Monday, May 14, 2012

Existing in New York City: Remembering My Mother on Mother's Day

Mom and Apple Pie Painting  - Mom and Apple Pie Fine Art Print
Mom and Apple Pie by Robert Bissett

Not My Mom
My mother wasn't a Mom. Nor was she a Ma. I called her Mother from the get go. I recently wrote a song called "Mom," in which I asked, "Who was my mother?" to which I replied, "I never knew," and that is the truth. I really never knew my mother, though I lived with her for 18 years of my life and then certainly saw her on trips home after I left home to go to college and eventually to move out on my own 200 miles east of her, and then after I got married (to a woman who had no desire to be a Mom), over 600 miles away from her, to New Orleans, that move spelling her doom, which I will explain later.

My mother was born in Beaumont, Texas, on August 24, 1906. My mother would be 105 years old on this Mother's Day had she lived. As a little kid, I don't remember my mother except as a warden. She seemed to be the adult who was around to keep an eye on me. I was a rascal of a little kid. Curious. Challenging. Always acting in ways my mother didn't approve of. I thought of my mother then as one thinks of a corrections officer. And my mother was constantly correcting me. My dad? I remember her as his corrections officer, too, as she was jumping on his poor ass most of the time he was home, except on Sunday, which was her day to be sweet and kind and the one responsible for cooking our Sunday dinners. The only time I remember my mother as a good cook was on Sundays, though in reflecting now about those Sunday dinners, they were mostly fried chicken, lumpy mash potatoes, green beans, fried okra, and an occasional avocado salad, things that my mother liked and, with the exception of fried chicken, things I hated.

My mother did bake pies, though I don't remember them as being prize-winners. Except she could make a damn good peach cobbler...and she made chocolate pies, My-T-Fine chocolate pudding in a pie shell and topped with meringue.

And remembering her baking pies reminds me that I did hang around my mother a lot as a youngster especially in the kitchen. Especially when she baked pies or cakes. Hanging around not in order to be with my mother, but to get to lick the mixing bowl or to get fingersful of icings and my mitts on the excess pie crust, which she would bake in strips for me while the pies were baking.

I also remember my mother on laundry day. I remember her ordering me to separate my clothes, the whites from the colored, on that day.  And I remember first the old ringer-type washing machine she had for the first part of my life and then the Bendix front-loading automatic washer she got from my father one Mother's Day when I was getting at an age where I was beginning to be ashamed of my mother. Why ashamed? Because I thought of her as being old. Most of my friends's mothers were young, a couple of them even "hot" in male sexual terms. I never thought of my mother as hot. I never had any sexual feelings for my mother, though I do remember one incident where she was bathing me--yes, please, I was a very little child then--where I raised my hips up out of the water to poke my little hard-as-nails penis up toward her face. My mother's advice to me on how to control my little hard penises: "Put it between your legs and squeeze your legs'll go down then." And this was the vise-device I used over and over when I got what seems now like constant erections from the time I was around 5 up until the time when I was a teenager and realized what those hard penises really meant, the reason that damn thing got so hard--girls! One advantage my mother's deharding of my erections got me was my penis was bent a certain special way, which women later found very fascinating. How's that for thanking your mother for her advice?

My mother was in her late 30s when she had me. My brother always told me I would have never been perceived or conceived had it not been for her second child, my brother John dying, a brother I never knew except from a photo of my mother holding him that I had in my possession and the fact that for years for some strange reason I had his original birth certificate that I carried around with me until my third wife destroyed all of my possessions (including the photograph) one summer by having her Italian yard man dump 'em on the Westchester, New York, County dump. My big brother, my brother the writer, was born when my mother was 16 years old. Then ten years later, my second brother, John, was born. To my mother's horror, John only lived 6 months. He was born, as they said in those ancient days, a yellow baby, which meant he was born with jaundice, a condition now easily fixable, but a condition in those days that was a death sentence.

