Right after my father passed I wrote a piece entitled “Thanks Dad”. It’s my best read blog to date and seemed to have touched the folks who read it (it’s in the January 2012 library). The week of Mother’s Day I thought of that piece but in the context of our Mom, but I was too busy to write a respectable post and she’s not dead yet. (can you imagine her surprise if I had written it in postmortem form?) I’ve had enough time to think over what I’d like to write to her now…in the present…and shouldn’t we let those we love know of our affections for them while they’re still with us? I tried not to duplicate the lists from Dad’s to Moms as many that are on Dads should be on Moms as well. So without further ado..I bring to you, and especially you, Mom…”Dear Mom”.
Dear Mom, while this isn’t an all-inclusive list it’s what I’ve remembered in the past couple of weeks. I’m sure that Dan and Brian have things that they could add and make this list even better and more thorough but I decided to wing it and see if it flies.
Thank you for:
• Having me. Dan (the oldest son) was supposed to happen. Brian (the middle son) was supposed to be a daughter (thank God that he wasn’t. I can’t imagine having a sister his size and strength…or looks. Woof). I was an “oops baby” and wasn’t supposed to be. I remember that you told me (as an adult) that you knew when you were pregnant with me when you were camping, smelled milk and threw up. I didn’t turn out too bad considering that your first awareness of me caused you to vomit (a trend that would continue with girls meeting me for the first time from grade school through college).
• Moving me and my brothers to a farm. Man did I have fun exploring the creek, shooting guns, playing with cats and dogs, setting off fireworks, shooting baskets in the driveway, playing baseball in the garden, riding the three-wheeler and many other adventures that are too numerous to mention.
• For not killing me when I set the barn on fire. Dead serious…I set a barn on fire. I was seven…but still.
• Making me shell peas. You’d pick them then we’d sit in the shade of the big elm in lawn chairs and shell peas. I didn’t care for peas then though I’d give a pretty penny for garden fresh peas now.
• For all of the dirty laundry that you washed. I can’t imagine that three boys dirty laundry is all that terrific smelling, especially when we’ve been playing ball, detasseling corn, baling hay, working in a truck stop kitchen, cleaning out hog sheds, rasslin’ with dogs, or just screwing around. You washed laundry that you should have worn a hazmat suit for.
• For letting me have your car so that I could drive to school, or practice. You went without for me.
• For all of the band, music and games that you attended while we were in school. I can’t speak for Dan’s or Brian’s classes but I doubt that a couplea dozen farm kids sound all that respectable singing the latest Barry Manilow or Kenny Rogers hit in a gymnasium.
• For all of those meals, regular and holiday. Man o man…we never went hungry!! The food was hot, fresh and delicious. You’d always have supper ready for when Dad pulled into the driveway. You’d whip it from stovetop, to serving bowls to table and have things ready to go, while Dad hung up his coat and the rest of us washed up. Leftovers?! What leftovers?! We devoured it ALL.
• For keeping a bored kid (me) out of trouble with chores. I remember that I always regretted saying the words “I’m bored” in front of you. You always had a mental list of things that needed to be completed by the nearest bored son. Things like “taking out the garbage, vacuuming, dusting, weeding the garden, etc.” and other miscellaneous chores were quickly assigned if I didn’t vacate the room quickly.
• For the wonderful Christmas’. With Burl Ives, Perry Como and Bing Crosby playing on the stereo, the fudge and cookies. The tree brilliantly lit and the gifts stashed where only you, Dad and later on…Dan and Brian knew where. If I could somehow go back into time…those Christmas’ would be at the top of my list. A house full of love.
• For doctoring me when I was sick, and I was sick a lot! My only breakfast served in bed in my life occurred when I was on the verge of death (in my opinion) and you woke me up with a cup of hot tea, lightly toasted bread with jelly. It was delicious and hit the spot…I felt better instantly.
• For not banning me from ever doing anything “fun” again after I rode Craig Conrad’s Honda mini-bike into the side of Gladys the lunch-lady’s Buick. Fourteen stitches in my left thigh and one ruined pair of Levis later I limped for a couplea weeks. You could have harped on me for years, but you didn’t. Thank you.
• For telling me to toughen up when I thought every little ailment and scratch was cancer. You called me a “hypochondriac” then told me what it was and I thought “well…someone’s gotta look out for me!” You also told me that “washing dishes” would cure just about anything from splinters to headaches and sore throats. Such a funny lady.
