By: Steve Horsmon
It’s meant to be a silly title. Of course they do. But I haven’t yet. I’m wondering why.
Five days ago I got “The Call” that she was fading fast. We knew she didn’t have long and her lung disease was close to winning the battle. She knew I was 11 hours away and was in route.
She was waiting for me. I almost cried just at that simple thought. But not quite.
She held on until I arrived. We had a short conversation about her not wanting to go to the hospital. She trusted the nurses at the home to “take care of her” which meant she would rather die in their company than with the indifferent hospital staff she had met a few times in the last month.
As I held her hand, she needed help with the tissues and wiping her mouth clean. She wanted her teeth in so she would look nice but her dexterity failed her. I fumbled as I pushed them into her mouth and watched her struggle to align them properly. The thought of her wanting to look nice after she passed nearly made me cry. But not quite. My eyes were swollen and sad – but no tears yet. What the hell?
As we held hands I recalled a story she told me years ago that stuck with me ever since. She said she would NEVER forget the day she came home after a trip. She saw her 12 yr. old son running toward her. I was outfitted in my bleached white, little league uniform and was running late for my game. I needed to pass by her to get to the ball field.
I was never much of a touchy-huggy-kissy kid, but I knew her 2 week absence required something more than a “Hey mom!” So with my catcher’s mitt and hands freshly soaked with Rawlings Glove Oil, I ran right to her, put my greasy hands on her dress, kissed her cheek, and said “Hi mom! Bye mom! Gotta go!” Recalling that moment almost made me cry just now. Not quite, though.
She just smiled and watched me run off. It was that “event” in her life between us she said she will never forget. In retrospect, it’s clear to me now why those 10 seconds meant the world to her. I never initiated affection toward her before. I always let her do the giving…and squirmed away from it even then. For the first time she received from her little man an unrehearsed, spontaneous gesture of affection. No strings. Didn’t want money. Just raw affection.
After that day I wasn’t a changed “man”. I went back to my old ways and never understood the impact I had on her. A boy’s ability to make his mom’s heart swell with happiness isn’t something we talked about at the ball field. Over the years she would bring that story up occasionally and I never took the hint that maybe I could do it again sometime.
During the last few years I started ending our phone calls with “I love you, mom”. I felt guilty every time because the words were too simple. Too easy. No effort. I should do more to SHOW her I love her. But I didn’t.
Got a big lump in my throat just then. But no tears yet.
I should have stopped and gotten a can of Rawlings Glove Oil on the way to the nursing home. Then I could have oiled up my hands “real good’ before I held hers. Then I could have told her the story again. I would have told her about my stop at Kmart for the oil and wanting her to smell it again when I kissed her cheek.
But I didn’t want to waste time. I knew she was waiting for me. I had to get there before she died.
And I did. I had three hours with her as I watched her breathing slow down and her heart rate fade. Dammit. I had time to stop for that glove oil. It would have been so cool. She would have loved it.
The nurse checked her heart and told me she was gone. I knew that already. I wasn’t crying. I was too busy thinking about the next two days of things my brothers and I had to take care of. She raised me to be responsible, organized, and proactive. She would understand why I wasn’t crying at that moment. I had things to do. There will be time for crying later.
To tell the truth, I shed my first tears three paragraphs ago. I think there will be more. I just don’t know when.
The moral of the story? I’m still thinking about it.
What do you think?