As usual, last Sunday’s Mother’s Day was filled with joyful reminiscence.
Ever since our Mom died unexpectedly, 41 years ago today, Mother’s Day has been a mixed bag for me.
While I have no problem honoring mothers, or respecting mothers, or being absolutely amazed at mothers, I sure miss mine.
Even though Mom was our Mom, she was first and foremost my Mom.
No matter how disrespectful I may have treated her in my punkdom, she was still my best friend growing up. Even when I snuck a Fats Domino record into the house.
Moms teach us more than Dads.
It’s not that Dads are not as smart.
It’s that Dads cannot multi-task.
Try to play catch with your Dad while he is changing the oil.
Mom could play catch with me with a game of solitaire going on the dining room table, Kate Smith on the TV and a Salem cigarette burning in the ashtray next to her six-and-a-half ounce bottle of Coca-Cola with the city and state of the bottler in raised letters on the bottom.
In my life, I think Mom’s biggest impact was teaching me to love words.
I bet deep down she must have known that I would be using my share.
Despite the frustration of countless hours of writing and re-writing my spelling words, I know that all those hours led me to this one.
Mom helped me spell.
Mom helped me diagram sentences.
Mom showed me Latin and French words while Dad was teaching us Ozarkian.
Mom made sure I was always the last boy down in the elementary school spelling bees. She knew I would never beat Susan Tracy.
Every night after dinner, but before Jock Mahoney and Dick Jones rode through the sagebrush on “The Range Rider,” Mom sat me down at the dining room table, a rich mahogany, pushed the doilies aside, and broke out pencil and paper.
Those were the days when a pencil was almost as long as my adolescent forearm.
Mom took me to words through libraries, book stores, dictionaries and Scrabble.
Then there was the day on our 4-foot-by-4-foot, standing-room-only porch in Upper Arlington, Ohio, a 1950s suburban getaway outside Columbus, that Mom advised me to no longer use the word “queer.”
“Why?” I asked. “It means ‘odd.’”
“No, Jimmy, it doesn’t mean what you think it means. Just use the word odd from now on.”
Of course, I thought that was pretty strange in fourth grade, but then so was every girl in Mrs. Herbert’s classroom.
If Mom were around last Mother’s Day, I would have asked her if she knew how important words are even when we do not say them.
I don’t know about you, but I think in words.
Not pictures or visions or images.
Just plain old words.
Of course, now that I am older, I think in a larger font.
Big fonts are also much easier to hear.
Words speak volumes to me.
Words speak conviction.
Words speak hope.
Words speak joy.
Words are awesome.
I remember asking my brother Lew once on the phone how things were going with his world back in Arlington, Va.
“Everything is copacetic here.”
I didn’t want to ask my big brother what copacetic meant, but it took me two weeks to find it in the dictionary.
Thank God Mom taught me how to spell Copacabana.