I Am the Proud Mother of Sons

August 11 is National Son’s Day, a day to celebrate the special boys in our lives. As a mother of three sons, I plan to celebrate. With only 106 days to go, I need to start planning now!

My boys are adults now but they are still “my boys.” Although they all have women in their lives now, I will always be their mother, whether they like it or not. My guys are great and we have a good time. I joke that, when they are all back home, I feel like Monty Python is in the house–or the Marx Brothers. They constantly throw “zingers” at each other and we laugh a lot.

My boys were exposed to many things including old Marx Brothers movies and Monty Python sketches. They could do the dialogue from most of what they saw. They also were pretty good at The Simpsons and other popular shows of the time. I was glad they grew up surrounded by silliness and humor. And it continues!Dads birthday 1998

I am a “boy mom.” I believe that there are “boy moms” and “girl moms.” Some moms can pull off both without any problem, but it has been my experience that we are better with one sex than the other. I was raised with four brothers–smack dab in the middle–two older brothers and two younger brothers. I think that is why I am a better “boy mom” — I can relate to boys.

If I had had girls, they probably would have been tomboys and athletes, not frilly or “proper.” I can barely fix my own hair, let alone curl or braid or add barrettes and ribbons to a daughter’s. I always had skinned knees and a dirty face, so any daughter of mine (poor girl!) would have had the same.

Raising boys is a joy (as is raising girls for “girl moms,” I’m sure.) There are so many adventures and so much activity. Some advantages of parenting, in my opinion, include:

  • Surprises and fun – You never know what your child is going to do. Boys can run up and give you a hug at the most unexpected moments. A day in the park or at the zoo can be an adventure. A trip to the zoo where he notices a bug on the sidewalk or a ground squirrel is just as exciting as the exotic animals. My boys helped me appreciate the “little things” around us as well as the more unusual things.
  • Laughter – I enjoyed the sounds of laughter in the mornings as the little guys got out of bed as well as the guffaws that I heard coming from the basement as my teen-aged sons hung out  with their friends, playing video games.
  • Individuality – I had three sons, but I had three very different sons. My oldest was my cuddler, my social guy with loyal friends, my creative thinker. He ended up studying philosophy in college.My second son was “his own man.” I never had to worry about peer pressure with him because he marched to his own drummer. On the other hand, his nickname as a toddler was “Mr. Destructo.” He became an art teacher. My youngest was (and is) an avid reader, my scholar. When he was in 2nd grade, we were signing him up for soccer (which my other two boys loved to play). He informed us that he was more “into academics than sports.” (His words at age 8.) Even as a toddler, he loved to look at catalogs instead of play with toys. At the mall, the other boys rushed to the toy store and wanted a toy, He preferred the bookstore and we couldn’t leave without a book. He is a high school history teacher.
  • Simplicity – When leaving the house, there was no last minute primping and polishing (unless they were in their Easter best. But primping was pretty much futile then, too.) It was a “come as you are” world for my boys. Things changed later when girlfriends entered the picture, but much of boyhood was spent in casual wear and worn out shoes.
  • Boys clothes – Their clothes were basic and rarely changed in style. My biggest “fight” about clothes had to do with holey sox. I don’t know why it was so hard to get rid of sox and wear new ones. Still a mystery to me.
  • Speak their mind – My boys didn’t sugar-coat, nor did their friends. They spoke their minds, sometimes at awkward moments. “Mommy, why does that lady’s nose look so funny?”
  • Cheaper? – Some people think girls cost more because of their clothes, upkeep, “necessities,” but boys can be pretty expensive, too. Sports sign ups, grocery bills when feeding teenagers, video games, cars and car maintenance, broken bones, girls and first dates. Guys can run up the bills as well–just on different things.
  • Less drama? False! Boys can be pretty melodramatic at times. Who gets to run shotgun? Who ate the last piece of pizza? “Who said you could borrow my MP3 player?” “Why does HE always get to do ____ (fill in the blank)?” “Why do I always have to put the dishes away?”

Raising boys has given my husband and me many memories, mostly filled with joy and laughter. Like how one of our boys (at 3 or 4 year old) used to wait until we were out of town, on the road, when he decided he needed to go to the bathroom because he wanted to pee outside. Or the memories of their many friends taking all of their shoes off inside the front door and our cat going from shoe to shoe, sticking her head in to savor the aroma of each.

Joe's Ghostbuster birthdayOr the birthday parties where my second son had so much faith in my cake-making abilities that he offered a new challenge each year–“Mom, can you make me a Ghost buster cake?””Can you make me a “Superman” cake?” “Can you make a Basketball cake?” Or the time our youngest, at age 2, followed his dad up the ladder to the roof, almost causing our neighbor and my husband to have heart attacks. Or the time we were in South Dakota at Custer State Park, trapped in the car behind several other cars, stuck in a herd of buffalo. “No, you cannot get out of the car. You can see the buffalo just fine.”

The broken collar bone, the stitches, the grass-stained Easter suits, the teen-aged angst, the car repairs were all worth it. Now we have three wonderful girls in our lives as well. I’ll admit, being a mother-in-law is different and there are adjustments, but I don’t think anyone is calling Doctor Phil on me with crazy mother-in-law stories yet.

