A friend’s mother died yesterday. Many friends have mothers and many of them have died, but this was different. She was my second mother.
This is going to get weird but bear with me. This woman changed my perspective on parents.
My friend and I started to hang out during high school. We had never met before but grew up in a similar middle class Americana neighborhood fairly close together. We both had two parents and siblings and went to the same school. Other than that I don’t know what the draw was, but we started to hang out every day after school.
The big difference to me was when he invited me over to his house. It was similar to mine with a dining room and a kitchen and a living room with a big sofa and paintings on the walls and even a piano. His bedroom had weird stuff from his travels with his family that I did not understand. His family would load up the car and go west on adventures together. They hauled a camper and would search for rocks. Yes, rocks!
I had never heard of people doing this before. This certainly was not the pattern of my family or anyone I knew.
Then she invited me to go camping with the family. What? Go out with another family and share their experiences with no requirements.
So when I went with them to a seaside park and set up the camper and watched them cook over an open fire and laugh and talk and act together as if nothing was different than the living room I was amazed. Being with these people was comfortable.
I don’t know much about this woman but she made me comfortable whenever or whatever the circumstances.
I use this an example of this remarkable woman and her family. My friend and I had taken some kind of psychedelic substance when the dinner bell rang at his house. We walked downstairs and he went into the kitchen and sat down to dinner. His mom invited me to join at the table and in my haze I politely declined. Whether she was aware what was going on or just being herself, she insisted I sit at the table and join in the feast. It was spaghetti as I recall. Being as calm as I could I sat down at the metal table and was given a plate. She then covered the plate with noodles and tomato sauce. With a smile she requested we all consume. I was not hungry or even aware at that time what food was but I had to perform for this request. I was taught how to properly sit at a dining table and chose the correct utensil and follow the pattern of the host but this was different. I carved a few noodles and ate a few bites with a silly smile wiping the red sauce off my face. If this had just been friends, as would happen later, we would had been rolling on the floor in laughter, but this was my friends families’ dinner. As I remember, I gobbled the feast down in a few seconds as if a starving man. I don’t know if I put on a show or not but she didn’t seem to mind.
That was the difference in this woman. She didn’t judge or scold or correct or even apply whatever reactions she might have had to our generation. She seemed to join in it and enjoy our disruptive behavior.
She presented a different figure to a woman of her age and position in a family than I had ever seen. She knew how to befriend us and she knew when to leave us alone.
A few years ago after many decades apart, I have the privilege to meet her again. She still had the sparkle in her eye and the smile on her face to show she was still enjoying life with all of its adventures. Much respected by her family she was now the pinnacle of her family.
All I can say now is “Thank You” for being whom you presented yourself to all of us during those years when we invaded your house and you accepted us. We all know you were a special person and helped form our lives during formidable times.
Though your son is not a soft shoe, when the time comes I will walk across the dance floor and see if you want to cut the rug.
You and me babe, how ‘bout it?