You may argue that yours takes the prize, and that’s okay. If every child thought his or her mom was the Best Mom in the World, I believe this planet would be a much kinder and gentler place. I hope that someday my kids say I’m the Best Mom in the World. I can pretty much guarantee it won’t be today, though. I embarrassed them all by dropping them at school this morning with bedhead and in my “Life is Good” PJs. Character building — that’s what I like to call it. A lesson in Who Gives a Shit.
Most know the story of my childhood — raised by a single Mom who worked her ass off at three jobs to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads. That makes her pretty damn good to begin with. But here’s why she’s great…
She makes me laugh. Always has, always will. She makes everyone laugh. Her off-kilter humor and dry sarcasm never fail to hit a home run. Carrie and I didn’t think she was quite as funny when we were younger, but my cousins would roll on the floor at every antic. She’s an entertainer, that’s for sure.
She is my biggest fan. It is amazing to me that a woman could sit through a childhood chock full of basketball, volleyball, and softball games and still not understand the basics of any of the sports. But there she sat, game after game, cheering me on. She cheered for everyone, including the opposing team. “I hate to see anyone lose,” she’d say. She cheered especially loudly when I was at bat. I was left-handed, and that’s the only way she could distinguish who I was on the softball field. (The big #22 on my back wasn’t quite enough…) When I switch-hit, she was verklempt. “Why didn’t you get to bat?” she’d ask after the game. My friends loved her. Still love her.
Sometimes when I visit her in Indiana, I catch her standing outside the shower just so she can hear me sing. “Sing that one again,” she’ll say. “I miss hearing your beautiful voice. Why don’t you sing anymore?” Once a first soprano, it’s tough to explain to her that my 41-year-old voice is now as low and out of shape as my boobs.
She is beautiful. In her youth, she was a model for Bell Telephone and Queen of the Indianapolis Garden and Patio show. She has been proposed to more times than any one human being should be in ten lifetimes. When Carrie and I were young, people would stop her constantly to tell her how breathtaking she was. They still do. When I was in Indy in October, we sat outside for lunch at Champps. An older man walked up and said to her, “I just wanted to tell you how radiant you look sitting there in the sun.” Now everywhere we go, she wants to find a sunny spot to lounge around and look radiant in.
She taught me about loyalty and true friendship. We’d spend countless late-night evenings in restaurants with a gaggle of her friends. They’d laugh and drink Manhattans and I’d fall asleep in the booth. Those friends still sit beside her and drink Keokes. They are still part of her life. Her best friend from high school is still her number one. I love that devotion.
She would go to the mat for her family. She has, in fact, gone to the mat for her family. Literally. With her cane. It’s the Brown County Sister Incident that we don’t always talk about, but suffice it to say that no one messes with my mom’s sisters when my mom is around.
She’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. She’s a bit of a grudge-holder, can be a little needy. I inherited both of those traits from her. I wouldn’t want her to be perfect. I wouldn’t have learned half as much from her if I hadn’t learned from her mistakes as well as my own. She’s not perfect, but she’s perfect for me.
I’ve watched her age far too quickly. MS and diabetes have slowed her down, have stolen a bit of her spunk. She wanted to travel the world, but now we’d just like to convince her to travel to Mississippi. She still smokes those beloved damn cigarettes despite all the black lung posters I used to hang around our apartment. “I hope when it’s my time, I get run over by a car,” she says. “You girls will never forgive me if I die of lung cancer.”
She talks about her funeral, about what she wants when her time comes. “Listen, Girls,” she’ll say, “I’m not going to live forever. We need to talk about this.” She wants us to mark her belongings with Post-It notes. I can’t convince her that I don’t want her things. That having her has been more than enough.
She talks about her great-granddaughter ad nauseum. “You won’t believe what Jocey did today,” she says when I call. But that’s okay. She’s got the cutest great-granddaughter in the world. And she loves her with every ounce of her being. That’s how my mom loves. Wholeheartedly. Bob might disagree — and we’ll all admit that she can be a little crass with him — but I know under that tough exterior that she’d be lost without him, that he has been her knight in shining armor. I’m quite sure, however, that she’d never admit it in public.
Yesterday was her birthday. And Elvis’s. She’ll always remind you of that. It was the first time in my life that I haven’t been around to celebrate with her. The rest of the family gathered together for brunch. “We had a great time, but we missed you,” she said. And I believe her. I missed her, too. I hope she had the best Keoke coffee… or two, or three… of her life.
Happy Birthday to the Best Mom in the World. And to Elvis.