After John's death, my mother flipped out. I think I would have liked my mother had she not flipped out over his death. My brother who lived with them at that time said mother and dad were good dancers, especially they were great Lindy Hoppers and executioners of the Charleston. My mother at that time, in the middle of the Jazz Age, was a flapper girl, wearing her hair bobbed and wearing short skirts showing her BARE legs. Plus my musically educated mother was a great stride pianist who knew the W.C. Handy Book by heart, all of Handy's most famous blues; and at one time she was a fairly good violinist. But with the death of my brother John she disposed of that life, blaming the death of her second born on God punishing her for so secular a life. This guilt led my mother to check herself in to a sanitarium where she stayed for 6 months "getting right with God and his son Jesus Christ."

My brother further informed me that I was a love child, meaning my birth wasn't planned but was accidental, my dad, a man who never quite conformed to my mother's devotion to God and Jesus Christ, having departed on one of his sudden disappearances and returning one night to knock on the backdoor and being met there and being forgiven by his righteous wife. I was the result of that reunion and the night of conjugal pleasure it afforded my dad and mother--make-up sex--I was the result of make-up sex.

My mother wasn't a dumb woman. Not even in her falling into the trap of Christianity was she at any time dumb. I was taught, yes, to respect God and to believe on his Son Jesus as my personal savior but she didn't force this on me. From a very young child on into manhood, in spite of my father forcing me to read the Christian Bible from front to back, and in spite of my mother holding salvation over my head, I just never could believe the whole Christ and God story.  It was too fabulous for me to believe--a baby born of a virgin!  Come on, I couldn't believe that. My mother never preached to me though she became excited when as a young kid, say when I was 8 or 9 years old, I started preaching as a way of entertaining my parents. I would get a large cardboard box that I used as my pulpit and I would preach my sermons to them, sermons that I don't recall and certainly sermons that must have been so elementary as to be nonsense in terms of their theological value, sermons that to me were simply a chance to let the entertainer come out of me. Even to this day I consider Christian preachers to be entertainers. It was about at this same age that I started wanting to play the piano.

My first instrument was an antique organ, a pump organ, my mother bought from a Dallas antique shop. It was a Beethoven organ manufactured in Paterson, New Jersey, in the 1880s. It was a divine instrument and I immediately, though I knew nothing about playing it, started sitting at it and playing at it. Composing on it; thinking of it as my own symphony orchestra. And at that age, 7, 8, somewhere in there, I got into symphony orchestras, listening to symphony concerts on the radio first, then going to symphony concerts in Dallas, the Dallas Symphony at that time emerging as one of the finer symphony orchestras in the US, competing with the Houston Symphony Orchestra for national attention, though the Houston Symphony had more money behind it and at that time hired Leopold Stokowski as its main conductor while Dallas hired a brilliant Hungarian, Anatole Dorati, as their conductor. And my mother, the musician, found pride in my taking to symphonic music and she took me down to the State Fair (of Texas) Auditorium to Anatole Dorati's Dallas Symphony children's programs which I enjoyed with my eyes wide in amazement as I watched and listened intently as Mr. Dorati explained music to me--I to this day recall those several programs--I recall his doing Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf and its using various instruments in an orchestra to represent the various characters in this Russian folk tale Prokofiev so brilliantly put to music. I attended all the Dallas Symphony's children's concerts that year thanks to my mother; and I continued making that old Beethoven pump organ my own personal symphony orchestra to the point where one day my brother hearing me doing one of my symphonic compositions on that organ decided I needed piano lessons and with his GI Bill money from his service in World War II paying for them, when I was 10, I started taking piano lessons in Urban Park, Texas, from Mrs. Kirby--lessons I eventually denounced, just as at the same time I denounced Christianity--piano lessons I denounced because at about this same time I heard on the radio one late night the music of Lucky Millinder, Lucious Venable Millinder, a unique musical man who could not read or write music, who played no instrument, and sang very little, but who fronted what was at one time the most popular swing band during the 1940s, a band that many people consider the first r and b band, a band that at different times had Henry "Red" Allen, Charlie Shavers and Dizzy Gillespie in its trumpet section, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Bull Moose Jackson in its sax section, Bill Doggett and Sir Charles Thompson as its pianists, Wynonie Harris and Ruth Brown as its lead singers; Lucky, too, the bandleader credited with discovering Sister Rosetta Tharpe, with whom Lucky had a major hit in the early 40s with "Trouble in Mind."

