I’ve been thinking about my Mom a lot since she passed away unexpectedly about three months ago. Sometimes the memories are prompted in a surprising way. Last week a co-worker came into my office late in the afternoon with an exasperated look on her face, holding her cell phone. She shook the phone and said “my kids (she has two tween-age boys fairly close in age) are driving me nuts.” She then rattled off a series of messages they had sent her, with each of the boys complaining about the other one regardingt silly stuff. So and so won’t let me have the remote, so and so is throwing potato chips at me. You get the drift.
It reminded me of growing up in my small hometown of Devils Lake, North Dakota. I had an older sister Julie and two younger brothers Dan and Mike. Our Mom worked as an admitting clerk at the lone hospital in town, which was about a block from our house. We were often all home alone together when Mom – and Dad – were working, and it wasn’t always smooth sailing with a fair amount of bickering about what I am sure was insipid stuff that wasn’t really worthy of the resulting drama, but at that time and age seemed of the utmost importance. Often times the arguing would result in – back before the age of cell phones – a land line phone call to our Mom, or if it was a particularly (again perceived) egregious situation, it could result in one or more of us sprinting up to the hospital to vent about the insufferable actions of one of the aforesaid siblings. In my case at least, the venting would begin with Maaawwwm!!, sometimes in a high-pitched, dare I say screeching voice.
Keep in mind that Mom was often admitting sick people or people about to have medical procedures who may have been anxious or nervous. Needless to say sometimes, maybe often?, we were airing our grievances in her workplace at not the most appropriate times. In fact, if my memory serves me right I think Mom once said that somebody once depositive a severed finger on the admitting desk.
I don’t remember many details about the sibling squabbling that occasionally required a mad spring to the hospital to complain to Mom. I do remember that my younger brothers – who were about seven and 12 years younger – could drive my sister and me a little nuts. They used to like to play stick hockey in the living room, which at the time seemed so annoying, and probably interfered with watching “The Brady Bunch” or “Little House on the Prairie” on the lone TV in the house. I remember glaring at my brothers, and I am sure at times it resulted in multiple Maaawwwmmms!!!
Sometimes the fighting would be between my sister and me. I had a close friend named Maren, and we both had the same long straight hair, parted down the middle, so popular in the seventies. Maren was over at our house one time when Julie and I were having a heated argument. Maren was seated at the bottom of the stairs with her back facing the stairs when my sister came tearing down the stairs with a book in her hand and thinking Maren was me, wacked her on the top of the head. Maawwwmmmm!!!!!! I am sure she got an earful after that incident (and Maren a headache no doubt).
Once and a while there would be a medical need of some sort (fortunately not for Maren) that required a trip to see Mom at the hospital. My youngest brother Mike had a thick head of blonde hair that could become a tangled mess. When he was about six years old I was brushing the tangles when I discovered what I thought was a tannish white wad of gum, until I noticed the gum seemed to have a bunch of very small wiggly legs (yes ewe), which turned out to be an engorged wood tick. Mom was working at the hospital so I marched Mike up there, where even the medical personnel had a hard time safely removing the fat tick.
Another time my brother Dan and I were fighting about something, chasing each other around the house. Dan tried to dash out the back door by pushing on the glass window pane. Unaware that the door was locked, his hand broke through the glass, cutting it badly enough that we made a trip to the hospital. where yes Mom was working, for stitches. Help Mawwwwm!! (Update from my sister Julie after I shared this blog post on Facebook: The hand through the door incident. Was about Dan and Mike fighting over a can of root beer!!!! Dan grabbed it and ran to the door and tried to push it open with the soda and his hand. It was locked, so his hand and the soda went through.)
During the last few months, I’ve also been thinking a lot about the year I lived in Devils Lake about five years ago, where I worked for the newspaper. I am so extremely grateful now that I got to have that year. I spent a lot of time with my parents, and my Mom and I forged a better relationship. She was, as most Moms would be, thrilled that I had moved back to my hometown after being away for so many years. I lived in a tiny house just a few blocks from my parents. As a housewarming gift Mom, a cat lover, brought me a cat wall hanging. I still remember her bringing it over to my little house when I moved in, holding it high up in the air, a big smile on her face, For the last few years, it’s been hanging in my laundry room of my California apartment. After she passed away, I moved it into the living room to a more easily visible location to be a constant reminder of Mom.