A Letter to my Mom on her 80th Birthday
As I look back on my life mom, I can see how hard you tried to give me a good upbringing, to keep me on the straight and narrow, and to help me become a man. I remember attending Mass at Ft. Leavenworth on Mother’s Day, and receiving in the bulletin the poem: My Mean Mother. I read it and thought – “Yep, the pretty much sums it up – my mom is a mean mother.” I think about that now, and hope mom, that you take that comment as High Praise!
Looking at your life – your Catholic upbringing and education --how you lost your dad at 10 – how you didn’t go to college – how you married so young -- and I think those things drove you to be the mother you are. A mean mother is a mom that unapologetically wants the best for her kids – especially the things that she couldn’t have or experience in her own life.
When I finally left home I knew that I was Nancy's son and I didn’t want to screw that up. You had put a lot of work into me … okay let’s be honest …. a ton of work, worry, anxiety, obsession, frustration, and anger. Somehow, you never quit on me and I think at the end of the day that’s what mean mother’s do – they never quit on their kids. Mean mothers just keep believing in their kids -- even when their kids find it hard to believe in themselves.
You did well mom. I’m happily married with two great kids and a successful career. Thank you for teaching me to never quit, to make the best of everything and to always put my family first. Thank you for showing me what unconditional love means. It’s hard to believe you took dad without conditions – but hey, you learn from your mistakes right?
I have many fond memories of you, mom – here’s a few that make me smile and think of you:
Magic Sizing. When every other mother was washing their kid’s clothes … you made me wash, fold or iron my own. To this day, I still separate the whites and colors, whites in hot water, colors in cold, iron clothes with Magic Sizing, crease everything I fold, and then put it all away. Every time I spray Magic Sizing on my clothes, I smile and think of you.
QWERTY. Mom, I couldn’t understand for the life of me why you would make me take typing in the 11th grade? Typing was for girls – OK … admittedly there were a lot of girls in my class. It was one class I didn’t cut! But I thought who needs typing? But then along came Bill Gates and Steve Jobs who would make personal computing the next BIG thing! I type effortlessly and remain the envy of all my ‘hunt and peck’ friends who ask: “How did you learn to type so fast?” I just smile and think of you.
Good soup. I can remember you reciting the poem: “The owl and the pussycat went out to sea in a beautiful pea green boat …” this usually meant we were having pea soup. I never really liked it as a kid, but now, when it’s on the menu I remember the ‘owl and pussycat’, order a bowl, and of course I smile and think of you.
Cheers and Consequences. Thank you for supporting me at all my swim meets in High School. You were always in the stands cheering me on. In my senior year, you made me give up what I loved the most – to get my grades up for college admission. You taught me that my choices have consequences. And when I instill the same discipline in my children, as painful as it sometimes is, I smile and think of you.
PB&J. When every other kid was buying their lunch I was packing mine. Worse, it was always peanut butter and jelly! PBJ -- how embarrassing! Occasionally mom, you would spice things up with crunchy PB on toast or even better -- a Thomas’ English Muffin! (Insert Peggy boyfriend joke here.) Now that was living! When I can’t think of anything else I’d rather eat – I pull out Jif Extra Crunchy, toast an English Muffin and smile, and think of you.
Word games… they Boggle the mind! You are Webster’s Dictionary with red hair! I’ll never forget you playing Boggle with Grandma and Uncle Bob or doing a crossword with Grampa Andy. Your love of games and competition created a family that thrives on both. Whenever I start a word game, I smile and I think of you.
Pantry. We always eat well at Grandmas. Your cooking is always something to look forward to. But let’s be honest – I come for the junk food. If pantry’s could eat -- yours would have snack addiction. My first stop at Grandmas is always the Pantry. My last stop at Grandmas is always the Pantry.
My first car. Thanks for buying me my first
car – golf cart. It was really sweet and it came with a one way ticket to Virginia. Too bad I never owned it for more than a test drive. So… do I still owe you $660?
And finally -- thanks for making dad human. It’s easy to put your father on a pedestal – but you had a way of kicking it out from under him and showing us who really wore the pants in our family.
Thanks for your sense of humor and your laughter. One of the greatest joys in my life is making you laugh uncontrollably – especially when you grab your stomach, squint your eyes and bounce up and down. Nothing is more endearing and more fun than to see you laugh and live life to the fullest!
Life always seem to be lighter – more effortless – more sure -- when I’m around you and in your home. You make a house a home. Thanks for the 52 years of unflagging support. I hope to keep making you proud!
I am proud to say that I am the son of a Mean Mother!