• For planning all of those family vacations with Dad and copiloting us around this nation with maps, atlas’ and a thermos of Folgers coffee. The Ripley’s traveled on Texaco gasoline and Folgers.
• For always having new comic books for us to read on long vacation drives. I remember when we drove to California in ’72. I was six years old and was too short to see out the window so you had Dad make a small box with a hinged lid for me to sit on. You covered it in a soft white vinyl with a cushioned seat and told me that I could put my new coloring books and comics in there. I felt that I could see “the entire world” from my new throne. Dead serious…I loved it.
• For crocheting all of the afghans that you’ve given to us and our kids through the years. I still have the one that you gave me for the Christmas of ’85. Still warm and long enough for these long legs of mine.
• For all of those baked goodies that you’d make. They didn’t stand a chance with three sons and a husband hanging around.
• For babysitting our kids while we were at the hospital having more kids. And just sitting with them period. They have fond memories of staying with you and Dad.
• For always having time for us…as kids and adults.
• For tolerating all of my pranks and jokes (I got this from Dad and your brothers).
• For always loving us. Always. (and I wasn’t always so lovable…now I’m relatively easy to love…just ask anyone…but some days in the past…maybe not so much)
• For hosting birthday parties with tons of boys running around. I never saw you get stressed once.
• For accepting all of your sons girlfriends and eventual wives. Your daughter in-laws love you to death and think the world of you.
• For the loans when we needed them. If you had it and could spare it…we got it. Thanks Mom.
• For polka music on Sunday mornings as we drove to church. I still listen to it on Sunday mornings, for a while. My girls hate it…for now.
• For you and Dad having my cousins Matt and Carrie live with us while Aunt Mary moved from Washington State. Three words. Best. Summer. Ever. Matt and I played ball every chance we got, and having Carrie around….well, she’s like a sister to me. Still is.
• For letting me collect beer cans as a kid. Its every mothers dream to walk into her twelve year olds bedroom and see the walls lined with hundreds of different beer cans, I’m sure.
• For taking care of Dad in his last years. We don’t know how you did it. I imagine it was love. As difficult as it was for us, it had to be especially hard for you. You showed us how to handle ourselves when things get bad. With respect, honesty, love and tenderness.
• For the person that I am. I take after you, mostly, though “Dad” shows up in my personality often as well. I’ll use words or phrases that are almost exclusively a “Charlie Ripley” thing…but this “apple” fell close to the Wagner tree. For example (and you already know this since you pointed it out to me)…our penchant for making daily lists of things to do, our restlessness and having to get up and get the day “going” before six in the morning, and last but not least…my looks.
When I stayed with my cousins family in the early nineteen eighties near where Mom grew up. My cousin and I were too young to drive; we were in our early teens. A friend of my aunts stopped by their farm to pick me and my cousin up for a ballgame in a nearby town. As the car door swung open the lady exclaimed “Your Marcie’s boy aren’t you?! You look just like her!” I nodded (hells bells, I’m sixty miles from home and some strange lady already knew that I belonged to Mom). Turns out she went to high school with Mom, but still…tell me that I look like one of the guys from the Dukes of Hazard or CHiPs…but not my mother!!
Fifteen years ago for Halloween I decided to dress up as a woman. I found some ladies sunglasses that I took the lenses out, a wig, and borrowed an old dress from my wife. To look more “authentic” I cut a Nerf football in half and duct taped the halves onto a tee shirt so that I’d have some boobs. I got everything on, had my wife put some make-up on me, I put the glasses on and looked in the mirror and saw….my Mother. That is…IF my Mother wore heavy make-up, a black wig, wacky glasses, foam rubber boobs and had an Adams apple…WHICH SHE DOES NOT!! But you get my point…the facial features are there…as they are with Dan (the oldest son)…though I’d really have to see Dan with the foam rubber boobs to be sure….All kidding aside Mom…thank you.
• For taking me to clean up our ancestors headstones when I was just a youngster. You taught me that love and respect don’t stop at the grave.
Though incomplete and filled with errors that would make an English teacher scream…there’s my list to you, Mom. I love you. I can never repay you for what you and Dad gave to me…only that I do my best to be “Marcie and Charlie’s youngest boy.”