Friday, May 06, 2005

Happy Mother's Day... Mom

There’s a special relationship between Mothers and their sons, at least there is between my Mom and I. It’s been precarious over the years; differing from the one I had with my Dad, but having no less profound an impact on my life.

It runs the same Love/hate/Love gamut that the one with my Dad did, as they both felt they should ‘control’ their son. I however, was not a child that responded well to control.

I’ve had the good fortune to still have my Mom around at this point in my life. We’ve had many long conversations about the ‘old days’ when I was young and growing up. It’s been through those conversations that I’ve come to see the ‘rest of the story’ and to understand a lot of what was going on back then.

There was a period when every time I’d be talking with Mom, she’d begin telling me she was sorry for how hard she (and my Dad) had been on me as a kid. That it really hadn’t been necessary, she knew that now, and wished she’d done things differently. It took some time, and convincing, but I believe she knows now, that I know, she only did what she felt was right at the time. I have only respect for her courage to do just that, what was the right thing.

She once related to me that on the day I was born, the nurses all told her what a ‘perfect’ baby I was. How, because her room in the hospital was next to the nursery, she'd hear people talking, saying things like "Look at how wonderful that Coupe baby is". That it had combined so she'd felt that God had blessed her with a perfect child, entrusted her with me, and she was responsible for making sure I stayed ‘perfect’, the way I'd been sent. A pretty tall order, for her, and me!

So that’s how it started, me striving to be ‘less than perfect’, her keeping a constant vigil attempting to save me from imperfection. It sounds silly, I know, but that was the deal, the plan, and the road she and I were on. It made for big fights, bigger arguments, hurt feelings, raw emotions and in general a rough 10 year period, from say age 10 to age 20 for me.

She was also however, a fierce protector… I can recall one incident at a ballpark… My Dad was an athletic guy, a semi-pro basketball player at one point, and played softball (at least this one season). After the game, the adults were laughing, talking, having a couple beers and so on. Us kids were running the bases and in general getting dirty (something we kids never tired of)… I was running for home plate, decided to ‘slide’ in, and in doing so slid past the plate and into a cooler someone had left near it. (For future reference, don’t park your cooler near home plate if kids are playing in the infield!!)

Well the next thing I know I’m dangling by the arm in the grasp of the woman who owned the cooler… She’s looking pretty angry and yelling something at me, I don’t recall what, just that at that moment, I was very scared… Suddenly, out of nowhere appears my Mom… she snatches me from this lady, gives her “the look” and proceeds to tell her something to the effect that if she’d like to live to see old age she’d better never lay a hand on me again!

As I recall, this woman outweighed my Mom by at least 100 pounds… but, and I know it was “the look”, she retreated all the way to the bleachers, and quickly. We left shortly thereafter.

Speaking of “the look”… is that something they teach Mothers at the hospital? I know my Mom had it, and many of my friends Mom’s had it… “the look”… no words required, they simply gave you “the look” and you ceased immediately whatever annoying behavior you’d previously been enjoying. I wish I could learn it… it sure would be useful in many business situations.

Mom also has more faith than most priests or ministers I’ve known. I’ve tried to have it, God knows she tried to instill it… a devote Roman Catholic she made sure I got eight years of parochial grammar school and four years of religious education through High school. I was an altar boy too, usually serving at the 5:00am Masses during the week before school. I just was never able to achieve the same serenity I saw in her face when she was in church.

She’d be totally at peace, as one with the universe, as though every other trouble in her life was, for those moments, gone. I’ve always admired that in her, it came naturally to her, and others spend a lifetime trying to have it for 5 seconds.

I look back on things these days and I realize, had they not been trying to keep me ‘perfect’, I might have turned out quite differently.

In one of those “I’m sorry” conversations I actually told her that “Look, it all turned out ok… I’m not in jail, a drug addict, a criminal… I’m actually a fairly productive member of society… and pretty happy with the person I am”. So, what harm was done by her being ‘hard’ on me? None…

In fact, if she hadn’t been so hard on me, it’s entirely possible I’d have turned out differently. I was kind of ‘edgy’ growing up, I liked pushing the envelope, walking the very edge of the line… who knows, if they didn’t keep knocking me back on the ‘good’ side of the line I might have taken an entirely different path.

I’m thankful that she’s still around, that I can call her on the phone, hear her voice, know she’s ok, get annoyed with her, and laugh with her. I’m thankful we both ‘grew up’ and found a mutual respect for one another, and can enjoy this phase in our lives.

