Moms and sons: There’s something special there | Opinion | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | May 27, 2017 5:00 pm
Last Updated: May 24, 2017 at 12:05 pm
For the last three years, my brother T-Bob has called me at 8:49 p.m. on April 25.
We actually talk/text all the time — amazing, considering how much we fought as children. He tried to trick me into drinking iodine, and I beat him with a metal pizza turner. We drove our parents crazy.
One day T-Bob pushed me out of a maple tree near the cement goldfish pond, and I missed cracking my skull by inches. Dad — gentle, tender-hearted Dad — beat him like a rented mule.
“That’s your SISTER!” he yelled, between belt licks. T-Bob yelled back, “Yes, and she’s HORRIBLE!”
Eventually we learned how to get along, and in high school he shouted, “That’s my SISTER!” when he hurled a desk at a guy who said something disrespectful.
By the time he got married at 40, we talked every day. He liked to tell me his flight schedule, where he was going and when he’d return. On Sept. 11, 2001, I couldn’t get him on the phone, wasn’t sure where he was, and left several messages. The last one was just a strangled scream.
He finally called from Miami, on the ground. I’ve never been so glad to hear a human’s voice.
When he calls me every April 25, his voice is thick with anguish. It’s the day, hour and minute of our mother’s death, and it shatters him.
I try to cheer him up by reminding him how funny she was — she once made me laugh so hard I wet myself in public, then didn’t want me in her car — and sometimes it works.
“Remember when y’all had that fight and she chased you down the road with a brick in each hand?” I asked.
He exhaled a chuckle-sob. “I was running for my life,” he said.
T-Bob and Mother had a tempestuous, love/hate dynamic, which happens when a strong-willed, stubborn woman raises a strong-willed, stubborn son.
She went from poverty to middle class through sheer determination, and he left home at 16 (see brick anecdote, above) to share an apartment with three roommates. He worked part-time and played soccer well enough to land a college scholarship. He took her to his championship banquet. Later, he took her to Hawaii, L.A., and Las Vegas.
When he bought a sport-fishing boat, she was his first passenger. They went two miles past the jetties and fished all day. Back at the dock, she cleaned their catch.
They clashed and came back together with a loyalty so fierce the rest of us just stood back and watched, like you’d watch a lightning storm roll in.
She told me that when she and T-Bob went to a mall, if she stopped to study something in a store window, he’d go in and buy it for her.
“Son, I don’t want a stuffed toucan!” she exclaimed once.
“Then you shouldn’t have looked at it,” he replied.
After her open-heart surgery 10 years ago, he sat by her hospital bed and held her hand for hours. “She said I had the power to pull her through,” he told her nurse, as tears rolled down his face.
And he did pull her through, until he couldn’t any longer.
He wasn’t at her deathbed, but he was on the phone that we held to her ear. He sang “Jesus Loves Me,” the first hymn she taught us all.
On April 25th this year, T-Bob whispered, “She was a great mom.”
“Easy for you to say,” I joked. “She never made you wet yourself in public.”
“I forgot about that!” he exclaimed. And he laughed.
(Julie R. Smith, who’s more like her mother than she admits, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)