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Mothers I Have Known

There has been a pretty steady assault on our way of life over the past 70 years or so. What was, is no longer, and what will be, is unnerving. Yet, with all the upheavals, changing roles, expectations, and drama, one thing that remains the same, are mom's.

Mom's are still mom's. It's the first name we shout as kids, and we never stop calling for them, until they are gone. Nobody gives it a second thought when we see giant athletes look into a television camera and proudly proclaim, "hi mom!"

Mom's are the one who held you when you didn't feel good growing up. They're the ones who tell you it will be all right, as they gently cover your cut with a Flintstone bandage. They are there for you when your first love turns out to be your first disappointment. They are proud of your achievements, and disappointed in your setbacks.

Mostly, they are just there for you no matter what. They are mom.

For many of us, we've seen mom's change over the years, from the Ozzie and Harriet version in the 1950's, to the working two jobs, and still running the household, version of today. When you start to think about all the mom's you've known in your lifetime it is pretty staggering.

The number of mothers that I spent significant time around is pretty impressive. It helps that I come from two huge family bases to begin with, so between cousins, and aunts, alone the number is double digit. I'm not even counting them, because it is an unfair advantage, plus, they are family and family never seems the same as outside people.

The first mom I knew was my friend Bob's mom from down the street in Chicago growing up. She was German, and her house smelled different than my house, a little. When Bob and I were playing there were a number of days she fed me lunch, and many times it was something I had never had before. Of course I was three years old, so there were plenty of things I hadn't yet tried.

We then moved to another block and the next mom in my life was Mrs. Bondi. The thing I remember most about her is she is the first person that had me try Chinese food. I wasn't particularly fond of it but it wasn't horrible either.

In the fifth grade we moved out to suburbia and the mom's started to pile up at a rapid pace. The first thing I remember is playing baseball at a school ball field over a mile from our house. The kids in our subdivision played against the kids from the neighboring subdivision from about 9AM until 4PM every single day. We were only 11-14 in age and to be left alone, looking back, seems odd. However, the mom's, who were stay at home mom's in those days, around the park would be out in their yards, or looking out their windows, keeping an eye on us, even though we were not their kids. Doing that mom thing.

Of course there were plenty of mom's in the neighborhood. Mrs. McGuire, Mrs. Quint, Mrs. Brinkman, Mrs. Pederson, Mrs. Glenn, Mrs. Foster, Mrs. Goodrich, Mrs. Killough. and Mrs. Casale to name a few. I spent plenty of time in their kitchens, and dens, over the years, always feeling safe and welcome.

The big three in the neighborhood, for me, of course, were Mrs. Freeman, Mrs. Vincent, and my second mom, Mrs. Beebe. These were the mom's of my best friends. I saw them pretty much every day and all three treated me like they were my mom unflinchingly. They yelled at me, they loved me, they kept me on the straight and narrow, and they protected me. I miss them, still, every day.

My life took a major turn, in high school, when I became part of the support team for the pack that called themselves, The Hommas. And by part of the support team, I mean they pretty much made me do shit for them every day, like drive them places, and be cover for them if there was a boy they didn't want hanging around. Like my 5'8" 135 pounds was going to stop anyone.

Their mom's, Mrs. Sass, Mrs. Cosgrove, Mrs. Schar, Mrs. Vandiggelen, Mrs. Hansen, Mrs. Welch, and Mrs. Roush, all were critical to my growing up too. My friend Ellen, and I, used to call her mom, Mrs. Roush, Big Ben, because when I was over there she would announce the time every fifteen minutes. "Ellen, its 10:30, when is he going home?" "Ellen, its 10:45 isn't he ever leaving?"

My second, second, mom, came into my world during college when I started working with her son at Polk Brothers. Mrs. Barnicle was something special for sure. She was the sweetest, funniest, and warmest lady, and treated me like family from day one. I called her mom for the last 30+ years of her life and she never once asked me to stop doing that.

As I reached adulthood, more mom's came into my world. Mrs. Orschell, Mrs. Drager, Mrs. Lonnergan were frequently around as we started our grown up lives. New friends, and their mom's arrived. Mrs. Markiewicz, Mrs. Harvell, Mrs. Dota were added to my list. By the way, Mrs. Dota's cheesecake is to die for.

The most important Grandma in my life was my constant source of protection, and love. I grew up with her living upstairs from me and for the first 8 something years of my life I saw her everyday. She spoiled me, she loved me, she made me laugh, and I cannot imagine growing up any other way than with her by my side for all those years. She was the second, well maybe third, most important woman in my life. Linda is up there pretty high too.

And then there were two.

Mrs. Vasumpaur, on the left, has been in my life since the day I picked up her daughter, for our first date, all those 44 years ago. She has been living with us for the past 32 years. There is not a nicer person on this planet and I dare you to find anyone that will say anything bad about her. She is 93 now, and has had some tough times in the past couple of years, but she continues to plow along every day with determination, and will, that makes me marvel at her. I am a lucky man to have had her as my mother in law.

Of course, no column on mom's would be complete without a few words about the woman on the right, above, who birthed me. My mother and I have a complicated relationship. Like many of you with your mom, we yell at each other, we fight, we drive each other nuts, we get incredibly exasperated with each other, and that is what we call Tuesday.

For those on the outside, and even others in the family, they see this relationship and think that we barely tolerate each other. Nothing could be further from the truth. We love each other, but in the way that is different from most mothers and sons. Truth be told we are two peas in a pod. I'm not a psychologist, but I have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express several times, and I think the reason we have this unusual relationship is because we are too afraid to let our emotions completely take over.

I don't think either of us can handle letting the other completely into our souls. I know, that we know, how much each other means to us, no matter what is going on with us outside. I cannot imagine growing up with another mom. She molded me into the person I am today with an iron fist, and she wasn't afraid to use it, many times, figuratively.

I love all the mom's that have come into my life, but my mom is pretty special.

I hope all of you feel the same about yours.

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