When you are a parent, your kids’ laughter is the best sound. It doesn’t matter how old said kids are, it is infectious and revives you. At least, my kids’ giggles have that effect on me. But an underrated source of energy is the laugh of the mother, at least my mom.
My Dad has always had a pretty healthy regard for the silly. Growing up the two of them put great value in exposing their unruly lot to arts, books, music, you name it. That’s a pretty tall order when two of the sons were special needs guys, but the folks were pretty successful. We all read a lot and my sisters and I managed to not be slouches at the wisecrack, my own kids picked up on that with their own great skill. Dad remains appreciative of anything humor laden, but you knew you made it when you got audible laughter out of Mom. She usually smiled and had a bit of a silent laugh.
I started to think of this the other day as the battle she was fighting against dementia and enough TIA ischemia based episodes to fill a tv season has taken the laugh among the other things those diseases have robbed. She lost that fight Monday morning
I harkened (I can hark? who knew) to a late Sunday morning a few years ago. I was out visiting the folks. They were still in the family house of what would eventually be 51 years. My mom was telling me about a party they had attended the previous night. Dad had volunteered in one of the labs at Roswell Park sharing his considerable computer programming acumen with the folks there.
My mom takes a sip of her coffee “Michael, you should have seen it, all these little nerds came up to me raving about your father…they kept telling me that your father was a fucking genius!”
I couldn’t help, I laughed. My mom does not haul out the f-bomb that often and hearing it suddenly with all the gusto got me right in the giggles, which got her audibly laughing. It was great and not the first time my dad was deservedly lauded, but I think mom deserves her share of accolades.
My daughters gave voice to the notion that somehow “the bagels just taste better at Grandma’s!” My daughters, as is their habit, are entirely correct.
Mom has been aiming for that “better bagel” for a long time. From running the family she was born into, to getting connected with the NAACP to make for a better world shortly after arriving in Buffalo, to setting up a camp so my older brother and kids with similar intellectual disabilities could have that summer camp experience, stepping to the forefront of numerous campaigns from disarmament to who could build what in the town they call home, all to chip away at making that better world, that better bagel. She spoke up for her kids and for those who couldn’t. During her time as the Deputy Town Supervisor, on numerous occasions, she made many a petitioner to the Town Board consider their words carefully.
The summer of 1986 I joined her cadre of workers in an up hill climb to get a democrat elected into what is now the New York #27 Congressional District (Then our home turf). We didn’t win, came with 10 points, so a morale victory for whatever those can be worth. I was a little bummed about that. Mom asked why and I told her my thoughts while we were driving home. She thought for a moment and then with a sly grin “Maybe so, but we sure scared the shit of em, huh?”
It’s not easy to be a force of nature when you are 5’4. My grandfather had a bit of local celebrity to him when he passed thanks to a long stint at the Editor in Chief’s desk at the Akron Beacon Journal. When Cleveland media sniffed around for a few quotes, my mom effortlessly worked them for good stories. It’s a good thing that my St.Bonaventure Media Studies professors didn’t see that solid public relations was just basically common sense who knew somebody.
She’s a rocker. The Eagles, Neil Young, Little Feat, Bruce Springsteen were always greeted with enthusiastic shouts of “Turn it up” from her at her sewing table in the next room from mine growing up. Any parent who equips you with the knowledge that having the Beatles Love Songs collection will be just as important if not more so than Rock and Roll Music? That’s parenting done right, that better bagel.
And in a story my kids have heard much too often, she was a little humored to be in her mid 40s to be thinking of queing up for concert tickets, but did just that in 1980 when my history teacher had the chutzpah to schedule a test. Mom took my best friend’s and mine princely sum of $22.00 and went to National Record Mart while we were acing our tests (at least I did) with front row seats.
Rest easy, Mom, I’ll see you in my dreams. We got it from here