Blimey! My Mom’s a Pirate, Matey

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“Arrr, Polly! Aye be sendin’ ye down to Davey Jones’ Locker, aye be!” - Cap’n Salty Smirk

If truth be told, my Mom, is, was and always has been an old salt … the notorious pirate, Cap’n Salty Smirk.

And, from the looks of her salty smirk, she’s right up there with Anne Bonny and Mary Read!

She could carve out a skull and crossbones on the behinds of Johnny Depp and Keith Richards with her cutlass, and ruffle the feathers of her pet parrot, Polly, to boot.

I mean, my 94 year old mom is one mean pirate machine. Wherever she goes, it’s sure to be an adventure waiting to happen.

And, it’s no telling what Cap’n Salty Smirk & Polly’s next adventure will be!

Now It’s Your Turn at the Wheel, Me Hearties!

This is where I’m handing my blog over to you, matey, because I believe this picture of Mom is worth a thousand words … your words, not mine. In fact, I call her picture a treasure chest waiting to be pried open … not just any treasure chest, but the motherload!

So, my challenge is for you to make up a pirate’s tale using Mom’s picture as your inspiration. Give it a beginning, middle and end and then post it as a comment.

I’ll share your yarns and figure out some way to pick a winner (Peoples Choice, Mom’s Pick, Polly’s Pick, Davey Jones’ Pick, etc.).

Enter the Cap’n Salty Smirk & Polly Contest, and/or pass it along to someone you know is a great tall tale teller.

What are the rules?

There are no rules. After all … we’re pirates!

Godspeed!

Yo Ho, my friends I have a tale
Of treasure, plunder, swashbucklin’ and sail
My story’s bigger than a whale
It gets so deep, ye’ll have to bail.

Chorus
I’m Cap’n Salty Smirk! That I be!
I sail me ship upon the sea!
I stay up late – till half past three!
And that’s a peg below me knee!

 

 

 

 

“Step Mom”

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Mom's Short Sermon

Grounded.

Yep, I have permanently grounded Mom, but it’s not for bad behavior, goodness no!

It’s because our family unanimously agreed she should no longer have to climb thirteen steps to get to the second floor of her old (1796) colonial farmhouse where her living room, eating area and bedroom are located.

The same goes for going down thirteen steps to get to street level.

So, Melissa and I transformed the family room on the first floor into Mom’s new bedroom; the dinning room into her living room; and a small space in the kitchen for her to dine. All the rooms, including a bathroom, are within just a few steps of each other.

No more climbing steps. Mom will be my “Step Mom” no more.

“Step Mom” is what I nicknamed her after writing Sky High Climber in March of 2013, because she could take those steps like she was ascending or descending the tallest mountains on earth … no fear … no complaints. She was like a windup toy. Wind her up and she would grab the handrails and just keep step, step, stepping until she reached her destination.

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” - Martin Luther King

As she approached the stairwell, she would ask me if I thought she could do it. I would say, “Absolutely, you can do it, Mom”.  And, with that, she just did it! There was never any hesitation or a time she refused. Never.

I was with her every step of way. She would never, nor would I ever let her use those stairs alone. I was always there to steady her or catch her if needed, but I never had to do either.

My family has wanted me to move Mom down to the first floor for a long time. I was the lone holdout. For that, I have been challenged, questioned or gently nudged many times over.

I understand and respect everyone’s concerns. I know all the safety reasons why Mom shouldn’t be walking up and down those steps. And, I am sure you are making mental notes of your reasons, too.

I just couldn’t give in. I literally couldn’t. I just didn’t want to see another chapter in Mom’s life come to an end.

All of her strength, determination,will power, grace and style … all of what defines what Mom is made of, who she is, was exemplified in those precious moments it took to walk those 13 steps together.

And, as always, she did it with a smile. She counted every step out loud. We celebrated each one she made, as well as every time she reached her destination. “You did it, Mom … you did it!”

Now, all of that … along with too much more, becomes a memory.

Mom has slept in her new bed downstairs for five nights now. Fortunately for her, she hasn’t realized she is in a new place. She had slept in her upstairs bedroom for forty-some years. She had been climbing those steps, including the ones to the third floor, all those years, too.

She doesn’t realize she is in a tiny twin bed versus her beautiful mahogany four poster canopy bed dad made for the two of them when I was just a kid.

She doesn’t know the difference in her grand, formal living room and her newly converted living area.

The only thing she hasn’t forgotten is her smile … her sense of joy.

Mom is happy where she is.

And, for this, I am happy.

For all I can’t forget, and will have no more, I am crying.

We’ve climbed a lot of steps together, “Step Mom” and me. And, together, with our heads in the clouds and our feet on the ground … we will continue our climb.

“Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb.” - Greg Child

Shortest and Sweetest

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Mom Praying

I once wrote a song that I titled “The Shortest Song”. It went like this:

This is the shortest song,

It won’t take long.

Hold your applause, because, compliments of Mom, I would like to present “The Shortest Sermon”.

But, before I do, a little background might help set the scene.

Mom was a Baptist preacher’s wife… one of the best there ever was.  And one of her greatest achievements was making sure dad wrapped his sermon in time for his large congregation to leave the church at exactly noon in order to “Beat the Presbyterians to cafeteria”.

As a member of the choir, Mom strategically located herself in the choir loft so she would be right behind dad who was right behind his pulpit.

Five minutes or so before noon, those of us in the know would hear mom tap, tap, tap her foot on the back of the choir loft. And, even though dad was hard of hearing, the vibrations penetrated his whole being signaling, “Beat the Presbyterians, Fred … we have to beat the Presbyterians to the cafeteria.”

No matter where dad was in his sermon, he mastered creating a fast close following the tap, tap, tap signal.

Yesterday, on our drive to Circle Center Adult Day Care, Mom was pointing out all of the seasonal changes that were going on.

Mom: “Look at that … those trees are green all over. Look at those flowers … aren’t they beautiful. What do you call this?”

Me: “I call it springtime in Virginia, Mom. It’s springtime in Virginia!”

Mom: “Who made it?”

Me: “God, Mom. God made it.”

Mom: “Oh my goodness … that Man and his Boy up there are working for us all the time!”

That’s it … that last sentence of Mom’s was “The Shortest Sermon” … the shortest and sweetest.

It was so short, we still had time to pass the offering plate.

And, I could have slipped in “The Shortest Song” while parking our “Church on Wheels” smack dab in front of the cafeteria. Yep, even after all these years, we would beat those Presbyterians once again.

I don’t know about you, but this blog is making me hungry. So, let’s end it with “The Shortest Prayer”.

(tap, tap, tap) Amen!

May 10 … This Little Light of Mine

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It is May 10th … again.

It is my sister, Nel’s, birthday, the fourth one since her death, March 28, 2011.

She would be 67.

There is no cake.

There are no candles.

But, there are the bright lights of memories only Nel could have created that still shine in the hearts and minds of those who knew her.

On the darkest of nights, Nel was my beacon, my inspiration, my sister, my mentor and my friend.

Her legacy is as bright as the sun.

On this day, I celebrate Nel’s gift … the light that shines in me … it continues to bring me warmth, comfort and joy … let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

On this day, two years ago, I posted May 10th, Another Would-Be-Age Day.

I invite you to go and watch the video of my mom, sister and me singing The Gift to be Simple.

You will experience Nel’s gift to all of us first hand.

I love you, Nel.

When the Rolls are Called Up Yonder …

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Mom in her Chariot

Me: (Driving mom to Circle Center Adult Daycare) That damn car almost hit us, mom!

Mom: That damn car!

Me: Did you say damn?

Mom: Yes I did.

Me: I am shocked … my mom says damn!

Mom: I say it sometimes. (Pause) A lot of times. I like to say damn.

Me: What else do you like to say?

Mom: Hell. I say hell all the time. Like, oh hell. Or, Helen Bolin.

Me: Helen Bolin?!

Mom: Helen Bolin. She was a good cook. I loved her. My daddy said she was the best cook in the United States of America.

Me: You remember Helen Bolin? She’s been in the land of angels for a long, long time. But, damnit to hell … I remember her, too!

"Henen's" Heavenly Rolls

“Henen’s” Heavenly Rolls

Note: Helen Bolin was the “house maid and cook” for my grandfather from when mom was in her early teens to when I was seven or eight.

I called her “Henen” as a little guy, and I can remember the warmth of her hugs to this day. Oh, and her homemade rolls … they were the best damn rolls in the United States of America.

It’s funny how memory works. I have not heard mom, or anyone for that matter, mention Helen Bolin in ages. But, the second she did, my first thought was, pass the rolls!

I could see them being served in a baking pan, right out of the oven.

I could feel the heat as I grabbed for the biggest roll with both of my hands.

The only way I could describe the smell would be heavenly, and the taste … hot, buttery, golden perfection!

I could hear my voice as a kid say, “Pass me another one of “Henen’s” rolls, please … please … please.”

My brain was filled with thoughts of Helen Bolin … long gone, but at this moment in time, not forgotten.

Hopefully Helen is looking down from on high and accepting my long overdue compliments.

“Henen,” just know that when the rolls are called up yonder, I’ll be there.

That is if swearing within earshot of your ninety-four year old mom doesn’t keep you from entering the pearly gates.

