I don’t think growing up I realized what a unique Mom I had. I just figured all Moms were like her and accepted her for what she was: Vivacious, creative, fun-loving and so very encouraging. Did I mention devoted and self-sacrificing?
I really don’t remember it but Mom tells the story of when I was 18 months old and very nearly poddy trained. I had to go in the hospital and have a hernia operation. After the surgery I was in a lot of pain and very fussy. Mom spent the night trying to comfort me and the only thing that would take my mind off of the pain was when she would blow up a balloon. So all night long, Mom blew up balloon after balloon until she was out of breath and had sore lips, trying to soothe her son.
I was kind of a sickly boy with allergies and asthma. The night I had a big asthma attack Mom spent patting me on the back encouraging me to ‘breathe, Paul, breathe’. But that was my Mom.
She has always been my biggest fan. She believed in me and helped me with my dreams. When I wrote my fifth grade class play loosely based on the life of George Washington she typed the script for me. She laughed at my jokes and helped me smooth over the rough edges by teaching me to divide the play into three acts.
When I bought a camera Mom posed for me. When I bought a movie camera, Mom acted for me. When I dreamed about being an airplane pilot, Mom believed I would be. And when I quit piano lessons at age nine, Mom let me. And when I asked her to teach me how to play chords on the piano at 15, Mom taught me.
You might think Mom indulged me growing up. You may be right, but Mom also endeavored to discipline me. Sometimes I went astray and she would confront me. Sometimes she had to grab me by the scruff of the neck (or really grab the back of my shirt) spin me around and direct me to my neglected chore.
I tended to tease my younger brother and sister too much and when I went too far once, Mom insisted I apologize. I started to just walk away but Mom grabbed the back of my t-shirt, spun me around and waited. A meek, “I’m sorry,” was finally said and she let go of my shirt.
Dad insisted we help with housework and Saturdays we were to dust and vacuum and pick up things and put them away. One Saturday I was supposed to be picking up the newspapers in the living room but I was intent on sneaking outside to play. Mom grabbed the back of my shirt and spun me back towards the living room. “Where do you think you are going?” She said as she marched me into the living room and I began to pick up the newspapers.
It was a technique she used infrequently but I knew it could happen at any time. Maybe that was to keep me in line. But as a teenager on summer break with a school teacher Mom taking required summer classes I thought I was safe. I came downstairs one morning after I thought Mom left for her classes. Being a clown I had my newest shirt obviously on inside out and backwards in order to entertain my brothers and sister.
But Mom was still home and she had a new friend in the house, a young, nice looking school teacher lady. I was embarrassed for her to see me and spun around to head towards my room but Mom grabbed me by the back of my shirt and wouldn’t let go until she introduced me to the smiling young lady. Red faced and crest fallen I mumbled out a ‘nice to meet you’ and after Mom explained to her, ‘and this is Paul’.
The young lady’s face lit up with a knowing smile and she said, “Oh…you’re Paul! Nice to meet YOU!”
Finally Mom released me and with great relief I retreated to my bedroom and put my shirt on right side out and frontwards. But by the time I got back downstairs the nice looking, young lady was gone.
In all the years growing up and all the years since I left home, Mom still encourages and believes in me. And I’m thankful for my Mom who has been so devoted to me all my life. I’m thankful that she loved me enough growing up to not only comfort me and protect me but also she loved me enough to discipline me. She confronted me when I was in the wrong and she loved me enough to grab me by the scruff of the neck and spin me around when I was going the wrong way. For all of that and so much more I’m thankful for my Mom who turns 90 years old today.
Happy Birthday Mom!
…Everyone in this city agrees you are a woman of virtuous character.
Ruth 3.11 The Voice