Mother’s Day From a Father’s View

My mother never got a fair shake. How could she? She was outnumbered at every turn.

First, there was my Dad, whose philosophy was any home improvement project half-done was, well, done. Then she also had to put up with two sons. Growing up, I believed that it was my job to make certain she did laundry every day and to talk my brother into things that I would never do myself. He started practicing at age nine for a career in standup comedy —  at her expense.

We didn’t just get on her last nerve. We pummeled it like somersaulting sumo wrestlers on a trampoline. It’s a wonder she didn’t snap.

I made fun of her taste in music (country), her car (a bright yellow Pinto station wagon) and her taste in television (soap operas). Most of all, we made fun of mom’s constant vacuuming. She used “her sweeper” as she called it, everyday, no matter what. Our home had two vacuums — one upstairs and one downstairs — that is, until she actually ran the wheels off one. No worries, though. My brother and I fixed it for her — custom wheels and a paint job to match, making her the proud owner of Hoover Racing Team’s Suck Dirt Special, complete with racing stripes.

She is a great cook, but you wouldn’t know it by the stories we tell. I still recoil at the thought of pork chops. Even today the phrase Shake ‘n Bake strikes panic in me.

If company was coming, we knew there’d be pineapple upside down cake and probably Swiss steak on the menu. Her meatloaf was always the food she took to grieving families; so much so that we renamed it funeral loaf. I developed a way of warning my father about it. My piano playing skills were minimal, but I did learn enough to play “Taps” as Dad walked in when meatloaf was in the oven.

Whether it was fixing scraped knees, cleaning up a complete bag of orange candies scattered throughout her car after a horrible circus peanut tragedy, helping a college-aged son who locked himself inside his own car or enduring repeated visits by hungry mobs of teenagers devouring two months’ worth of Twinkies in a single evening, she always smiled, served and loved without complaining. There was always room for our friends at the dinner table.

Mom even took her turn mowing the lawn (maybe to make sure it was done correctly … or, perhaps, done at all), drove us to school, baseball practices, piano lessons and frequently to the ER for stitches.

We kidded her about her sayings (“Don’t eat them all or you’ll be sick,” “Get up, it’s going on 8 o’clock,” which she always said when it was 7:09 and “I always wanted nice, polite kids.” She had one more saying, too: “Wait until you have kids of your own.”

I do, and now I completely understand. When my son brings mountains of laundry home from college while trading sarcasm with his sister and as our home fills with teens and college students marching through the house looking for something to eat, I understand that I probably am reaping what I sowed. At the same time, I realize there’s no way she deserved some of what she got. What she does merit, however, is admiration and — just like those notes she always insisted we write after every holiday — a great big thank-you.

So, instead of coming to you with last-minute school projects, wise cracks and wise-guy friends, I come with open arms and love. Happy Mother’s Day!

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