother’s sympathetic reply was, “Way to go, Bruce. Now we can’t go swimming today!”) Apparently that’s the fruit of inflicting head wounds upon your sibling. He still keeps count of things today as a CPA in Huntsville.
He got in a car when he was four or five, depressed the clutch and rolled the car down the driveway and into the street. Oh, I almost forgot this one—I once hooked his lip while we were fishing at a pond near our grandparents’ farm. Grandma removed the hook. She and Granddad were old school and weren’t about to take anyone to the emergency room short of an amputation. Granddad treated my poison ivy with Clorox—I think based on the idea that the burning would make you forget all about the itching (which it did).
I called Mom the other night and went over these things with her. To my surprise, she only remembered about half of them. It’s probably better that way. She did say, “Gracious! It’s a wonder I made it through all of that.” Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. Not only did you somehow survive us, but along the way you taught us a lot of good things that we practice today because although it didn’t look like it at the time—we really were paying attention. Thanks for being our mom and graciously persevering with us and for us. I love you!