Monday, May 11, 2020

Mom. I hardly knew ye.

When I left home at the age of 17 and left the country to play baseball in the Mexican Baseball League for the Saraperos de Saltillo in the small industrial city of Saltillo in Coahuila state, one of my main motivations was to escape the hardened glare and the calloused knuckles of my virago of a mother.

In the roughly 6,000 days that we had lived together since I sprung eagerly from her grudging loins, she probably stared me down and swatted at my noggin with the back of her giant paw 5,900 of those days. There’s was always something I was doing or not doing to displease her or disappoint her or disillusion her. So she swatted and swatted and swatted.

And when, as a result of all those swattings I told she and my father, who was rarely my not-absent father, that I delaying my matriculation into college for a year and instead was heading south as a boy to play a boy’s game, she swatted at me again, this time with a bionic hand the size of a Nova Scotia salmon. Or a Chevy Nova.

“I am a year younger than my classmates anyhow,” I said, having skipped a decade earlier from fourth to sixth.


“But college,” they said. “You’re going to kill your father,” she said. “You’re going to hurt your mother,” he said.


Even so I left their empty house for the world’s epicenter of public urination and homeless puking, that is, New York’s Port Authority Bus Terminal one year after New York all-but went bankrupt and belly-up in a heroin haze.  Once there, I spent $27.50 for a one-way ticket to Corpus Christi, Texas, for a 34-hour trip through 29 cities, most of which I had never heard of and would never hear of again.

Once in Corpus Christi, I found a room for the night in a tilted hotel and then spent $14.40 more on a ticket on a Mexican Greyhound bus the remaining five hours to Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico. 

Nevertheless, despite having backhanded me away, the old lady couldn’t for a second understand why I had flown the coop, everything was so nice there, and I was going to kill my old man who, after all, had a heart condition.

That was my escape from the home I never had so many years ago. The last, really, that I ever saw of my old lady, may she, seriously, rest in peace, and not rise from the sea like stop-motion special effect.

I’ve tried to be a better father to my kids, and I probably did ok about 51 percent of the time and my wife, as a mother, being more even-tempered than I, probably had a slightly higher batting average.

But the wounds, and cuts, and scars of families don’t heal after four generations or even five or maybe even after ten. 

My old lady, well, who knows? Her mother, too, was a harridan, and her father was a drunk and an itinerant, as well
--he carved gravestones for (not much of) a living. So maybe, in retrospect, now that it’s almost a decade since she went ungently into that good-night, maybe by her standards and her judgment and her best efforts, she did ok.

And maybe when I’m fully charbroiled by Plaza Memorial (it's half the price of Riverside) and my kids look back on the indelicacies of life and their thwarted dreams and their sadnesses and their disappointments and, almost invariably, their own kids’ judgments of them, maybe they’ll say about me, like sometimes I think about her, she was a mean old fuck, but she gave me some things that not many people have and I’m glad I do.

She gave me my love of words and I guess my love of books. She gave me my memory I think, and my stubbornness, too. And maybe a few dozen or a hundred other things I'm almost embarrassed to own up to.

But that's life.

We get swatted around--shoved and pushed--folded, spindled and yes, mutilated and w
ith ever watchful eyes and bearing scars, visible and invisible, we head through the cockeyed caravan of life--full of a hazy notion that life could be lived with dignity, that the personalities of others should not be violated, that all should be able to confront others without fear or shame, and that if we were lucky in our living on earth we might win some redeeming meaning for  having struggled and suffered here beneath the stars.

So in all, thanks, Mom. You were a mean old fuck. But you were my mean old fuck.

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