My mom loved her family. She followed the exploits of her children and grandchildren with avid glee. I don’t think I ever talked to her when she didn’t ask how each of my daughters was doing. But, Mom’s family wasn’t the only thing she loved.
Mom loved sports. In many families, Sunday is a day of worship. In my family, at least during the fall and winter, Sunday was a day for football. I have so many childhood memories of going with my parents to the houses of their friends and co-workers to watch “the game.” At almost every single game it was my mother who cheered and booed the loudest. She would stand up with her arms upraised when her team got a touchdown and she would sit with her head in her hands if a play was botched.
If my parents weren’t watching the game at someone’s house, they were going to the game. They would drive to a nearby shopping center to catch a bus to the game. I went with my father a couple of times and I remember the buses being hot, crowded and loud. As an adult I realize that the volume of the riders was in direct correlation to how many sips of their flasks they had consumed.
After my mom married my step-father and all of the kids had moved out, the games got a little quieter. When the inevitable time came when going to the game was too much effort, they would watch the game at home, wearing matching Kansas City Chiefs sweatshirts and making 25 cent bets against each other. Now, to most people, a 25 cent bet is no big deal, but for my folks, it was enough for trash talking to a level that most rappers would admire today.
Mom also loved the Kansas City Royals. My step-father had season tickets and the seats were only a few rows back and behind home plate. While they still could, they rarely missed an opening game. When the Royals were in the World Series back in 1985, all of their friends and family were vying for a chance to use a couple of the tickets to watch the game.
For the last couple of years of her life the Royals had amazing seasons, culminating in the team winning the 2015 World Series. Mom watched every single televised game and would give me a play by play if I asked how the game went. I am so glad she lived to see her team win the Series.
Any time Mom was watching a game we all knew not to call her during the game. Not being a big sports fan myself, I would frequently forget and call anyway. She would answer the phone, ask if everything was okay, and then quickly get off the phone to watch “her boys.”
The other thing Mom loved with her whole heart was smoking cigarettes. She smoked for almost 70 years and no matter what happened, she never gave them up for long.
She smoked through three pregnancies; at the time, the only risk she was aware of was that smoking could restrict how big a baby would get. As she said, who wanted big babies?
Mom was supposed to quit smoking before her back surgery in the 80’s, but I don’t think she ever did. If she did, she quickly took it back up again post-surgery. She was convinced that was able to fool the Doctor into thinking she had quit. It never occurred to her that he was probably well aware of her lie.
A heart attack forced her to quit for a while, but it wasn’t long before she was sneaking cigarettes again. At that time, my step-father’s health was declining and Mom insisted that smoking was her release; her reward for what she was having to live through.
There were lots of occurrences that might have stopped a less devoted addict. Suffer through a stroke? Endure years of sever COPD? Move to an apartment that forbade smoking? Mere blips on the radar of her dedication.
Every time Mom got sick or had a health episode, the doctors would all lecture her on the need to quit smoking. My mother not only refused to listen, she was defiant in her refusal. I remember one time in ICU when the attending physician looked at Mom and said, “You are going to quit.” Mom jutted her chin out and said, “You aren’t going to make me.” I didn’t know whether to laugh or sink into the floor in embarrassment.
After Mom passed away last December, my siblings and I, naturally, spent some time discussing the events that led up to her final illness. It’s funny that two of the things we talked about were the Royals and her smoking. There are those in the family who are sure she was determined to live long enough to see the Royals win the World Series, which she did. We are all also sure that her refusal to quit smoking had a direct impact on her quality of living and the quality of her dying.
When Mom went into the hospital for the last time she was a whopping 100 pounds and if she could stand, was 4 foot 11 inches tall. That tiny body fought hard to rally and survive. No matter what else I can say about my mom though, I always knew she did things her way. Thank God.
I love and miss you Mom.