My best friend, Bob Lee, and I had the privilege of spending a day down in my old stomping grounds in Louisiana. We spent the afternoon and the better part of the evening visiting with my Mom, my Sister, her children, and my brother in law. While the laughter was non-stop, I couldn't help but notice (and revel in the fact) that my Mom seemed so very happy. Surrounded by her children and those grandchildren who were able to be with us, Mom was the perfect picture of contentment. It makes my heart proud to see her basking in the love and warmth of our family. She deserves every smile, every sparkle of the eye, and every heartfelt laugh (though to be sure, when she laughed till there were tears, prompting my nephew to observe, "Careful Grand Mom, or you'll wipe your eyebrows off," we thought she might fall off her chair).
So with your kind indulgence, I'd like to reprint the stories I shared last year on Mother's Day,…for your enjoyment, and in tribute to a loving family and an amazing Mom whom I love dearly, from her grateful son:
“Do you like my new jacket?” My Grandmother, my Mom, and my sister had all piled into Granny's Avalon for a road trip from Louisiana to the Florida panhandle. On their way to visit for a few days before my impending deployment to the Mideast, Granny was bragging on her new lightweight jacket. “And it's water resistant,” she continued, her eyes lighting up brightly as she added, “...and it breaks wind too!” Now, she didn't immediately understand why Mom and Sis were laughing hysterically, but soon enough it registered, whereupon she tried in vain to swear everyone to silence.
In fact, at the motel that night, my sister regaled me with the story of “Gran's Jacket That Breaks Wind.” The next day, everyone including my children met at a restaurant for lunch. But the hostess had trouble seating us because no one wanted to sit down wind of Gran's Jacket. “Why not?” asked the hostess. “Because,” I started to answer...when Granny very sternly called out, “David Ben!” That's code for “Dead Meat.” But the laughter continued unabated despite Granny's repeated admonitions of, “That'll do!” Then, just as everyone was regaining their composure, Granny tucked in that little chin of hers and muttered, “I'm getting tired of being the butt of this joke.” Well, that did it. As everyone roared with laughter, I saw a little mischievous twinkle in Granny's eye and the slight smile of satisfaction. She got us.
It's memories like these that flood back on Mother's Day. Good memories of my Mother, Grandmother, two Great Grandmothers and one Great Great Grandmother. Over the years there was much laughter, but the laughter never came cheap. There were hard times, like when my grandparents took us in and helped us resettle and get on our feet. But no matter the circumstance, the women in our family stood strong. We all knew that if one of them had a home, we all had a home. That's what families do, see?
When circumstances made my Mom a single parent, she devoted herself to two things. Her children, and her work in the church. She devoted over 30 years in every conceivable secretarial position in a large church. The skills she developed could easily have garnered her a sizable salary in any of the major industries and refineries in the area, but she knew she was doing the work she had been called to do. She brought her kids up in the church with,..well,..measurable success. One was very well behaved, while the other climbed the steeple (in addition to the dome of the local courthouse, it can now be disclosed). But never once in all those years, or the years that followed, have my sister and I had a single occasion to question or doubt our mother's love. She's always been in our corner, rooting for us, cheering us on, loving us unconditionally. Pity the person who would ever hurt either of us. But that's what families do. That's what moms do.
A few years ago, a drunk driver speeding down her street lost control of his truck and ran smack into Mom's house hitting it so hard, the building literally shifted. Fortunately, she wasn't there at the time, but the damage to the structural integrity was too much, and the house had to be replaced. Granny's house was open as always, so Mom moved there while, under the guidance and expertise of my brother in law, the entire family worked to construct Mom's new house. It was a painstaking and time consuming process, but it seemed that a close family grew even closer in the effort. No sooner did Mom get moved in, when Granny's health took a turn for the worse. A woman of stout dignity, a razor sharp mind and an indomitable spirit, Granny had cancer.
It's part of the cycle of life I suppose, that the people who cared for us as children become the recipients of our care later in life. I watched in awe as Mom ministered to her Mother's needs and comfort. Looking through the fog of medication and her own condition, Granny told Mom, “You've given up part of your life to help me live mine. Thank you.” When the emotions came too strong in the days after she passed, who did I lean on but Mom? Tending to one generation, she looked after another. Today, I see my own daughter tending to my little grandson and I am again in awe. Perhaps nothing in life is as precious, as selfless, and indeed as holy as a mother's love for her child. We could all learn from the example. To all moms, Happy Mother's Day. And to my Mom, from your adoring if slightly mischievous son, I love you. Happy Mother's Day, Mom.