Lucky Millinder's music changed the direction of my musical taste and led me into the world of jazz and blues, a world I to this day consider myself a member of, though like so much that I've learned to cherish in my life is passing by the wayside of our cultural life.

When my mother found out I was drifting away from my little preaching episodes and drifting away from my love of symphony orchestras and when she first heard me playing boogie-woogie instead of my Chopin or Bach exercises on the piano she began to lecture me on the difference between the accepted music of the Christian God and music that in her limited Christian mind was considered "Devil Music." [I note here that this concept of jazz and blues as being the Devil's music wasn't just limited to Christian White thinking; I got the same rationalization once from a Black woman friend of mine named Alberta who when I put on Hudie Ledbetter's song called "Alberta" to impress her told me to "turn that old Devil music off, Wolfie, we Black people don't care nothin' about going back to those days." She associated jazz and blues with Jim Crow times down South, a time she and her family had escaped by migrating North, in her family's case north to Connecticut where she was raised.]

But, let me put in here, my mother was tolerant. She didn't forbid me to play jazz and blues because deep down in her own cultural soul, she loved that music, too. Like I said, my mother was a damn good stride pianist and even during her most solid Christian times, she could be encouraged, in a strictly secular setting, to get up and play her favorite blues, W.C. Handy's "Memphis Blues," which I've heard my mother play many a times at "get-togethers."

When I became a high-schooler, I purposely separated myself from both my parents, but especially from my mother. I had my own room and that's where I camped out even to the point of eating my meals in that room. In that "room of my own," I developed a style of life and a life philosophy totally opposite to "the way" my mother prayed to her God I would go. In that room I had my own radio, my own record player, my own books, a typewriter on which I started learning to write my own stories--why, I even had my own coffee pot in that room and started buying my own coffee, French Market coffee, and brewing it--and I started having my own sexual phantasies in that room--and I started developing plans to pursue certain young ladies I lusted after--there was only one thing I needed from my parents then: the use of their cars. My dad at that time drove a beautiful big Cadillac Sedan de Ville and my mother's car was a Nash Custom that was Italian designed and boasted a genuine Vargas girl hood ornament--a cool little car whose right front seat could be made into a bed.
In order to pursue my sexual fantasies, I needed one of those cars to use, to use on dates, but also to use as escapes when the urge to travel hit me and I would borrow one of those cars and go for long drives out into the distant lands that surrounded my West Texas hometown, off out into those distant backroads that led out onto the Callahan Divide or way off into the wilds of Mulberry Canyon, where I would drive wrecklessly while blasting the radio up to uncouth decibels and do my serious thinking, but also finding distant isolated spots of my own possession where I would eventually bring my girlfriends for passionate make-out sessions, sessions that would surely have shocked my mother into constant prayer vigils with her God asking him to please save my soul from surely the burning pits of the deepest of the holiest hells.

I drifted away from my mother until one day after I talked my parents into paying for me to attend a state college, and though she wanted me to go to a Christian bible college, she consented to let me go to North Texas State University in Denton, Texas, where after she and dad drove me over there and as they were leaving to go back home, she warned me that at this old state college I would be subject to the worst kind of temptations by the Devil in terms of learning about evolution and the atheistic teachings of modernistic secular humanism. After I went off to college, 200 miles from my home, the only time I even talked to my mother was in arguments over whether there was a God or in defending one of my text books or philosophical books against my mother's threatening to toss it in the garbage where she considered it belonged. Like I said, my mother wasn't dumb. My mother would sneak into my room--I came from a pack of snoopers--and read my books, one time reading a whole big philosophy book, 700 pages, on the philosophy of Sociology, which had become my major in college, a book that for years carried along with it a handwritten critique of the book my mother wrote out condemning the book as the work of a man surely who was the Devil himself in anthropomorphical disguise.

