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To Mom — For Her 100th Birthday

Dear Mom:

I hope you are resting in peace. As Mother’s Day approaches, it occurred to me that if you were alive, you would be 100-years-old. I am writing you this note not so much to tell you what’s been happening since you passed in 1992, but to let you know how great a Mother you were.

I think of you often, and just wanted you to know how much I appreciate all you did in shaping my life. I realize I wasn’t the easiest kid to bring up, but you hung in there, as my brother James and sister Ann will attest.

I remember you being kind (your definition of class), considerate, and gracious, with a determined desire to live each day to the fullest. I mean, who else would burst into my room at 6 o’clock every morning and open the shades, announcing, “Time to get up! It’s going to be another beautiful day. The birds are singing, the sky is blue, the sun is shining. What a glorious morning!”

You were always so alive, “Too alive,” I sometimes thought. I remember calling you from college, when I was down in the dumps and feeling sorry for myself, as usual.

You’d allow me to grumble briefly, and then retort with, “Can you walk? Can you see? Can you think? Can you smile? If you can, don’t bother me and go out and help others.”

You always had great advice mom, especially when I didn’t want to hear it. Simply put, you were an adventure; always scouting the terrain on all the trips we took to Lake Tahoe, or Lassen County to discover where the last wild Indian, Ishi, roamed; or in the Gold Rush country.

You were always asking questions; always curious; always wondering; and wandering. Remember when I convinced you to explore the caves and caverns not far from Murphys on Highway 49?

It may have scared the hell out of you but you went. I rarely saw you afraid. When I came down with polio when I was 5, you were there for me all the way, particularly after I got out of the hospital, when for a year you painfully stretched my legs every day at noon, so I could walk again.

You took it all in stride and put up with all my mischief. One day, you may recall, in my youth I was playing gas station attendant, and filled the gas tank in your car with water. I think you just got out of the driveway when your car sputtered and died. I felt so bad I didn’t need to be punished.

Or the time I ran away from home just before dinnertime, not only ruining our supper but those of all the neighbors who went searching for me for the next several hours. Not the wisest way to get attention, I found out.

Or the time you told me to stay out of your bedroom while you were grocery shopping to prevent me from experimenting with a curious bottle of red ink atop a desk on a new green carpet. Anyone reading this can guess what happened.

Just the look on your face upon your return home told me that perhaps I chose the wrong day to scamper from home.

So thanks are in order, I think, and I will start by saying how much I appreciated you for taking over my paper route whenever I got too sick to bike the hills, and stopping for every train at all the railroad crossings, so I could see them puff on by. I could be a real brat when you failed to brake.

So for all my misgivings I won’t hold you accountable for cutting the top of my ears every time you gave me a haircut, which was twice before we decided I go to a barber as opposed to a doctor.

Don’t feel bad. I’m sure my apprehension and fidgeting had something to do with it.

I don’t think I’ve ever told you this but I did admire your courage and determination in finding a job after your divorce from Dad, when you moved to the city to work for the country’s best heart surgeon at the time.

That must have been a challenging transition, but you were a real trooper, and an inquisitive and competitive soul. I remember early on your compassion and respect for Native Americans and their spirited outlook towards our universe; your love for jigsaw puzzles and card games (especially bridge); and your voracious appetite for the written word.

I was always amazed at your ability to remember everything and anything you read. It’s no wonder you always won at Jeopardy.

Finally Mom, I want to praise you for taking me to and picking me up at Travis Air Force Base after my tough year in Vietnam. You were always there for me and I am eternally grateful.

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