Friday, November 11, 2011


A few hours after my previous blog post on Saturday, my mother died. She had spent the last three years struggling with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer.

For you Yankees reading this, The South is a matriarchal society, women are the dominant family figures. Our family was no exception.

 My mother was married and divorced twice while I was growing up. Before her life was over, she had been married and divorced four times. A few years ago, Mom and I were discussing this subject. I told her that while I loved her, I doubted that she could pick the winner in a one horse race. She responded by pointing out that I had not inherited that trait as I had already been married one time for more years than her four marriages had totaled. In a moment of stupidity, I once asked my mother what caused a couple of her divorces. Her answer was entertaining, but so graphic that I won't write it here.

As a single parent, my mother served double duty as both mother and father. It was a struggle, but she did a great job. I tell people that I am opposed to the incredible surge in single women having families. I have been there as a child of a single parent and I'm telling you that most women can't handle that situation. Mom could.

My mother loved bright colors. Ours was the first house in the neighborhood with bright red trim. Of course, she was also the first to leave the Christmas lights up year round. When I was in high school, she painted the living room a "tangerine" color. Yes, there were days that I was grateful to have that color deficient thing with my vision.

Mom sewed a lot and made most of her own clothes. She took this talent to her grave as none of her children can do this. Wait!! My son William made his own Pope outfit for Halloween. I sent Mom a picture. She was impressed. She once told me that plaid shirts made me look fat. On my last visit with Mom, I wore a pink shirt the day that we went shopping. She told me that she loved it!! So there!

Several of my female cousins have discussed at family reunions that they learned to wear large earrings from Aunt Iris. Several years ago Mom had on a large pair of earrings at a family gathering. I inquired as to how many stations she could pick up on those satelite dishes hanging from her ears. Her response is unprintable, but we were both laughing when she told me.

Mom loved sports. She used to get me out of school to see the Dodgers play the Reds during spring training in Tampa. Once in junior high, she went to the school office to get me out of class to go to a game. The principal, John Marzolf, asked her "Do you have to take Gilbert to the doctor?" She replied "God no!! The Dodgers are in town. The game starts at 1:00." Later in life, she took my nephew to see the Charlotte Knights games in Fort Mill.

After moving to Fort Walton Beach, she became a Florida State fan. She would call me whenever FSU beat North Carolina in football, a fairly common event. I would always point out that I'm not a Carolina fan, but she didn't let that stop her.

She loved NASCAR. Mom's favorite driver was Dale Earnhardt. She called me crying when he died. Once, when she was visiting us, we were watching a  NASCAR race on television. At one point, she shook me and told me that if I was going to sleep that I needed to go to the bedroom. Apparently my snoring was interfering with her watching the race.

Mom was still collecting baseball cards into her seventies. I used to love it when someone would ask if I collected sports cards and I would say, "No, but my mother does."

My mother was always an aspiring author. She took a lot of writing classes over the years. She wrote hundreds of short stories and poems during her life. Some will be read at her memorial service. Those reading this blog are left to their own opinions as to whether I inherited that characteristic.

 A few years ago, she wrote "Herstory, Part One". It's  her life story. "Herstory" is not a typo, it's a feminist play on "History". I guess that if anyone is going to finish "Herstory", I'm going to have to do it. I don't how I will do that as I can't read Part One without crying. I'll try anyway.

She also wrote her share of "letters to the editor".  She encouraged us to do the same. I wrote a letter to the Sports Editor of the Tampa Tribune, Tom McEwen, when I was in the sixth grade. Yeah, I have written a few more since then. Several years ago, I had a lengthy letter published in Restaurant Hospitality, a national trade publication. I sent Mom a copy. She was thrilled.

My mother was a proud Southerner. When I was in the Sons of Confederate Veterans, she would attend the meetings when she was in town. She's been to more Civil War sites and battle reenactments than I have and that's a bunch! She also wrote a lot of poems about the war. You can tell by her writing that she was a true Southerner.

Mom was a very religious person. Over the years, she had changed denominations several times in her search for answers. After starting life as a Methodist, she tried many churches. Among them were Episcopal, Lutheran, Catholic, Assembly of God, Pentecostal, and in her last few years, back to the Methodist Church. She studied her Bible everyday until the end. I was always impressed by her ability to quote obscure passages from the Bible.

I loved my mother. She was always encouraging and supportive, especially during dark times. She was also brutally honest, though she would temper that by waiting until a crisis was over to tell you. We had some large disagreements over the years, but we were able to resolve them. Over the last three years, I went to Florida to see her as often as I could. Visiting with  her was always worth the long ride. Life with Mom was never dull.

In a couple of weeks, we will gather at Philadelphia United Methodist Church in York to celebrate Mom's life. Several years ago she had planned her memorial service. That eliminated a lot of things for us to take care of after her death. Just a warning for the politically correct among you, the closing song is "Dixie".

Goodbye, Mom. I love you. I miss you already!


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