My mother saw perhaps a last-minute hope for me when I announced to her that I was marrying a Baptist preacher's daughter, a good young lady who bore the same first name as my mother. Yes, my mother was concerned about Baptists. They were a bit too modern for her brand of Christianity, but at least they were Protestants and they did believe in the act of immersion as the true sign you were accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal savior. Her mother had been an Anabaptist before she converted to my hometown's own invented religion that went under the banner of the Church of Christ, a religion headquartered in my hometown in the Highland Church of Christ and in Abilene Christian College (now Abilene Christian University).

Little did my mother know that my soon-to-be wife smoked cigarettes, had had illicit sex before marrying, and due to the ignorance of her Baptist preacher father denounced her belief in God and his fictional son Jesus, traits my wife and I kept from both our parents.

My mother attended my wedding to this charming and very beautiful young woman--she was 18 when we married--and my mother sat thrilled during the ceremony when my wife's Baptist preacher father was marrying us, Praise the Lord. Oh how proud my mother was that perhaps alas by marrying this preacher's daughter I would somehow be led back into the fold of the Good Shepherd; perhaps contact with this preacher's daughter would save me from what by then my mother was sure was a path that was leading me straight down into the Devil's worst portion of Hell. Little did my mother know that my marriage to this Baptist preacher's daughter was eventually spelling her own doom.

At the age of 48, my mother had to get a job. My father's final business attempt, a picture frame and fancy mirror shop was all but bankrupt. Through a good friend of hers she got a job as a school lunchroom worker with our hometown's school system. I was in high school at the time and loved the fact that my mother was working and not getting home from her job until 5 o'clock in the afternoon, which meant that if I hurried home from school, I could have at least an hour all to myself, to do as I pleased.

It wasn't long before the school board announced that they were offering certain lunchroom workers a scholarship to attend a summer program at Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas, which after two summers would allow them to obtain an associate degree in nutrition, which would then entitle them to be nutritionists and as such become heads of school lunchroom programs within the school system. My mother was one of the workers who won one of the scholarships and after two summers of study at Texas Tech she obtained her nutritionist degree and was put in charge of the lunchroom programs at the Dyess Air Force Base high school and elementary school.

By this time I had finished college and had been discharged from the U.S. Army and had moved to Dallas where I got my first job and had begun dating a variety of women having found out I was very attractive to certain women whether they were married or not. During this time I didn't return home at all so for several years I didn't see my mother. The only contact I had with her was an occasional phone call. My mother would have been appalled had she known of the kind of life I was living in Dallas. Like when I ended up marrying my first wife while drunk as a Lord, both of us, on a free-love adventure in Monterey, Mexico, and the eventual annulling of the marriage by her father's attorney. Or if she had known how many sexual affairs I was having with married women, one being my best friend's wife. And then when she found out I was marrying my second wife, a Baptist preacher's daughter, though she didn't trust Baptists as being truly fundamental Christians--to her Baptists had what she called "modernist" ways--they allowed too many secular affairs to go on in their churches--like dancing and bowling and stuff like that--still it rejoiced her soul to know that I was at least marrying a Protestant preacher's daughter. I mean to my mother surely a preacher's daughter was saved and on her way to Heaven, thus enabling her to rescue me from the path leading straight down to the depths of Hell to at least getting me back on the road to Heaven.

So the next time I saw my mother was at my wedding to this preacher's daughter. Little did my mother know that this preacher's daughter had rebuked her Christianity and was a worse Atheist than I was--and that we had even had premarital sex with ourselves and with other partners. My mother was all beamy and spiritual as the preacher's daughter's father married us and my brother was my best man and my best friend and his wife with whom I had had an affair were my witnesses--in fact, my affair was still going on with this wife even after I was married. But soon after the wedding, I stole away with my new bride and with the one hundred bucks my new father-in-law had handed me as my new wife's dowry, I assumed, we headed out for a huge steak dinner at a local steak house to then go to a fancy Dallas hotel where we consummated the marriage for two days. When we returned to civilization, my parents had gone back to my hometown without getting to know their new daughter-in-law.

