My Sweet Mama

photo-39As I type this, my parents are driving from Kansas to Los Angeles to see me. My Mom won’t see this for a few days, perhaps not until after she gets home to Kansas in a couple of weeks. I love the fact that my Mom reads my blog, it keeps me from writing about things I probably shouldn’t write about.

A few days ago, I was swimming my laps and there was a woman, probably in her 30’s, who was attempting to swim in the lane next to me. She’d splash, flap her arms against the water, kick mightily. She had no sense that the water was there to buoy her, propel her even. She’d never had swim lessons, clearly. And I give her credit for being out there, with goggles and swim cap, no less, trying to figure it out. She made me think of my mother, who also never learned to swim. I think the reason I became a swimmer was because she wanted me to take swimming lessons every summer, she wanted me to have something she longed for as a child.

When you find out the story of people’s childhoods, sometimes you wonder how they ever made it to adulthood. If they’ve grown into a person who thrives, it’s even more of a miracle.

My Mother is the fourth of five children. Her Father died when she was two and she was raised by her Mother and three older brothers, Sam, Rocco and Mike. There was never very much money. Sometimes I lie awake at night worrying about money and (as far as I know) I don’t have 5 children to feed. I marvel that my Grandma, singlehandedly, could have raised 5 children to be 5 big-hearted, funny, smart, loyal adults, but she did.

There are things that my Mom missed out on by not growing up with a Father. Swimming lessons was the least of it. There were no Father-Daughter banquets, no one to make a Father’s Day card for, her brothers were the ones who taught her to drive.

And because my Grandmother worked so much and because she was one of 5, I think my Mother was always hungry for her love. At my Grandmother’s funeral, my Mother was so bereft she tried to crawl into her Mother’s casket as the family was saying their final goodbyes. Her brothers had to pull her away. I remember standing there, wondering if I should go to her or hang back. I was 20 at the time, not the best years in our particular Mother-Son relationship. I was a little embarrassed, but also I wondered if I might one day do the same thing with her one day. (My Mom and I have both probably seen the end of Imitation of Life one too many times, to be honest.)

I’m still haunted by the matriarchal character Violet Weston from August: Osage County, played onscreen by Meryl Streep. Her adulthood is so embittered because her childhood was so difficult and cruel. It made me think of my Mother, whose hardscrabble youth must have been similar, and yet she grew into my Mother, a woman who is loved by all who cross her path. A woman who always makes my favorite pork and potato burritos when I come home, a woman who is deeply sentimental about Lifetime Christmas movies, a woman who bakes butter pecan cookies for Eric every Christmas, a woman whose first words after her son came out to her were, “Nothing will change my love for you.”

My Mom’s favorite song is The Rose. Whenever it comes on the radio, she reminds me that this is the song she wants sung at her funeral. I won’t forget. I love the song almost as much as she does and though I’ve never told her, it always makes me think of her, too. If I had a dollar for every tear I’ve shed while listening to this song, I could buy my Mama a solid gold casket.

So, this song is for my Sweet Mama, I love her so.

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10 thoughts on “My Sweet Mama

  1. Very nicely put Ray. You always write so beautifully and at least one out of four posts leaves me in tears. Darn you! I can totally see her in your features. Pretty safe to say, you are probably loved by everyone you meet too. Merry Christmas.

  2. Thanks Ray! I can’t remember the last time that I read something that moved me to tears. As I sit here, completely drenched, I want you to know that you are spot on about your Mom. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t adore her. My daughter and I were talking about her yesterday. She’s got that inner beauty that radiates from her. It’s pure love. Not many people possess that these days. What a different world we’d have if only they did. She’s never blamed her childhood for anything. Only grateful for what she was given.
    This summer your parents were visiting and my little grandson, who is “almost” 5 was standing next to me. When your parents got out of the car, he tells me, I have to go, I see someone I need to hug. He ran to your Mom and hugged her so tight. Then he says hi, I’m Seth. Of course your Mom just giggled at him, but what I witnessed was amazing. He knew she loves him, even though, he doesn’t even know her!!
    You are truly blessed, Ray. Both of your parents are angels on Earth. Enjoy them this Christmas. They are the best gifts you will ever receive.<3

    • LuAnne, I love that story. Seth sounds like a charmer, as well an excellent judge of character! I am lucky to have both my parents as parents! Thinking of you and your clan this Christmas! I hope your family spoils you! 🙂

  3. This is something to remember as we meet each person that there is more, more to them than we initially see, that there is difficulty and perhaps pain behind the eyes that we see and the gruff, perhaps awkward behavior. That deep down we need and want to be loved and appreciated and may not be able to express that need.

  4. You made me cry! I LOVE that song and I played it while reading your post. It is so beautifully written that every wonderful word you use to describe your mom also shows what a great person you are. You’re both very lucky to have each other. 🙂

  5. You are so very right!! No matter all the things in my life I have turned to them in my times of despair. We got to see them on their way home from your house. It made it Christmas that day for first time in years to see them. Caleb and Jaycie adore them and get so excited to spend whatever time they can. We are all so very blessed to have these two wonderful loving people in our lives. We can only strive to be half what they are!!

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