I remember, when I was four years old, waking up early one dark winter morning, with my father making breakfast. Mama had left for work unusually early that morning, for some special business that she had to do as a writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. I started to cry, because I had missed her, and my day was to start without her, and I missed my mama. I remember being aware, even at four, that it was childish to kneel with my face in the couch cushions, saying "I want my mama!" repeatedly. I was old enough to be worried that my tears would offend my daddy, but my eyes still stung.
I was a mama's boy.
While walking home with my best friend Sean McDougal at age 5, I picked a bouquet of Indian paintbrush out of the ditch and presented them to my mother (complete with the intact root system of every flower). Sean was mystified, until he saw my mama's reaction. Then he ran home, stopping in the ditch to pick his own bouquet, dropping dirt clods behind him as he went into his house. Every boy that age wants to make his mother happy.
When I started messing around with a neighbor girl at far too young an age, said neighbor girl plainly directed me not to talk to my mother about our trysts. I laughed and asked the girl why she thought that I would, and she answered in all seriousness, "Because you talk to your mother about everything." I guess she was right, though I did instinctively know that there were some things that one does not discuss with one's mother at age 12.
As I grew older, I naturally turned toward manly things, and probably turned away from my mother as a result. I started doing more father-oriented things. If this hurt her, Mom never said anything that I recall. She had grown up as an only child, and I was the first boy that she had seen grow up. She was by this time a single mother rearing two boys, working on her master's degree. She paid me the compliment of letting me be, and treated me basically like an adult pretty early on.
Mom put a few thousand dollars that she couldn't afford into my freshman year of college, and then it was understood that I was on my own, which was more than fair. She provided me with a place to stay when I came home, and the refrigerator and cabinets were kept full of food, but at 20, it was on me to make ends meet. At the time, I struggled, but in retrospect, my loving mother was actually coddling me just a little. I got the message, and got to work. When my car broke down and I couldn't commute to work, I went to "temporarily" live in my dad's spare bedroom in town. Mom had a weepy moment that I didn't understand. She said, "You're leaving." This made no sense to me. I was coming back home, surely! I never did. From Dad's, I rented a house with an old high school buddy, and finished college. Then marriage, and such.
When Mom sold the old homestead, I helped her move into an apartment in town. It was during this period that I first really felt like I was taking care of my mother, this woman whom I had towered over for over a decade. I rented a truck, and moved things. I organized. I directed my brother. I took charge and was urgent (and was probably not very pleasant) because it was my mother's business that we were attending to. This was serious. This was my mama.
My mother applied herself to her work as a CPS worker. She was earnest, and probably took it all too much to heart. Seeing my mother's heart so heavy with the weight of her case load, I begged her for years to retire from this gut-wrenching job. She finally did so.
My mother, retired in her mid-sixties, was without a job to go do for the first time in almost half a century. It's funny how addicted we become to the structure of a job. I discovered that my mama could need her son some more. I discovered anew how much I needed my mama.
These days, my mother has a busy schedule. It turns out that she came home to me; she now lives next door. Mom picks up my girls from school every day. She is busy with the church, and works at a homeless shelter. With a degree in family counseling, she confidentially helps people in the community, and never lets me know who or how or why. I looked in the newspaper the other day and discovered that she's on the municipal library board. At 70, Mom is more vital and busy than she was at 60. She looks after the neighborhood, sometimes from that porch of hers, and sometimes from her neighbors' porches. She takes care of me and my family, and we take care of her right back.
We look after each other.
I love my mama.