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Making Mom Freak Out

My mother was such a lovely woman, in spirit and appearance. She always reminded me of the pin-up girls from the 40s and 50s. That was her era of course. And whenever she posed for a picture on the beach in her one piece bathing suit she was up on her toes, with her hands on her hips, in the classic posing style that all the heart breakers then would use. But her defining characteristic was her gullibility. She always trusted her children implicitly. Especially me, the oldest, and as all knew, her favorite.

So when the family would gather in later years and all the terribly frightening and down right stupid things we had done in our youth came out she was always astonished. And even though these things may have occurred years ago they struck her as having happened just then. Of course we all laughed, but we loved her so deeply that it was easy for her to take and laugh along with us. But she always expressed her sorrow at our poor choices, even into our 40s and 50s.

I once related the story of my spell as Superman. We lived then in a sort of projects area in the town of Barstow. Outside each barracks-like building was a shed where we put our trash and garbage in large metal cans. The shed was covered with screening material in an attempt to keep out the flies. It didn't really work. But the shed was a great place to climb. Of course, I loved Superman. It was a show on TV in the 50s. I knew that all one needed to be Superman was a cape. So one day I scrounged a large towel from mom's linen closet and tied it about my neck. I climbed up onto the shed with my glasses perched upon my nose. Then, I took the leap, and for about 2 seconds was actually flying. Then down. Hard. I was lucky I broke nothing, especially those precious glasses. This was a story that scared the bejesus out of Mom when she heard it years later.

Later we moved out of Barstow to the town of Hinkley, about 10 miles away. I played a trick on Mom there that I did regret as soon as I did it. It was cruel. But funny. I was outside in the sand yard (no lawns) and I found an unused bandaid there in the yard. My first, mean little thought was to take the bandage and place it on my finger. Then I went into the house and showed Mom. She screamed.

"What happened? How did you hurt yourself?"

I had to 'fess up quickly and she forgave me, but I didn't forgive myself for a long time.

We had been living in a rented house and a new home became available there in the desert town. We bought our first home. We lived in an area that someone had attempted to farm at one time. There were remnants of that attempt around the desert that we would run across in our rambles out into the countryside. One relic of that time was a well in the middle of a dry, arid, forsaken field. We knew it was there because it had a foot high rock surround at its top.

At one time I was out walking by myself, for whatever reason, and also for whatever reason, on my way back home, I decided to walk backwards. Why? Who knows. I certainly didn't. But I was walking backwards and, of course, tripped over the one well in the whole area. Down I went into the depths. It was just my good luck that over the years the tumbleweeds had filled the well, and I landed in a pile of vegetative debris. Also luckily there was an old metal ladder attached to the side of the well. I climbed out with blood running from the gouges in my skin. Now was the time to come up with a good story. I could not tell the truth. So my explanation for all the scratches all over my exposed skin was simple and ingenious.

"Mom, I tripped and fell into a bush."

Only 30 years later did the truth come out, and again, she was horrified and then forgiving.

"You kids. I cannot believe the things you have done."

To tell the truth, Mom really didn't have a real sense of humor. She never seemed to find the most hilarious things funny. But she tried so hard to see the fun in everything.

As three young boys, with a little sister who mostly stayed at home with her dolls, we were all over the desert. Playing was a way of life. We played at creeping up on each other, hiding behind the creosote bushes and the sage brush. We also did something much more dangerous and risky to life and limb.

We had a hill that was only about a mile from us, rising out of the desert floor. In the distance were mountains that we never even seemed to see, but this hill was our mountain. And we would climb up it on a rutted path of rocks and gravel. Then, with stupendous stupidity, we would head back down, riding our bikes over every rock and stone and pit and hole in the path. Our feet didn't even need to peddle. Always a moment away from flying through the air and breaking every bone we owned. Again, a story that Mom never heard until years later, and lived by her as if it was happening at that moment.

Some of the things I found so humorous happened when I was an adult and out with my Mom alone. Once we went to a dance club together. She was of the generation where a woman always knew how to dance and, especially, how to follow her partner. She and I danced most of the night. She enjoyed herself and I loved it. But the funniest part came when they played a fast song, of some rock type. Who remembers now? The funny thing was that I felt like showing off and my game, loving mother followed me all the way. I finally had danced us into the center of the floor and the crowd was forming a circle and clapping, as if it was a movie. I loved it. I think Mom was wonderful that night. She kept up with me all the way. She later admitted she had not a clue what we were dancing. She was just following.

Some simple things with Mom just broke me up. You know how most cars have a light just above the mirror in the front seat now? I used this to play a little trick on Mom once. It was so cute. And funny. We were coming to a tunnel in the Boston Mountains of Arkansas. She loved tunnels on the highway. They somehow excited her. I knew this. As we were about to enter the tunnel I said, "Quick Mom, turn on the light so we can see!" I pointed to the light and she quickly punched it to turn on the light. I laughed and then she got the joke.

Another traveling time we were driving through the Flint Hills of Kansas and I glanced off into the distance over the green, tall grass prairie. I saw something that I immediately recognized, but knew I could fool Mom.

"Mom, look over there. It's a two headed horse!"

Actually it was two horses, one behind the other, standing in opposite directions.

"Oh my god. How does it live?", she asked. I was laughing, and finally explained to her what she was seeing.

Mom heard all these stories and more as we all gathered more and more often in her later years. Always, she was distressed and surprised by our outrageous behavior. But she always tried to see the humor and was always completely forgiving.

As she was lying in hospice care in my brother's home I was rubbing her feet. "Mom, you always had the most beautiful feet."

"Well why didn't you tell me that a long time ago?'

Why didn't I? I have no idea. But what I would give to tell another story for her to get upset about. And to rub her feet for her.

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