Rants in the Pants, Episode 28-Mom

I had another topic I was writing about for today, but this one pushed it aside. Usually, I work these pieces over but today I am writing straight from the heart.

 My mother was a strong woman. She was smart and worked hard. She worked at a job and kept the house with only a little help from my brother and me. She loved hard and deeply. She made so many sacrifices for us kids. She always wanted us to have a better, easier life than she had.

Mom was born into a tough family in Oklahoma. Her father was a miner during the week and a Hellfire and brimstone preacher on Sunday. She was intimately attached to her older brother who stood between her and her unapproving father. Tragically, her brother died, and the family gradually fell apart until it broke up with Mom’s mother taking her to California. Grandma hadn’t taken her son’s death well. She got a job managing a motel but spent most of her time at the bar next door. Mom quit school at 13 to manage the motel and this worked for awhile until the owner found out. Then both of them were fired. They went to work in the fields for a while picking tomatoes and peaches. Then the war came.

I don’t know much about this period, but I do know that after the war, Mom got a job at the Lathrop defense depot in the Central Valley of California where she met Dad, just back from four years in the navy. On the weekends, Grandma, Dad, and Mom went out to the fields to work for a little extra money. Both my parents always worked hard.

Mom did not have the opportunities to learn some things, so Dad taught her. She learned horseback riding, which she loved. She learned to be a crack shot and she hunted and fished with Dad as well. She learned gardening and early in their relationship when Dad complained that the first meal she cooked for him was not edible, she promptly broke a beer bottle over his head then went on to study and excel at cooking.

I was born a couple of years later on a stormy night. A flood had surrounded the trailer. To get her to the hospital, Dad carried Mom through the flood water to where the car was parked on higher ground. My brother was born two years after that, while I got lost hunting bears with a pop gun in the woods around the house. Grandma was taking care of me, and she had a fit. She called everyone she could to come look for me.

In her thirties, long after I was born, Mom worked a full-time job and finished school. She didn’t just get a diploma, she got it with honors. She was very intelligent, indeed. After that, our family bought a meat cutting business which everyone worked in. Mom still kept house, but now she also kept the books and wrapped the meat Dad cut.

Mom took care of my brother and I in a lot of different ways. She and Dad read to us when we were babies. When I was three, I grabbed Mom’s leg while she was vacuuming and wouldn’t let go until she promised to teach me to read. She did teach me, and I became an early reader.

When I was in third grade, we were living in Craigmont, Idaho. I was getting beat up every day at school, mostly because I wouldn’t fight back. That summer I made friends with a bigger boy. He was a sixth grader and much larger than I. One day, our friendship ended when he punched me in the belly. I ran to Mom who stood on the top step of our trailer’s entrance and patiently listened to my story. I’ll never forget the thoughtful expression on her face. When I finished, she paused a moment, then took off her belt. Holding it out in front of her, she told me I could deal with her and the belt or I could go deal with the boy who hurt me. I chose the latter and wound up beating up the larger boy and chasing him into the house across the street where his mother was visiting.

It was a difficult lesson to learn, and Mom would certainly be jailed for her parenting decision in today’s world, but I have thanked her many times for she showed me that I had to stand up for myself. I also learned that I was stronger and more powerful than I had ever imagined. No longer would I be bullied.

Mom was a fighter, too. When I was 5, we were surf fishing in Morrow Bay. Two men came up to us and were friendly for a while, but the scene turned ugly when one of them slashed Dad’s head open with the blade end of a sand spade. Mom and our dog, Poncho, beat the crap out of both of them and chased the two men into the surf. I don’t know how she did it, but she managed to get us and our gear all into the car. She had to drive to San Luis Obispo to the hospital there where a doctor shook his head wondering how this man could still be alive.

Mom and Dad fought at times throughout their relationship. Sometimes, it was even physical. Despite this, love kept them together. Their love was well illustrated in her passing. She was in the hospital after an operation. She was in a coma for a couple of days and not responding. On her last day, Dad was hurrying down the hallway to her room when she came to and shouted for all to hear, “I love you, Hank.” She passed right after that. She was an incredibly strong woman with a strong love. Thank you, Mom, for all you did for me. I miss you. I miss you every day.

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