It’s Mother’s Day on the 13th, as we all know. It’s interesting — that’s two days after May 11th, which would be the 39th anniversary of the lovely mother of my lovely daughters and I, had we remained married. I’d like to have sent her a card or something. Unfortunately, her second husband, (to whom she’s been married for more than 20 years,) has never been able to tolerate the idea that his wife might maintain a cordial relationship with her ex. We’ve learned not to rock the boat, so she won’t be getting the thanks she deserves for giving me wonderful kids and, now, a grandchild as well — at least not in the first person. But this is my column and I can do as I please, so thanks, Suze. This bud’s for you! (Rosebud, that is.)
Then there’s My-Wife-The-Shrink, who drank with me, fought with me, hit bottom with me, and got into recovery with me. She also helped with my ham-handed attempts to be a Dad and a drunk at the same time, and loves our girls every bit as much as I. I couldn’t ask for a better partner. Thanks for everything, Shel. I love you. I don’t say that nearly enough.
My Own Dear Personal Mother lives with MODP Sister in Chiefland, Florida, about forty or fifty miles southwest of Gainesville and about eight or nine miles away from MODP Older Brother, his daughter and granddaughter. I’d like to see her this Mother’s Day, but the job won’t permit it. I see a good deal less of her than I’d like, unfortunately. Considering she was born in the eighth year of the last century, it would be pretty hard to see too much of her at this point.
I’m sort of the “black sheep” of the immediate family, the one who mismanaged away most of what little “family fortune” there was. I have one brother who’s still holding some resentment about that, although I think the other two sibs have pretty much dealt with it. Mom, however, never wavered. Despite what must have been some harrowing experiences for her personally during the heyday of my alcoholism, she’s never been anything but…Mom. There’s a joke in the treatment field that any time you hear the words, “that woman is a saint,” there’s a drunk lurking nearby in her life. Well, Mom’s a saint — or at least quite as close to one as I care to encounter!
She had a tough life. Married in her mid-teens to a man many years her senior, she was a real pioneer in the part of Florida where they settled. She and my father operated the only service station between Tampa and West Palm Beach back in the ’20’s. She braved the nastiness of the Central Florida heat and saw grass muck to help start and operate a farm that became the seed (literally) of the caladium industry. (That’s Mom in the old car in the background — self-effacing even in the mind of the artist.) When Dad died she hung onto the farm until his aged mother was gone, then sold it at a serious loss to one of the caladium growers whom they had provided with their first plants back in the ’30’s.
Moving me and my 3 year old brother to a town a few miles north, Mom became the housekeeper for the local parish priest, taking care of him after his retirement until his death in 1989. (She was a slip of an 80-year-old at the time.) She lived on her own after that for a few years and loved it, calling it “the first time in her life she didn’t have to take care of someone else.” She suffered a heart attack and had a triple bypass at age 86, nursed back to health by My-Wife-The-Shrink (thanks again, honey!)
Not too long after that my sister’s husband passed away. Mom is only 18 years older than my sis — in some ways more a sister than a mother — and they’d always said they’d live together if they became widows, so she picked up and moved from West Palm Beach to Chiefland. At 98 she’s fading, but on a good day she still has the twinkle in those blue eyes — and she still thinks that, despite everything, I’m OK. And thanks largely to her faith and forgiveness…so do I.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! And Shel…and Deb…and Gloria, and all the other Moms in my life…
I love you all,