I remember a lot of things…

  • Being bathed in the sink on Armory Street as the sun set.
  • The time, again on Armory street, when I told you I wasn’t tired enough for bed, and you had me run from one end of that long kitchen to the other ten times to prove it…(you were right as I recall)
  • How much I hated that ‘sling’ after I’d broken my collar bone.
  • Christmas time, and how you and Dad managed to hide all those presents despite us kids (7) having an actual ‘organization’ to find them, or at the very least sneak downstairs early Christmas morning!
  • How, at times, you’d try to stifle a smirk as you told me I shouldn’t have done something.
  • That you could never really sleep until you knew all of the kids were safe at night.
  • The way you and Dad looked at each other.
  • That you and Dad yelled at each other so rarely, that when you did, it would stun us kids into an even rarer silence.
  • The meals, how you managed to feed at least nine, and usually 10 or more people at every meal, (and with good meals too!) still amazes me.
  • How you became a better Mother with each child, always learning from your earlier experiences, not simply repeating them.
  • You teaching me to drive in my "Karmen Ghia", when no one else would even get in the car.
  • Driving me to summer school after I bombed Algebra (amazing math is so much of my life now huh?)
  • That you once told me to “Keep it in my pants” as I was leaving for a date, I tripped over my feet and almost fell onto the back porch… You just looked up from whatever you were stirring, with that little ‘knowing’ smirk of yours and said nothing more.
  • Your flower (tulip's, poppy's etc.) garden in the side yard.
  • The Peonies that grew by the front door, and we saved from destruction during the first addition.
  • The trees (seedlings) we dug up in the Adirondacks, and planted in the yard.
  • The lunches you'd pack and we'd eat at picnic tables on the way to Old Orchard Beach.
  • Your "Swedish" pancakes
  • How you (and Kathy) never left my side at the hospital after “the” motorcycle accident, that every time I opened my eyes, you were there.
  • Your sad eyes the day I got on that bus for boot camp.
  • The light in your eyes when you picked me up at the airport when I finally got discharged.
  • That day you backed the car into my Triumph Spitfire.
  • How much you've loved everyone of the 'Grandbabies' and "GreatGrandbabies".
  • Your strength when Dad died, your courage and determination to continue living.
  • How concerned you were when you and Andy decided to get married, and some of the kids didn’t want you too (I’m glad you two got married, he’s a great guy)
  • Your tears, when I got married, then divorced, and then once more when you’d realized I’d really found love again.
But most of all, I remember love, and lots of it. I know there wasn’t much money, in fact we were pretty poor, financially. Somehow though, you made do, and you made do in a way we kids (well at least I) never ‘felt’ poor. Instead we felt thankful for what we had. If we had nothing else, we had each other, and we had you. We were wealthy indeed.

In fact, to this day, I get almost as much enjoyment 'dreaming' about a new purchase, as I do from finally making it! I think that was born of reading Sears catalogs and dreaming of this tool or that and not being able to afford it (Sears was my first credit card, I had to have Russ make me a consolidation loan with the bank so I could get it paid off and eat!). You never complained, not once, you got up everyday, dealt with all seven of your uniquely individual children and all of our collective insanity, daily. I do not know how you did it. When I ask, you always say "I loved it, it wasn't a problem for me." I remain amazed.

I remember a lot of things, more than I could ever list here. I'm hoping, the siblings will stop by and add some memories of their own in the comments so I can compile them all for you. There's been a lifetime of good things. The blessing in living this long is that I don't remember much 'bad'... don't get me wrong... I remember, it's just that with the knowledge I have now, everything makes a whole lot more sense than when I used to "know everything"... I'm a lot smarter than that now!

So thanks Mom, for everything, then, now and going forward. I wouldn’t trade you, or any of our experiences, for anything.


Cylithria™ said...

Absolutely one of the most poignent and awe inspiring things I had ever read. Bill's Mom - You are one amazing lady and I'm so glad he let me know that!


Kathy said...

Mom, don't know if I can add to that , but I will try. I have the utmost respect for you. I know that we had our share of disagreements in my teens and that I challenged you a lot. What amazed me though, is that you would admit if I caught you on something. For example, you were telling me to send my friends home because it was so late and some of them were guys. and you said "what would the neighbors think?" and I said are you worried about me having friends over late or what the neighbors would think. You let my friends stay!!! What you really have done the most for me Mom is instill a deep rooted faith in God that has got me through so many of the trials in my life. Not just a go to church on Sunday faith, but a don't worry about anything, God is in control faith. I appreciate that more now , than I ever have. It finally sunk in. You have lived it and have been the perfect example of it. Your strength is amazing. I just want you to know that I feel closer to you now than I ever have and although you are "ready to go" as you have so often said to me, keep in mind that maybe we are not ready to let you go yet. I love you mom

Firehawk said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Firehawk said...


You're pretty lucky, Bill. I never had a good relationship with my mother. We haven't seen each other since '86, and really, that's probably a good thing. One of us probably would have killed the other in that time had we been in contact.

To mitigate that, I have to say that my Aunt, who raised me up from a puppy pretty much, is one of the world's great people, and I probably wouldn't be alive today without her.

We all owe huged debts to someone, without whom we wouldn't have turned out half so well. It's a romantic notion that a man can stand on his own, create himself out of broadcloth, and owe no debt to man or beast, but that's all it is--a romantic notion.

Your post brought that known but forgotten understanding to the fore. Thanks.

RealLady said...

Thanks Mom for bringing Bill into this world! All your hard work over the years has paid off! Not only is he a wonderful man, but the best husband a woman could have! Because of you, he has enough sugar and spice to complete the receipe of life...

Again, thanks Mom! Happy Mother's Day!....Maryan

Cylithria™ said...