Soon after we were married, the preacher's daughter and I moved to New Orleans. Over 600 miles from my hometown and my mother. And one fine day after we had settled in New Orleans, both of us working at good jobs, living the good life, eating out every night, with a fully stocked bar in our fabby Vieux Carre apartment, my wife and I though having some marital problems, at least acting like we were compatible--my problem as always was finding myself attracting women, one of whom I worked with who truly giving me a hard time, and I mean that in more ways than one--I got a call from my mother.  It seems she had just bought a brand new Mercury Comet and in order to break it in, she said, she and my father were coming to New Orleans to visit with us and get better acquainted with their new daughter-in-law.  School was out and she said they had time to come see us around July 4th and that they couldn't stay but a few days because my dad's business had suddenly picked up and he couldn't keep his shop closed long...and besides in August she was going to California to a nutritionists convention in Laguna Beach--where she had gone the year before and had learned how to body surf in the Pacific there--and blah, blah, blah, and she hoped we hadn't planned anything for that weekend.

No, I wasn't looking forward to my parents visiting their new daughter-in-law.  No, I wasn't excited that they were coming down.  I was finally on my own now; had my own life; wanted to be left alone.  Besides I was enjoying New Orleans.  Drinking heavily; partying hearty; having affairs galore, one with my wife's coworker and best friend and another with a friend of my wife's from her hometown who had popped in unexpectedly to stay with us until she found a job--a pain in the butt but one who eventually paid for her stay with us by entertaining my sexual lusts several mornings in a row after my wife had gone to work.  God, what joyful sinning I was doing in the Crescent City.  What a life I was leading.  With my parents coming, I was going to have to shape up.  First of all I got right with my wife.  Second of all I had to hide all the liquor in the bar.  Third I had to take off from work for a week.  And fourth, I had to make sure all my paramours knew my parents were coming and to cool it with surprise visits.  I had to at least act like I was on a road to heaven and not still on that six-lane highway to Hell with the knowledge my mother was coming down to New Orleans to find out if somehow her new daughter-in-law, the preacher's daughter, had set me on the proper path, that straight and narrow path Jesus said it was essential for us to tread on in order to join him in his celestial kingdom.  To be philosophically correct, I didn't believe in either heaven or hell; and neither did the preacher's daughter, who after one incident where she caught me mafficking about with a Cuban Ballet refugee star in a neighborhood bar had threatened to leave me and fly back to her parents--she emphasized she was flying back to her mother, by the way--if I didn't straighten up and start flying right.

I clearly remember the day my parents arrived in New Orleans.  They had stopped in Beaumont, Texas, and had picked up my Aunt G, my mother's sister.  As I led them up to my apartment, the liquor was safely stored away, my wife was up and fully dressed in a righteous dress and not running around naked like I liked her to do when we were compatible--and I felt like all was well with my soul and I would grin and bear my parents's visit...sobeit.  And up in the apartment we greeted and kissed and hugged and my mother's natural nosiness was checking out to see if she could see evidence of any sin going on.  My wife even stowed her Salems and the dirty ashtrays out of sight though I could see she was nervously dying for a cigarette as she was being inspected by my mother and ogled by my profligate dad who I could tell heartily approved of his new daughter-in-law.

We took them all out to dinner that night to Victor's Restaurant where my wife and I were regally treated and my mother was very impressed with the service there and the fact that there wasn't a bar evident, though Victor's did serve alcohol--I didn't know a restaurant in New Orleans at that time that didn't serve alcohol.  After cups of wonderful strong French Market coffee we returned to my apartment and after the gang was snuggled down and sound asleep in bed, my wife and I treked out onto our balcony and while she sucked down a Salem, I sipped on a Planter's Punch.

The next morning, out of a clear blue sky, I suggested we take a little drive over to Florida.  All the gang was for it, my mother rejoicing over it by saying she and my dad had never been to Florida and were eager to see what it was like.  We decided to take their new car since at that time my wife and I were driving an MG 1600A sports car that barely held two people much less five.

