In Praise of Mother

Mother’s Day has rolled around once again here in the United States, and at the time of this writing hordes of children are either bringing their mommies breakfast in bed or, if they are all grown up, clogging every brunch location within a 50 mile radius to celebrate the innumerable pains suffered by family matriarchs with omelets and champagne. Cards will be given, memories shared, and then in the afternoon all will be forgotten as the children scatter to see the latest “Avenger’s” movie. A bit of “thanks mom” and then it is back to the races until next year’s matronly celebration.

My own mother wasn’t much for celebrating Mother’s Day. In fact, she hated being called “mother.” To her that was a formal declaration of hostility. She wasn’t a classical definition of a mother at any rate. She leaned more towards being an Auntie Mame; she rode motorcycles, couldn’t cook, toted firearms (and was a crack shot), and generally refused to partake in anything remotely stereotypical of her role as mother. She was a verified connoisseur of junk food and fast food. She never met a burger that was too messy or a burrito that was too spicy. She drank copious amounts of Pepsi, and sang the praises of Dr. Pepper. She always claimed to dislike Coke but in lieu of all other options she would guzzle it down. And she always crunched the ice. She had a penchant for Arby’s and Carl’s Junior and was an expert on what places served what for breakfast because as I already mentioned, she couldn’t cook. My mom would push you to get whatever you wanted on the menu and then finish the meal with “don’t eat all of it, you’ll make yourself sick. What you don’t want to keep for later just toss.” She loved doughnuts and cold pizza and ate cake for breakfast (in a bowl of milk).

It was my mother that introduced me to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien. She had a dog eared boxed set of the four main books, complete with the early 70’s style artwork on the cover. As a child I was enamored with the notion of heroes and wizards and orcs and dragons. My mom would tell me the stories with such enthusiasm that it became necessary to read the books for myself. True to her form, my mom misunderstood a lot of what she read because like everything else she tackled she wasn’t really paying all that much attention to what the hell she was doing. As an example she thought that “Middle Earth” meant that all of the story was taking place deep underground as a literal middle earth setting, wherein I guess the stars were painted on the underside of the planetary mantel. She also bought into Gandalf being a bumbling fool of a wizard when in reality he was one of the most powerful and formidable individuals in the entire saga. But my mom was like that. She missed things and went right on ahead. To be honest, I am fully her son. When I first read “the Hobbit” I got bored and skipped over a few chapters. As it turns out, those were the chapters that detailed how Bilbo got the confounded ring, so I had to eventually go all the way back and reread it to figure out what the hell was going on. The difference between me and my mom? I figured out what I missed. She was blissful in her ignorance and was ready to move on to the next item on her agenda to half-ass.

My mom died as the result of a car accident. Her driving was legendary. She managed to hit just about everything in her years behind the wheel and handlebars; deer, police cruisers, trees, guardrails, oleanders, boulders, pedestrians, barricades of every type and description. It was always a thrill going places with her because there was a higher than normal expectation of death if she was driving. Oddly enough she rarely wrecked when somebody else was in the car or on the bike with her. Her most spectacular crashes were solo affairs and usually involved her having dozed off. I always knew it would be her driving that kill her. She was a closet smoker and had COPD and asthma, her diet was atrocious, and there were probably other vices of hers that I never even knew about that might have gotten her killed, but it was her driving that would do her in. Predictably she hit a tree while racing down the narrow mountain roads from her cabin to the nearest city in Northern California. She told the CHP officer that responded that she had swerved to miss a dog in the road. Nobody will ever know the truth of that. I suspect she either fell asleep again or just wasn’t paying attention. Swerving to avoid an animal isn’t outside the scope of possibility, but my mom was just as likely to do something foolish and lie to cover up her mistake.

And now it is Mother’s Day again. We just moved last week, though, and I am not sure where my mom is. I think she was packed up with the stuff that had been on the dining room table, but not sure where those boxes are now. I need to figure it out because I am wanting to go to Arby’s later. Maybe get some doughnuts on the way home and a two-liter of Pepsi. Still have some writing to do and using my mom as my reminder to check the details; how did Bilbo get the ring, where is Middle Earth, and is Gandalf a goof? Wherever I end up going today I will drive carefully. Hopefully I can find mom’s urn before I head to Arby’s because she loved to go with.