Time will tell.

Hallelujah!

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Spring 2014

Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!- Sitting Bull

Early last week it was nothing but chilly and cold … it chilled my body and my soul. I had had it with winter.

But, two days ago, things changed … almost over night … without advanced notice … a sunrise surprise … spring had sprung and was painting splashes of bright colors all over the dark, drab ones with giant brush strokes here there and everwhere.

My hands shot up toward the heavens and I shouted, “Hallelujah, you made it!”

Purple Martin MajestyI was not only cheering for spring’s arrival, but the purple martins had also picked this day to come back home … at least to their home in America.

Purple martins and I stand united in our lack of tolerance for winter. In late fall, they escape in mass to South America, and spend the winter months in the warmth of their second home. Then they fly all the way back here, where they were born, bringing spring with them.

Yep … these little North American citizens fly over 5000 miles each way, each and every year, like clock work. And, here they are, back where they were born, to find a match, and to hatch and raise the next generation.

My mom, dad and sister hoisted five purple martin bird houses up on tall poles in their backyard when they moved back to Richmond, forty plus years ago. That was the same time they planted the daffodils. The one mom is holding sprang up from the roots of those original plants.

As a result of my family’s efforts, Melissa and I will have plenty of daffodils and plenty of purple martins. My guess is, counting the adults and their babies, we’ll have well over a hundred purple martins hanging out and performing their aerial acrobatics for us in mom’s backyard (conveniently located next door to where we live).

My mom’s maiden name is Martin, which we have always said makes the purple Martins and us kin. Birds of a feather stick together!

This will be mom’s 94th spring … and spring has always been her favorite season.

Spring is a time of renewal, restoration, resurrection … it is a time for rejoicing.

Hallelujah, you made it!

 

Naked Trees, Pet Zebra, Cannibals & More

Driving mom to Circle Center Adult Day Care is the best way I know to kick-start a day.

Talk about a great attitude, no matter if it’s scorching hot, rain, sleet or snow, mom never complains or never says she doesn’t want to go … she just goes.

She is my poster child for a great attitude … and she is funny.

When we ride down the road together there is no way to predict what’s going to happen, other than something will happen. I call her my Happy Day Maker.

On this particular day, it was anything but happy outside. It was ice cold and damp, so I warmed up the car, and somehow that warmed up mom’s motor-mouth as well.

She was pointing out “naked trees”, telling traffic lights to quit changing all the time, asking … Where are all the cars going? Where was I born? Where did I buy our car? Who is my mom? … all this while clapping her hands and singing her old University of Richmond alma mater. She was one happy 94 year old out for a wild ride. She had no idea where she was going, but was having a great time going there.

When mom is on a roll like this (which is pretty much every day), I’ll ask her a question or two just to stir the pot even more.

All I have to do is pose a question like, “Mom, have you ever had God over for supper?” Her answer without hesitation starts with, “Yes, many times …”

“Mom, have you ever had a pet zebra?”

Not only has she, she taught it English, her zebra graduated with her from University of Richmond (insert mom singing her school’s alma mater at the top of her lungs here).

So, today’s question was just another crazy Tom question.

Me: “Mom, have you ever known a cannibal?”

Mom: “A what?”

Me: “A cannibal. You do know what cannibals are, don’t you?”

Mom: “Yes, everybody knows what cannibals are.”

Me: What are they?

Mom: They are people.

Me: “Well, do you know what these people do?”

Mom: “Yes, I know what they do. Everybody knows what they do.”

Me: “What?”

Mom: “They talk to each other.”

Me: “Yes, that’s right, but what else do they do?”

Mom: “They go to school.”

Me: “Yep. What else?”

Mom: “I don’t know what else they do. What do they do?”

Me: “Cannibals eat people, mom. That’s what they do. They eat people.”

Mom was dead silent for four solid blocks. And, that gave me plenty of time to think about how absurd, yet brilliant, my question was. I mean, this was the very first time one of my crazy questions didn’t conjure up an instant reply. It was the very first time I had left my mom speechless.

So, here we were, riding in our car, with nothing but the sound of tires on pavement to keep me company.

Then, out of nowhere it happened. Three words … that was all it took. Three adamantly stated words … “I — EAT — CHICKEN.”

I laughed so hard tears were running down my face. And, just like that, mom resumed her normal, non-stop, happy day making chatter. I’ll never know if mom knew just how perfect her comedic timing was or if she just knew that there was no way she wanted to be mistaken for a cannibal.  One thing is for sure … I have no idea why I asked mom about cannibals but I will remember and recount this morning drive with mom for a long, long time … especially when I — EAT — CHICKEN.

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