Since I knew the way over there, they decided to let me drive.  A big mistake since I was used to driving that MG helter-skelterly and as fast as it would go either in city or on the road.  I did alright until we got to Gulfport, Mississippi.  I was cruising through Gulfport, a little fast, but not fast enough it was causing any worry from the passengers in the back seat when on turning to say something nasty to my wife and taking my eyes off the road, there came a horrid scream from my aunt in the backseat.  "Oh, Wolfie, LOOK OUT!"  I turned my attention back to the road just in time to hit the brakes and stop the new car just short of the back end of a Greyhound bus.  "My goodness gracious," my mother exclaimed, "you're going to kill us all driving like that...let your father drive."  I told them all to relax and not to worry, though I had had many wrecks, I'd never killed anybody and with that, I laughed the incident off.  Though throughout the rest of the trip I was constantly badgered by the two women--sisters--backseat drivers we made it to Pensacola, Florida, without further incident.  My dad was being his normal contented self, sort of glad it wasn't him driving and suffering such backseat-driver abuse from his wife and her mean sister.

My mother had always been a worry wart when traveling in a car that she wasn't driving.  My poor dad always suffered her commands when he was driving, and really my dad was a pretty good driver, though, yes, he had had a very bad wreck during WWII in the family's big Oldsmobile, a wreck caused according to the passenger in the car with him due to they're having spotted what appeared to be a woman working topless in a field right up close to the road on which they were traveling.

We made it finally over to Pensacola, Florida, and checked into the San Carlos Hotel.  My wife and I quickly closed ourselves off in our room and ordered a couple of strong drinks sent up by room service.  My wife smoked half a pack of Salems while I downed my rum and coke and was ordering another round of drinks sent up.  A little sloshed we had lunch in the hotel coffee shop, during which time my wife and I got into a tiff and I threw my pastrami sandwich at her.  My mother was aghast that I should treat her new daughter-in-law, the preacher's daughter, that way.  I apologized and we then drove out to the beach south of Pensacola, a truly beautiful beach, and while my parents and my aunt enjoyed themselves sitting in the sand, my wife and I sat up on the boardwalk and talked about them.

We made it back to New Orleans without any incidents except my mother did corner me and give me a lecture on how unfairly I treated my poor little defenseless wife.  And then came the morning they were leaving.  Mother was insistent they leave early as it seems my dad's failing business had had a sudden boast in business and she didn't want him keeping his shop closed much longer than that July 4th weekend, plus she had to get ready for her August trip to California with her lunchroom supervisory gang.

The morning they all left us was kind of sad for me.  My dad looked like he really didn't want to go.  I remember him so vividly wearing his yellow corduroy jacket and his brand new Miller hat and my mother dressed in a bright-colored dress with her knit-cotton button-up sweater over it and my Aunt G, still very cute and petite though with her constantly grimaced face--and she had had a very tough life--and soon they were all piled in that new Mercury Comet and were headed off toward Beaumont, first, to drop off my aunt, and then on up through East Texas headed back home to far West Texas.

I had to admit I felt sort of sad.  It was like...something inside of me was telling me I might not ever see them again.  I told my wife about it that night after we had made terrific make-up sex--my wife telling me nobody had ever fucked her like I fucked her, a hint that she understood why so many other women were interested in me.  And while laying in bed together, all sweaty and sex-smelly, her smoking a Salem and me rubbing her mons venus with my left hand, I confessed that though I still was uncomfortable around my mother especially, I felt sad at their their being gone after what seemed so little time with us, even though we had gotten them over to Florida for their first visit to that state (my mother and dad were big travelers and they kept a record of the states they had visited over the years, a goodly number really considering where they were from and how many miles away from most states they were in far West Texas, or "out in the middle of nowhere," as my dad liked to put it).

It was early the next morning after they had left that the phone rang.  My wife answered it.  After talking a while to whoever it was calling, she turned toward me, a sullen look on her face, "It's your brother...." I was at the bar mixing me a Bloody Mary in order to wake up from sleeping a little late into the morning.  "What the hell does he want?" I asked taking the phone from her.  "Hey, bro, what's up?"  "I'm in Rusk...."  I knew he meant Rusk, Texas.  "What the hell are you doing in Rusk?" I asked, a bit of sarcasm in my voice.  "It's mother and dad...."  "What?  What about them?"  "They're dead, Wolfie...."  "What!" I shouted.  "They're dead," he repeated.  "They're dead, come on, what the hell are you talking about?"  "They were killed yesterday afternoon...they were pulling out of a roadside park and were hit by an 18-wheeler asphalt truck doing 80 miles an hour.  The driver said he blew his airhorns and tried to stop but dad pulled right out in front of him.  They were killed instantly the coroner said."

