Sunday, May 8, 2016

Hey, Mom, it's me


It's raining here in Bloomington this Sunday morning, a thousand silver stitches embroidering the pavement, raindrops falling straight and true and all-business from a sky the color of battlements. It's rained a lot, these last few days. My yard is a swamp. The sun, when it appears, seems more like an alien presence than a celestial body. And if I close my eyes, I can hear your voice, see you peering out at the gray murk with that look on your face you always got when the World According To Jackie wandered off the reservation.

"Good Lord and Taylor! I swear it's never gonna stop raining!" you'd say.

I loved those expressions of yours, Mom. Good Lord and Taylor. Shitey go Mabel. Don't get your bowels in an uproar. And the one I heard most often: "You haven't got the sense God gave a goose!"

Because, well, a lot of the time I didn't. Still don't, actually.

Anyway, I loved those even when they were directed at me, and here's a dirty little secret, Mom: Every time you told me I didn't have the sense God gave a goose, I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing. Or to reply with the obvious comeback: "Hey, I hear geese are pretty smart, Mom."

I'm guessing if I'd ever said that, you probably would have had to bite your tongue to keep from laughing, too. That was my gift, see. I could always make you laugh.

Of course, lots of things made you laugh, which is why so many people were drawn to you. You had more good friends than anyone I ever knew, and most of that sprung from the fact that you were so passionately loyal to them. You laughed with them. You cried with them. You got angry and indignant on their behalf. You had the truest empath's soul I ever knew until I met my wife, Julie, who is the best thing that ever happened to me and ever will.

You were an opinionated person and you were never afraid to give voice to it, which is probably why you wound up with a son who made his living giving voice to his opinions, if on a slightly more public scale. Every time I see or hear Donald Trump running his mouth, I chuckle when I imagine your reaction: "What's wrong with him? He acts like he's not right in the head." And I can just imagine what you would have thought of our current governor.

The sharp side of your tongue could wound at times, but there was never any doubt where your heart resided. You loved your children and grandchildren unreservedly, and you fretted over them accordingly. If I had a nickel for every time you told me I was going to wind up digging ditches for a living (hey, I could have done it), I'd be a rich man today. Heck, I might even be Donald Trump.

Kidding, Mom. Kidding.

Anyway ... it's been three years since you left us, and yet of course you are still with us. I think about you almost every day. Jackie-isms still garnish my speech. I think you'd have liked what I'm doing now, which is working with a lot of caring and mission-driven people at Manchester University. I think you'd be proud of how your grandchildren have turned out. And I think you'd have absolutely adored your great-granddaughter, Charlotte, who has your mouth and your chin and just a smidge of that Jackie orneriness about her.

I also know one other thing, having heard you call first me and then your grandson by a certain pet name.

I mean, come on. Charlotte?

Is there any doubt at all she'd be "Charlie-O"?

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.


The original Charlie-O.

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