I never gave you enough credit Mom.
As a self-conscience boy of 13, worried about what my friends might think. I criticised you for getting sloppy drunk and stumbling around the kitchen of our little grey house in North Minneapolis.
You smelled like beer on most week-ends and acted like you had no control over your life and your marriage to Jim Wirtz, your third husband.
Your face was swollen sometimes, and at least one of your eyes was badly bruised or red where it should have been white.
I hated that you stayed with Jim even when he was so meant to us. Why didn’t you just leave?
I was embarrassed to wear the clothes you picked out and revealed to me the day before school began.
I couldn’t understand why you seemed to always make what HE wanted for dinner, when he came home from driving his truck all day.
I didn’t know what to think when you came stumbling into my room one night looking for bed to sleep in. Why did this have to happen when my friend Danny was sleeping over?
I hated your hand writing on the notes you gave me to take to school the next day to explain that I wasn’t going to be in school. (I couldn’t bear to face Danny).
When you tried to cheer me up by making jokes, couldn’t you see I was miserable and only wanted for you to leave me alone?
I hated all those things Mom.
But at 13 there was so much I didn’t understand about you.
I didn’t understand your Mom sent you out to work scrubbing floors at the age of 9.
I didn’t understand you never had the glimmer of a chance to finish high school, much less college.
I didn’t understand how when your husband (our Dad) lost both legs in the train accident the enormous responsibility you inherited. And that you sometimes put up with bouts of mean outbursts from him just before you carried him home on your back from the bar.
I couldn’t understand that in men, you always seemed picked out someone you felt sorry for. Our Dad was mean enough but the three husbands that followed had behaviors toward you and I that were hard to deal with.
I didn’t understand, at age 13 that drinking a few beers helped you cope with all of these failed relationships and bad memories.
At age 13 I didn’t see much beyond my small, selfish world.
I didn’t understand you felt you had to stay in bad marriages so that I would have a “Dad” even if I couldn’t spell his last name and even if he had kids of his own who he didn’t take care of.
I didn’t understand how proud you were of me when I came home on leave from the U.S. Air Force. You couldn’t wait to show me off to the neighbors, which only pissed me off.
When you finally divorced your 4th husband, and moved into your own house, you once told me, “Randy, you have no idea how great it is to be able to come and go as I want, without anyone telling me what to do.”
So you valued freedom and independence.
I didn’t understand where my own longing for these sensibilities came from. Now I know, Mom.
I didn’t understand how complete strangers warmed to you because of your generosity, quick wit and work ethic. I only thought men found you loose. That made me try to be your “protector”, a role you began to resent me for.
I left Minneapolis in 1974 – and except for occaisional visits – I left forever.
You never left and ended up suffering terribly with Alzeimer’s.
Returning to attend your funeral with nearly one hundred relatives in attendance, I experienced fits of laughter. We were all relieved that the other person that had taken over your body had passed and everyone who knew you was more free.
Hey Mom. There was so much I didn’t know at age 13.