Today is Mom's birthday and this is a piece my brother wrote a while back, then revised. It has been edited to fit this space.
Before my Mom left, way before actually, she taught me something -- even better than that, I learned from her.
One time she was bitten by a huge German Shepherd on the right cheek of her fanny. Funny thing here, she had a photo party as she needed vivid and explicit proof of the dog’s misdoings. I mean, here is an 80 year old lady mooning a camera in her living room in front of her best friends and neighbours. Well, the dog and the settlement enabled her to buy a top-shelf lawnmower with two-wheel drive and speeds which would leave her breathless because she did not know about throttle control.
The problem was that she was not strong enough to fire it up, so the grumpy old guy across the street would come over. He was the cheek party photographer’s husband. She later found the photographer’s grandson to cut the lawn while she figured in her Yankee mind that the few bucks paid to the kid was well spent, and on top of that she got rid of a grumpy old dude with a heart the size of a pumpkin.
Come winter, in the northeast, snow fell. She farmed that out to the kid who did the grass, but he never charged her anything. Many other sundry tasks were absorbed by neighbours and she enjoyed the attention and care. Folks were taking care of my Mom.
In later years, the summer of her passing, I would wonder about that lawnmower and so did the neighbours. Why would an 80-year old lady buy a lawnmower? Reminds me, today, of my podnah who, as he is nearing the age of 78, bought himself a chainsaw. Could this be a fantasy of the mind concerning immortality?
I found it! It hit me like a clap of thunder. That lawnmower was bought for me. She often mentioned the phrase, “Buy good stuff and pass it on.” The lesson was that, as I sat there on her special place down on the beach, I realized that not only was it a gift, an act of motherly love, but it showed me the power of what good doings can affect us. It came to me like a long wave which did not break out on the sandbar but rolled a bit higher on the beach than the others.
Many years later a neighbour died. My mind came alive with that that old grumpy Stan, the photographer’s husband. Finally I could pay my debt so to speak of not having been around to mow the lawn and shovel the snow. I offered to clear out the widow Morin’s driveway that winter my own little secret, shared with no one. She offered to pay me, I refused. Come spring she pops by and hands me a bottle very good Beaujolais. I understood.
Since then I have become more receptive of the efforts or politeness or plain just bein’ nice and my gift, through my Mom, would be either some homemade maple syrup or a bottle of wine. Not a screw top bottle of wine or a Nasty Spumanti 2000 Wal-Mart, but something which I believe would go with the person.
So, here we are in the spring many years after my Mom’s name showed up on a headstone in St. Michael’s Cemetery and a kinda like friend, a fellow with whom I ski and who happens to be the president of the cross country ski center, frequently asked me if I could use some wood as he knows I wood-heat the house. So, I cut up three loads and he called me, asked me if I wanted another load or two. Quite happy over that, I stopped by and picked up a bottle of Spanish wine, a good red, Cadenas de Hoya. Upon arriving there, I presented him the bottle and we argued over it, friendly kind of arguing and the showing of a mutual appreciation of the gift. So surprised was he that he showed me another trail and more wood. I logged all day today, and have accumulated a total of nine loads of hardwood. Y’see, the grateful gratitude of grapes is a small pittance for the pleasure which both of us have and will enjoy. At noon, I called my podnah and told him to come over and we split the wood between us as I have much more than I can use. He is 78 in a few weeks. He is my pod, my main man and without asking questions, he knew why I called him. No longer can he log, but Mom was there and I paid back this friend for just being whom he is, a friend and also one who helped out my Mom when we went down there together.
A bottle of wine emanates ambience, warmth, friendship and is also a bonding factor among humans, and my way of thanking those neighbours who shared the wines of their choice with my mother………