Friday, March 14, 2008

A look back.

Fifty-eight years ago tomorrow, a 24-year-old woman went into labor. It wasn't an easy push and sometime in the day the doctor told the father, smoking cigarettes in the waiting room (as was the custom), that it would be a while and he should go home and wait for the call.

So the father, thinking he had time, went bowling.

That's when I made my debut, and as the family story goes, my mother was in such distress that my grandfather filled the hospital hallway with his voice, his loud French working man's voice.

"Somebody better help this girl!"

I've written several times about my father, but not much about my mother, and maybe that's because we've had a much more complicated relationship.

My mother got married too young and wondered all her life what she'd missed by hitching herself to a man who worked 70 hours a week and moved the family once a year. There were long stretches of her marriage where I know she was restless and unhappy.

As a boy who adored his father, I saw her unhappiness as disloyal, a betrayal to a man we owed everything.

I'm older now, and know that things are never so simple. No one can look into another's marriage and see the truth of it. No one. Not even a son.

I got some important things from my mother. In a house with few books, she was the one who encouraged me to read. When she thought I was too young to see the James Bond films, she had no trouble with me reading the paperbacks.

She was behind my first guitar. She was the one who sang Peggy Lee in the kitchen. She was the one who loved movies.

I remember helping her feed clothes into the wringer so we could hang them on the line.

I remember chasing an escaped canary through the house with her, laughing until our dog jumped up and snagged the bird from the air. The dog was as surprised as anyone. The bird, pried from the dog's jaws, was rattled but unhurt.

I remember my mother visiting school and the girl next to me leaned in and whispered, "She looks like a movie star." And she did.

So why am I writing this? I was moved to after reading a beautiful piece about Obama's mother in the Times. It's a revealing article. You can read it here.

My mother is 82 now, and doing OK. She made it through that day 58 years ago, as did I.

So, this birthday is as much hers as it is mine. Happy birthday, Mom. I hope we have many more together.


Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday, David! Hope you and your mom have a great day!

Lynn in Texas

Stephen Blackmoore said...

Happy birthday, sir! May you have many more. Preferably on this side of the jail bars.

norby said...

Happy Birthday Dave!

Beneath the Carolina Moon said...

Life is a series of wonderful mysteries. May you have many more!


Jeff Shelby said...

Belated Happy Birthday:)