Today would have been my mother’s eighty-ninth birthday. She broke my heart when she left me on that twenty-ninth day of June in 2002.
My mom was a little, spunky woman who could cuss like a sailor. I suppose that is because she had nine brothers. One summer weekend when I was about ten or eleven, my brother Bill and I were fishing with my mom at my grandfather’s clubhouse on the Gasconade River. Bill and I were standing on the bank fishing with our poles and bobbers. Mom was sitting in the Jon boat fishing with a rod, reel, and sinkers; no bobber for her. When we fished with mom and dad, they spent a lot of time putting worms on our hooks and getting our lines untangled. How they had the patience I’ll never know.
Mom was a good fisherman. I’ll never forget the day when she caught a fish and was reeling it in. Suddenly she stood up and started hitting at something with her rod. She was cussing a blue streak the whole time saying, “You S.O.B., you’re not getting my fish.” (S.O.B. is the abbreviated version of what she really said.) At least I think that’s what she said. I was too shocked to really take in all of what she was saying because, to my horror, I saw the head of a water moccasin raising itself up out of the water coming after the fish on the end of her line. Its mouth was wide open so I could see the white lining of its mouth. That little lady stood her ground and beat the snake back and successfully pulled the fish into the boat.
I guess S.O.B. was one of her favorite words. I surmise that because when I was five years old we were driving to visit my grandmother and grandfather. I was sitting in the back seat between my mom and dad talking to them when a large truck came along side of us, which scared the life out of me. My reaction was to blurt out, “You S.O.B.” My mother turned to me and said, “What did you say?” I repeated my salty words. I learned that day that I was to do as my mother said, not as she did.
Mom was tough as nails. She made us play outside in all weather but rain. She was a stern disciplinarian. But I never felt she was unfair in her discipline. She wasn’t one for church, but encouraged us to go to church with friends if they asked. She had a spiritual side; she introduced me to the writings of Norman Vincent Peale. She was my mother, but managed to parent while being my friend. We didn’t have much money, but she made sure we had what we needed. And she always, always put us kids before herself.
Happy Birthday Mom!