Do All Boys Cause Their Mother Grief, or Is It Just Me?

Mother’s Day 2014 has come and gone, but not without my thinking of the grief I caused my ever patient, ever tolerant, and certainly loving Mother.

I think the only time when I didn’t surprise her was when I was born. She always called me “Johnny on the Spot” since I was apparently born on my (or is it her? Make that our…) due date.

I’m sure there was some surprise when I turned out to be a curly headed blond with green eyes … like no one else in the immediate family. Hmmm… But at least there was no grief involved, other than the usual wailing and gnashing of teeth accompanying child birth.

The grief started apparently about the time I became mobile. I was probably the youngest toddler in Fort Smith, Arkansas to try to climb a fence, and break a collar bone in the attempt. What was I thinking? I could barely walk, much less climb?

Fortunately I don’t remember it.

But I do remember my first toddler “run away from home” attempt. I toddled maybe half a block down a hill before my brother caught up with me and led me back home, luring me with the words I still remember: “Mom’s cooking bacon!”  Well then, that’s different!

If only all toddler insurrections could be ended so crisply.

As for collar bones, my first break was not my last. A few years later I broke the other collar bone, an event I do remember well. My Dad, an orthopedic surgeon, was able to put my shoulder in a sling quicker than a quick draw artist could draw a pistol. He was good, and I kept him in practice.

I also acquired an assortment of scars on my left knee which the Army was later pleased to find out about. You know, they wanted to be able to identify my body just in case all that was left of me was my left knee.

I guess having been a rambunctious boy was good for something.

Riding a borrowed bicycle into the back of a parked car was not my brightest move as a child. I knocked myself out cold. When I woke up, I remember telling my Mom “My head hurts.” As much as she wanted to, she could do nothing to ease the pain of my concussion.

Shortly after that, we moved to Texas, where I broke my collar bone again.

After a move to Kansas, Mom and I rode a train to California to visit my much older sister and my Mom’s sisters. On the way, I got motion sick and threw up all over some nice lady’s dress. I was too sick to be embarrassed, but my poor suffering Mom had to endure yet another indignity forced upon her by her woe-begotten son.

I’m sure she was wondering why God had blessed her with a fourth child so late in her child bearing years (yes, I was involved in an accident even at my conception). About the time she took a nap and I disappeared into the California desert wilderness, she must have been thinking how much nicer three kids would have been rather than four. She thought I was lost in the desert, but I knew where I was. I saw a snow-covered mountain in the distance and thought it would be cool to walk to it in the 120° heat, just to play in the snow.

A kid raised in flatlands has no sense of distance, because I now know that from where I left the travel trailer at Palm Springs the nearest tall mountain is a distance of at least 50 miles. After covering maybe a half a mile over rocky desert hills, my half baked brain realized that perhaps snow was out of reach.

That Mom and half the residents of the trailer park were searching for me did not occur to my 5th grade brain until I crested the closest ridge and heard men on the desert floor calling for me. She of course was frantic, and then relieved, and I was glad to get back out of the parching sun.

She was no doubt wondering if her last of four kids would be the death of her.

Later that year I got knocked out again, at school (5th grade boys can be rough) but I could tell Mom and Dad were becoming desensitized to my traumatic injuries. I always seemed to bounce back just fine.

Now that I think about it, my early adult years were only a little less disturbing for Mom. There was the time in graduate school when I was simultaneously knocked out, yet again, and had yet another bone broken; my jaw this time — I never saw the hit coming.  Of course Mom, who was far away at the time, could do nothing but worry about her son’s proclivity for repeated injuries.

Perhaps I was suffering a little from repeated Traumatic Brain Injury when I decided to ride a 50 cc Honda home to Kansas from Atlanta, without telling the folks how I was getting home. Poor Mom got a migraine out of that escapade, but I almost made the distance before burning up the little engine.

I think I now understand the meaning of “long suffering.”

Shortly after she passed away from a surgical misadventure, I found myself on a beach, with my first airplane, trying to figure out how I was going to get out of this pickle. So I decided to talk to her. I found it comforting.

But just now I’m imagining what she was thinking when her spiritual duties were interrupted by a call from her troublesome boy.

“Oh, it’s you again. What have you done to yourself now?”

After I confessed my predicament, she probably said (but I can’t swear to it), “I feel another migraine coming on.”


Happy belated Mother’s Day Mom! I didn’t mean to be such a pain in the neck; it just comes naturally to some people. But I do love you!






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