Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dear Mom

A couple of weeks ago, Valerie and I went camping. With our typical luck, it was the first cold weekend of the season. Fortunately we were able to scavenge wood and our fire kept us perfectly comfortable.

As we sat with our feet in the fire gazing up into the infinite starry night I could feel the crap in my life start to fade. It’s no wonder my blood pressure is a bit high.

It occurred to me that I haven’t been able to have a conversation with my mother without scolding her. We’ve come to a point in our lives where I’ve taken on a kind of angry parent role with her.

She leads a very sedentary life and it scares me. She’s already lost half a foot to diabetes.

Several years ago my girl friend Joanie and I got a phone call around four o’clock in the morning. Her sister Patti found their mother Maggie dead in her apartment. It was the same apartment complex my mother lives in now.

The Udell men have always been stoic. When I was 6, as I was about to go to bed I tried to kiss my dad goodnight. He told me I was getting older and from now on we’d be shaking hands. My mom was furious when she found out. I’d be kissing my father goodnight again but it was never the same.

I’m not sure I’ve ever told my mother I loved her. It’s always been understood.

Even with my own kids it didn’t come naturally at first. Luckily my kids have always been emotional extroverts. Saying “I love you” is a natural part of our conversations.

My girlfriend Valerie is openly affectionate. Occasionally she displays her affection in public and I get nervous. I’m working on it.

It occurs to me from time to time that I’d better tell my mother I love her before she’s gone. She really has been there for me through the years.

When the rest of the world was going through a cultural revolution and expanding their consciousness in the 60s, she threw herself totally into being a single mom with 2 kids. I remember feeling an incredible sense of guilt that she never really got to be young during all that.

When I drove a cab for Checker I would sometimes go for weeks without getting paid. I destroyed one of my mom’s credit cards keeping gas in my cab. When the company finally went under she let me move back in for a few months until I got my life back together.

I bought a couple of rental properties when I was in my 20s. She put up her life savings and I still haven’t paid her back.

She always watched my kids. My ex was always a little angry with her folks because they weren’t as available.

Recently my ex’s boyfriend moved in with her. He’s allergic to cats so my kids’ pets had to go in spite of the fact that they’d had them for 11 or 12 years. I couldn’t take them because Valerie has a 16 year old cat named Charlie that couldn’t adapt. The kids and I were beside ourselves.

My mother came through again. Even though she’s confined to a wheelchair in a two room apartment, she took the cats in. If anything happens to Charlie they’ll be coming back to me.

When my buddy Dominic and I were 15, most of the kids we knew were rebelling against their parents. Dominic told me he loved his mother. That had a big effect on me. Until then I never really thought about how much I loved mine, but I really have thought about it ever since.


Tony Patti said...

I love your mom. Your mom saved my life when I was starving to death at 18th street, and typed my first novel, which I still have most of the pages of. When I think of things people have done for me, your mom typing that manuscript is right at the top of the list. Words can't describe how much it means to me that she put all the effort into my creative effort, when most people couldn't care less. Plus her copy of the Beat Scene was a big deal to me, and her music and everything. I was always a little scared of her, but I love her very much.

Anonymous said...

The thought that I would never be able to meet my grandfather was always weird and a little depressing. I'm glad we have her.