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.
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.