I stoically acted like I wasn't upset by this news, but I was.  I pretended all the rest of the day that in a way I was glad they were dead...yes, it sounds horrible, but that's the way I was keeping from breaking down--I had been taught through experiencing beatings that a real man didn't cry even when in terrible pain.  I was in terrible pain deep inside but my asshole attitude wouldn't let me show it.

At the funeral I kept up my macho attitude, sitting on the front row of the immediate family seats wearing my shades and refusing to show any sign of grief, my brother beside himself, the house packed, with women coming up and throwing themselves on my father's closed casket.  My brother said there were requests for us to open the caskets but I madly protested against such a macabre thing--my parents were both thrown 20 feet into the air and crushed in terms of broken bones including facial bones.  My brother would have succumbed to those requests had I not been there.

After the funeral, my best friend from my hometown and his wife and I and my wife drove out to Lowake, Texas, where we indulged in a huge steak dinner that included huge frosted mugs of ice cold beer, all during which I cursed my mother as a hindrance to my fulfilling any of my dreams, the last unforgivable thing she had done was to burn my copy of Thomas Paine's Age of Reason--ranting on like that until my wife and I left the next day and ended up in Dallas at a party thrown for us by my ex-wife and her husband--and the night ended with me being drunk and hitting on my ex-wife and my best friend in Dallas's wife, kissing them both in the kitchen and then when my wife was ready to go me hanging on to my ex-wife and telling my wife I wanted to be with her instead of her...and my wife left me and I spent the rest of the night trying to get in my ex-wife's pants with her finally calling a cab and throwing me in it and sending me off to my brother-in-law's house and to my wife, who forgave me, saying she understood that I was fucked up inside--sweet forgiving woman that she was, and that next day we flew back to New Orleans where we then planned on quitting our jobs and flying off to live in Mexico.

At the reading of the will, I was surprised out of my mind, my mother always claiming she and dad were on the brink of being in the street without a sou to their names, when my brother and I inherited two paid-for homes (my late grandmother's house being one of them) and a tract of land in a new industrial park south of my hometown plus a bankful of money in a savings account plus my mother had taken out a triple indemnity insurance policy on that new car right before they came to New Orleans.  My brother and I inherited enough property and money that after we sold the houses and the land and got the check from the insurance company we were left modestly rich, but rich enough we both quit our day gigs to pursue our dreams, he becoming a successful writer, and me traveling to Mexico to live in Mexico City and there trying my hand at writing, too, me not becoming a successful writer but a writer just the same.

I don't ever remember buying my mother anything on any Mother's Day--I think my dad would maybe give me a couple of bucks and send me out to at least buy her a box of chocolate-covered cherries, though I don't even remember my doing that.  I convinced myself that my mother was my enemy and I kept that opinion until later in life when time itself caused me to retreat from that opinion and actually see where my mother had influenced me, though like I said in the song I wrote about her, I really never knew my mother, nor did I think anybody else really knew her either.  While going through her personal things after the funeral, I ran across a notebook in which my mother had tried her hand at writing poetry.   On one page, she noted that that particular poem had been published in her lunchroom supervisors national newsletter.  The poem was simple, a respect for life and God and family, but a poem just the same.

My mother was 58 years old when she was killed.  My wife, the preacher's daughter, was also 58 years old when she died of lung cancer only a few years ago now.

for The Mother's Day Edition of The Daily Growler
Say goodbye, bye the way, to Donald "Duck" Dunn, bass player extraordinaire while on tour in Japan, the way musicians hope to die.   

1 comment:

languagehat said...

What a story. What's strange is the parallel with my own mother's death: she died while on a trip to visit my brother, who had recently moved with his wife to a new city, and I learned about her death from my brother's phone call (which, if I remember correctly, my wife answered). Life's a strange business. Kiss your moms if you got 'em, folks; you don't know how long they'll be around.