The “Other Moms” In Our Lives
I got an email this morning from one of my oldest, dearest friends; Sweet Lou …I’ve mentioned him before on these digital pages…he’s been one of those rare constants in my life that I’ve never taken for granted. When you have as few constants in your life as I do, you don’t take any of them for granted, really.
I got in to my office, popped open my email and saw one from him without a subject line and thought “Great, he’s probably emailing to razz me about the Yankees or some shit…” Of course, I was wrong.
Sweet Lou’s mother passed away. She’d been a lifelong smoker and had been diagnosed with lung cancer just recently. Within the past few weeks, she’d taken a turn for the worst…she passed with her family around her just as I would think any of us would hope to go.
This was not just a friend’s mom to me, and I’d like to take a minute here to pay her what I feel is probably one of the two tributes I can.
Growing up, I lived in a high stress household. I’ve mentioned this and I don’t need to get in to it any more than I have. Because of this I was what I like to refer to as a “Good (enough) Kid”. I didn’t get in to LOTS of trouble, was highly responsible…buuuuuut…yeah. At any rate, one of the two places that I always knew that I could go and be unconditionally supported was Sweet Lou’s house.
SL’s pop is a stern but imminently kind man who had a true sense of decorum and honor. He believed in doing things “the right way”, just like he believed in Apple Pie and America. For some reason though, whenever I was around I loosened him up. Sweet Lou loves to tell the story about the first and maybe only time he ever heard his father swear was to me, about something unimportant…he said “shit”…it was classic.
Sweet Lou’s mom, God rest her beautiful soul, was a mom right out of a 50’s TV show. She was always dressed well and always had hugs and smiles and words of encouragement spoken with her Delaware/Philly accent. The fridge was always full of everything teenage boys would want to see; ice cold soda and sandwich fixins’, chips and snacks…and nothing was offlimits for her boys. When we got old enough and started taking road trips down to the Cape, she’d make us a cooler full of “Hoagies” and anything else you could think of…I mean, really, you’d have thought we were going away to war. But that was part of her way.
She would listen to our stories and smile and laugh and never, ever get judgemental. If anything, when she would offer advice to us, we’d more often than not listen because you could just tell it wasn’t coming from a “you’ll shoot your eye out, kid” place…but moreso because she loved us. And you just knew it. And in knowing that, the world was just a better place.
Sweet Lou’s parents often times referred to me as “their other son” and I always smiled a little inside when they did. It made me feel, in many ways, better than hearing it from my own parents because they didn’t have to open their home and their lives to me…they didn’t have to worry about me or give a damn about me…but they did. They had a way of recognizing when I was close to blowing because of my home life (which they NEVER discussed with me because to them, that would be crossing a line…and God bless them for that, too) and allowing me…no…MAKING me relax. Making me cool down…and I’d find myself laughing and smiling and suddenly just breathing again.
When I joined the Army, it was Sweet Lou’s parents far more than my own who told me how proud they were of me and gave me two separate talks. The one from “dad” was about honor and pride and he spoke to me in the driveway with his arm over my shoulder. The one from “mom” was about being sure to write, taking care of myself, and being careful. They were the conversations I’d hoped to hear from my own parents.
For these reasons, and many others, I often told her that I loved her when I had the chance to see her. And I never tired of hearing her say “we love you, too”.
This week the world lost one of the truly great, truly special moms. I hope that you all take a minute today to think about not only your mom, but the “other moms” that you grew up with. If you had one of these “other moms” I’m talking about, the second tribute to Sweet Lou’s mom that I can offer today is that you find a way to tell her that you love her, and that you appreciate what she did for you. Believe me, she will appreciate it much, much more than you could possibly expect.
I am not just a better man, but a far better person for having her play that role in my life. I wish I could have told her more times than I did, but I know that she knew. I know that i told her, and I know that there’s one other “mom” out there that I need to tell. She deserves a “Thank you”, as do they all.
Godspeed, Mrs. S. You will be missed, and you’ll always be loved.