Life Gets In the Way

John Lennon is credited with saying, “Life is what happens when we are busy making other plans.”

Sometimes life gets in the way of living. It seems I can be cruising along when, suddenly, something happens that “throws me for a loop.”

Recently, a dear friend of mine died. He was 94 years old and had a full life, but also many tragedies and setbacks. His attitude was consistently positive and cheerful despite the trials he faced.Susan and John May 2013

I first met John was I was a mere child, a 2nd grader. His daughter, Mary, was my best friend. I remember when I first saw Mary and her family, standing outside our 2nd grade classroom. Our teacher stepped out for a moment and all little necks craned to see what she was doing. There stood a mom and dad with three children, two boys and a girl. They were dressed in very nice clothes, not the plain cotton dresses and pants that the boys and girls in our classroom sported. They looked very foreign to me. The teacher returned with the girl and introduced her. “This is Mary. Her family just moved here from Philadelphia.” Wow. Philadelphia! Even though I lived in small-town Nebraska, I had heard of Philadelphia. I knew it was very far away. My grandparents lived in Pennsylvania.  I was “one up” on the other kids in the classroom.

Close up Mary

Mary (above) and I became fast friends and our parents were close as well. Being from “back East” as well, Mom and Dad found kindred spirits in John and Betty. We shared many experiences throughout my “growing up” years.

When we graduated from high school, Mary and I went to the university in Lincoln. We remained friends during our college years even though our interests became more diverse.

Our wedding pics

Mary and John walking down aisleMary studied in Mexico one semester where she met her future husband, Gonzalo. We both got married in 1974.  She was my maid-of-honor in June of that year, and I was there when she tied the knot on December 28th, el dia de los innocentes, the Mexican “April Fool’s Day.”

http://muchoburrito.com/whats-new/day-of-the-innocents-mexican-april-fools-day-december-28th/

Gonzalo was an attorney with the Mexican government so they lived in Mexico City. Mary’s brothers also left their small town, Mike living in Australia and the other, John Jr, in NYC.  In March, 1975, John Jr. was killed by a drunk driver on Stanton Island.

John and Betty were alone. Mary came up from Mexico for a couple of weeks, but her brother, Mike, was unable to return from Australia for the funeral. The next few years were hard for John and Betty.

I became very close to them. I had lost both of my parents earlier–Dad in 1971 when I was 20 years old, and Mom in 1974, two months after Dennis and I got married. It was a hard time for all of us. Mary and I talked and she suggested we “adopt” each other. So, I drew up “adoption papers” and gave them to John and Betty. I was now their “daughter” whether they liked it or not!

The years passed and Mary and I maintained contact, writing letters and visiting. She usually came home to Nebraska in the summertime and we went to Mexico to visit her.  Mary's 34th birthday (her last)

We had the best visit when she was home for her 34th birthday. Her two children accompanied her on her visit. We talked of many things including tornadoes in Nebraska and earthquakes in Mexico City. She told me that she has a hanging planter that swayed when there were tremors and she knew to take the children outside. It was her warning system.

Our friendship grew as we aged. Then, on September 19, 1985, it all changed.

While  watching the “Today Show” on that fateful day, I sat writing a letter to Mary. I heard that there was an earthquake. I wrote, “Did your planter sway?” As the day progressed, the news became more dire. “Colonia Roma” was mentioned. That was Mary’s neighborhood! I tried to reach her parents but they were vacationing in Wyoming, camping. I called her brother, Mike, who was now living in Nebraska. Mike hadn’t heard about thefront of envelope earthquake yet. It was a day of confusion with very little information. Communication was poor with Mexico City because much of the power was knocked out. I received a letter in the mail that day from Mary.

A couple days later, we finally received news–Mary, her two children and her husband were all killed in the earthquake. Mary and the children were outside, but a wall had fallen on them. Ten years after their oldest son had died, John and Betty were facing another tragic loss.

Being the people they were, John and Betty turned their tragedy into a positive and became active in Compassionate Friends, an organization that helps people who have lost a child.

https://www.compassionatefriends.org/home.aspx

Through the years, they helped many people deal with their grief. They became well-known throughout the Midwest as they spoke at conferences throughout the region. John often said, “When you lose a parent, you lose a part of your past. When you lose a spouse, you lose your present. But when you lose a child, you lose your future.” Scan0008 (8)

John lost his wife, Betty, in April 2004. Only he and his son, Mike, remained. He continued to treat me like a daughter, giving advice and showing concern for me and my guys. We visited him when we could, often over Memorial Day weekend. He eventually ended up in assisted living where he remained until last year when he had to move to a nursing home. He was in failing health this past year and finally succumbed on April 2.  We celebrated his life Monday in Cozad, Nebraska, where he was laid to rest next to his wife, his son, John, and Mary and her family.

http://www.berrymanfuneralhome.com/fh/obituaries/obituary.cfm?o_id=3022636&fh_id=14739

As we watched the military tribute and salute to John at the graveside, I looked down and realized I was standing on Mary’s grave. She and her family remain with me. I sometimes feel like that little 2nd grade girl, feeling the presence of my friend and her family in my life and wondering…