When I attended my forty-year reunion, I was reunited with friends I hadn’t seen in almost forever: Jay Defee, Steve Boyd, Todd Samuels, and others. They were saddened to hear about my mother’s passing. They remembered things about her that I had almost forgotten; and they shared fond memories of her humor and kindness–and how she helped all of us in Cub Scouts.
I thought more about my mother and her impact on my life. She was the best. She had a sense of humor like few people I have ever known—quick and witty. I don’t remember her without a smile. She never screamed at me, even though it may have been needed. She was my guardian angel.
When I was four, my intestines fell out; blood covered the bathroom. The doctors told my mother I had cancer, and I would probably die. They ran all kinds of tests; and I remember taking castor oil five times a day, every day. She never looked sad and nursed me through everything, even when I cried and begged, “Please let me die! I don’t want any more.” Now, with children of my own, I understand how difficult my words were for her. She never complained. Two years later, they told her I had a growing problem, and that I would be fine.
Just when she felt relief, I came down with a strange form of epilepsy. She nursed me through that for three more years. As mysteriously as it came, it too disappeared.
Scarlet fever hit me when I was a teenager. They quarantined me; but my mother was by my side through the whole ordeal, oblivious of what might happen to her.
When I wasn’t sick, I was into mischief—all the time!
My Dad died when I was ten; and my mother taught me how to fish, hunt, and drive. Turns out she was an expert shot.
Everything I could catch turned into a pet: pigeons, snakes, frogs, and lizards, not to mention parakeets, hamsters, fish, dogs, and cats.
Mom didn’t even get mad when I convinced my brother that the snake that bit him was poisonous. Or the time I charged comics and models every day for a month.
Then there was the time she screamed when a snake coiled around her leg in the kitchen. I pulled the snake off her leg. Her concern was obvious when she asked, “Are there any more snakes loose in the house?” I shook my head no, but four more snakes were loose in the house. My mother threatened to whip the daylights out of me if the snakes got in bed with her. Thank God that never happened.
When we went on trips, my brother and I would always ask her, “Are we out of Texas yet?”
She would smile and say, “The sun has riz, the sun has set . . . and here we is in Texas yet!” Those words remain with me today.
As years passed, my mother taught me to be a gentleman. “Always treat a woman with respect,” she would say. “Never hit a woman, and never let anyone else hit a woman.” Just so I wouldn’t forget, she smiled and said, “If I ever hear that you hit a woman, I’ll castrate you.” Hey, my mom was serious. One thing she never did was lie. I never hit a woman, and I never will.
She said to always be affectionate. When it came to kissing, she made me kiss her on the cheek and would keep saying, “Do it softly. Your lips are too hard.” Eventually, I learned to kiss with soft lips.
When it came to the birds and the bees, my mother pulled no punches. Sometimes the things she said embarrassed me.
When I started dating, she would tell me, “Be careful where you put that thing. It’s your responsibility.”
I was divorced and raising two children when my mother came down with cancer. She once told me, “Don’t buy me flowers when I die. If you’re going to buy me flowers, do it now so I can enjoy them.” I bought her flowers.
One night, I went to the hospital to see her. The chemotherapy had taken all her beautiful brown hair. When I walked into her room, she was smiling; but she burst into laughter when she saw me. On top of my head was one of those rainbow-colored clown wigs.
I smiled back at her and said, “I heard you might want this.”
She continued to laugh as I took it off. Immediately, she put it on and was still wearing it when I left. That wig was next to her bed when she died.
She had told us not to cry over her death, but rather to celebrate her life. The day she was buried, our family went to dinner, reminisced over some of her stories, and we all celebrated her life.
A month ago, a man named Glenn Russell called looking for Beverly Gex, my mother. He remembered her perfectly, even after sixty-five years. I told him everything I could remember. He seemed happy. So was I.
Everything I learned in life, my mother taught me. The man I became is because of my mother. Although my mother is gone, she is with me every day because I carry her in my heart always.
I still remember the words to the prayer she would make sure my brother and I repeated every night when I was little:
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die, before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
I will see you again, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day!
These stories, and more, can all be found on Amazon: A Life in Time, My Story.
Photo credit: Sharon (Flickr)