Pssst....Bill, since I can't Tag your mom (being Mother's Day weekend and all) I'm tagging you. Head on over to my Blog when you get the chance and you'll understand what I mean.... hee hee hee Have a great weekend Bill and Mom!

Bill said...

Cyli: Thank you, I really appreciate the kudos... I promise I'll post the 'tag' response for Monday... the current post is staying through Sunday :)

Kathy: Thank You! Perfect, you made *me* cry! What you've added will mean a lot!

Firehawk: Exactly, as usual! I have those moments of 'self-made-man' delusions, until I think about the road I've travelled and the help that's been there along the way. Thanks for adding to this, there's always strength in your words.

RealLady: You've made me cry this morning as well. You make it easy to be the man I am, because, you love me for *who*, not what, I am. Thank you as well, I'm only able to do, what I do, with your support.

Thanks everyone... Once the rest of the siblings have posted, I'll be sending this link to Mom!

Cylithria™ said...

Bill: It better stay through Sunday, I'd flog you if it didn't. I've never seen such a wonderful tribute!! But I have to ask, at the risk of sounding like a dolt; What is a "swedish" waffle?

Bill said...

Cyli: A "swedish" pancake, is a really 'thin' pancake, more like a 'crepe' than an actual pancake... I just remember they were really good!!

Joe Coupe said...

Mom, I have the most wonderful memories of growing up. Being in the middle of the pack was a good place to be. I had the opportunity to learn from everone older what not to do..hee hee hee. But I always felt safe and secure. I really remember when you would let me stay home from school to be alone with you for the day and it made me feel special. It was our time. I have done this with my son to hopefully leave a special memory for him as well.

I still have an old report card that has a teacher comment that states: "Joe plays, fools around, and make faces constantly!!!!" Then I read your reply, "I'll talk to him about that".

I had to laugh...I don't think you ever mentioned it to me. Thanks for not stopping me from that behavior, most people say that's what they like about me.

I remember you taking me to register for little league and how excited I was to play.

This is one thing that I'll never forget was that the ice cream truck would come and we would all run to you for money, but one day you did not have any money and I could not understand. When I grew older I felt bad about how I behaved that day because I know if there was a way to buy that ice cream you would have. That is you, sacrificing everything for the sake of us all.

I remember playing football with John and our friends and we would play in the rain and come home covered in mud. You never complained, you simply said "Stop right were you are and give me those clothes" and then you would wash them.

I know when Dan died I was blessed to have the opportunity to be there for you to in some way cushion the pain of his loss.
I would stop over after work. We would talk for hours until you fell asleep and then I would leave and be back the next day.

You were not just a great mother, you were a great daughter. The way you took cake of your mom was a shining example of your caring nature. I remember being there with you when Grandma McCann passed away. It was special because you showed courage and love all at once.

Being so far a way from you has really been hard, but thanks to the telephone I can get my dose of your warm voice. I never take that for granted and that's why I call so often.

Mom having come from this big family has also been a blessing for us all. We all deeply love each other and know that brings you great joy. We know we can count on each other if the need arises.

I'm proud of all the things taught me:

Pray for God's guidance and direction in our life, don't pray for material things. Trust in him and he will's true.

Take your plate to the kitchen when you done eating, I still get many compliments from many women when I do that at their homes. I tell them that your still watching me.

How to be a giver, and not a taker.

When you give love, you'll get love.

That the family makes the home, not the building and materials.

To appreciate what you do have, and not to focus you don't have.

I could on and on, but I'm happy I was the lucky one to get you for a Mother. All of us turned out fine and we all must have been "tuned in" even when you thought were were not.

Thanks for letting me be me when I was a teenager. Your training eventually kicked in. I know I was not perfect, but you made me feel that I was. I have always, and will always, respect you for everthing you have done for us.

I try to be a good father to my son because I want him to have what I had growing up. I hope I can learn as I go and adapt as I go as you did. To make sure I focus on what is really important, LOVE.

I love you Mom, and I wish you a very special Mothers Day this year. Talk to you soon.


Joel C in Tucson said...


Your (and your family's) love for your Mom is the greatest present on Mother's day any Mom can get! My wife works in a Hallmark store (they may have invented Mother's Day as we know it!) and all the cards in the store couldn't have said it better. I often wish I could go back and say the things to my Mom that I didn't take the opportunity to say when she was alive.


Kim said...

Oh Bill, that was such a beautiful and heartfelt post, I know your mom is proud!

Nic said...

Bill, really enjoyed your post! It was sweet and very nicely done. Your mom would be so proud! :)

How did the enchilada's turn out? Have another Monday Meal up today.

Trevor Record said...

I want to hear a longer version of the story where you knock over the cooler.

Bill said...

Nic: The enchilada's got postponed... and rescheduled for this weekend! Thanks, she was a little teary when we talked on Sunday :)

Trevor: Hmmmm... I was about 6 or 7, I may have to wait until old age kicks in... I hear that I'll only be able to remember the really 'old' stuff then!! :)

Again, thanks to everyone... you all helped make this a nice surprise for Mom!!