Category Archives: personal

Sky High Climber

One may walk over the highest mountain one step at a time. – Barbara Walters

There are thirteen steps mom has to go down to leave her home and thirteen to go back up, again. She has made this trek everyday for two straight years. She has never been sick, never complained, and never missed a day.  Up and down, down and up, up and down, down and up, every day!

And, I’ve been there with her all the way. I am in front and facing  her going down and following her going up … the better to catch her if needed. And, I am proud to report, I have never been needed. Mom just grabs hold of the stair rails and counts to thirteen our loud and, before you know it, she has accomplished her mission … never missing a step or a beat.

Mom always ask if I want to go first, and when I tell her she’s the guide, she simply says, “I know,” and off she goes.

I multiplied 26 (total steps in a round trip) x 365 (days in a year) x 2 (years) x 8″ (height of each step) and divided by 12″ (number of inches in a foot) for a grand total of 12,623 feet!

That’s how many feet of stairs mom and I have both walked in two years. Divide that by two  and you have 6327 feet going up and 6327 feet going down for each of us.

If those steps were going up a mountain, they would top Mount Rodgers, the tallest mountain in Virginia, by 599 feet. And, as much again to get back down.

Every time we climb those thirteen steps together I celebrate the courage, will and determination of mom.

Mom is my Sky High Climber and there are no limits to the peaks she’ll meet on her climb to the heavens … one step at a time.

It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves. – Edmund Hillary

Standing Tall in Mom’s Eyes

Mom Standing Tall

Either I am getting taller or mom is getting shorter.

OK, I know, I know. There’s no denying it. The flat fact is, at 93, mom is coming up on the short end of the stick … the yardstick that is.

And, it’s because she is shrinking. I call her the incredible shrinking mom. At 5’1″, I know she has to be at least two or three inches, shorter than she was when I started writing my blog a few years ago.

I have been 5’11” for what seems like forever, and after just finishing checking my height with a tape measure, I still am.

Mom has always insisted I’m 6′. I’ll say, “No, mom, I am 5’11’,” and she’ll come back with, “No, you are not. You are 6′, and that’s it.”

That one little inch she has given me has meant miles to me. I adore her for always giving me that extra inch.

She has always believed I am not only an inch taller than I am, but an inch smarter, more creative, funnier, better looking, you name it … and all of those inches have added up to miles and miles and miles … enough to stretch beyond the moon, the sun and the stars.

Whether it has been benefit of the doubt, encouragement or praise, it has always been inches more than I deserve.

But, now, I really do look like I am miles taller than mom.

When I help her put her sweater on in the morning, I’ll ask her to stand tall. And, as she stiffens to attention, I look down and see that, even though I remain the same, she just keeps getting shorter and shorter.

Then, I remember … my mom taught me “taller” is in the eye of the beholder.

So, I bend down and kiss her on the top of her head and whisper, “You are the tallest person I have ever known. And, that’s it.”

Somebody Blew It

Icy Morning

I was holding on to mom’s arm for dear life, trying to get her from Point A to Point B … from the house to the car. It was an early morning icy misty mess and my mission was to get mom in the car as fast and safely as possible. I am not going to lie, I wanted to be in that car, too. It was one miserable, icy cold, slippery-when-wet morning!

“What is happening out here?” mom yelled. “This is the worst thing that has ever happened to me in my whole life. I am just going to freeze to death right here.”

“Mom, this is the worst thing that has ever happened to me, too, but we are not going to die. We just have to keep moving so I can get you in the car safe and sound. What the heck do you think is going on out here, anyway?”

“I think somebody up there is blowing his nose!”

“I think you are right, mom, and he didn’t even say excuse me.”

2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog. Click on the image to see full report.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 7,400 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 12 years to get that many views.

Hyper Electrifying! Mom & Her Card!

Hyper Pop-Ups cards are electrifying … no doubt about that!

Lights, sounds and colorful, popup designs, grab all of your senses and never let go.

This fully loaded card was created and designed in Cleveland, Ohio, made in China, and purchased and mailed to mom from Wilmington, North Carolina. In other words, this card had been here, there and everywhere before being opened in Richmond, Virginia by mom on Christmas Day … her birthday.

Mom has literally not put it down since she discovered its magic.

She might be 93, but I bet the card’s batteries run down before her’s.

I think mom could give Honey Boo Boo a run for her money!

Thanks go out to the senders:

My daughter, Tovi

Son-in-law, Chris,

Grand-kids, Thomas, Patrick, Fisher and Livi

Our Santa’s Early Visit

When out on the lawn, there arose such a clatter,

It was a little too early, for the jolly red hatter.

Three days before Christmas:

It took me a few seconds to focus in on the car that had just pulled into mom’s driveway, but the second the driver opened his door, I knew it was “our man”.

When I say “our man”, I mean our very own Santa man was coming for his annual house call at mom’s … a ritual that started way back in the mid-eighties. And, although he was a few days early, I wasn’t one to complain. “Our man” had never missed a year since the day he started coming our way.

My kids grew up sitting on our Santa’s lap. They loved him and he loved them.

Our Santa loved our whole  family. He was devoted to us. He knew everything there was to know about us, and as far as he was concerned, we could do no wrong. There was no room for naughty in our home … only nice.

It started way back when he was the Santa at Regency Mall in Richmond. And, I have to give my mom and sister, Nel, all the credit. After first seeing him in action, they would visit him just about every day he was there and watch, mesmerized, how he interacted with parents, grandparents and kids alike.

To them, he was the Christmas spirit personified.

They not only watched him, but they praised him for the way he gave undivided attention to each and every kid who made it to his knee. No matter how long the line, he never made anyone feel rushed. He made you feel like you were the most special person in the whole wide world, and for that, my mom and sister loved, appreciated and respected him.

As a result of their support and encouragement, he continued to grow to become an even better Santa. A pretender might fool some of the people some of the time, but not my mom and sister. They knew that deep down inside that costume was the true heart of a real Santa.

From that love a bond was formed with our family and our Santa.

Our Santa didn’t get many cheerleaders, especially ones like mom and Nel, because he was expected to spread cheer, not receive it. Not many grownups or kids spend time thinking about how tough a challenge it must be to be him. We are too busy thinking about ourselves.

But, it never fazed our Santa, he was always up for the challenge, always Mr. Ho, Ho, Ho.

He was genuinely interested in what his little admirers wanted or needed. He never complained that no one asked what he wanted or needed … how he was feeling … how he was doing … what it must be like having to meet the tall order expectations of every kid in the world … or, how were the elves, the reindeer,  Mrs. Clause … or what was it like living in the always ice cold North Pole.

Sure, he got tons of cookies and milk … but how many real  thank you notes? Or just good, old fashion how are you doing questions, especially off season.

This is where mom and Nel fit that bill. They were more than Santa’s helpers, they were his supporters, his friends and his cheerleaders. They kept him going and growing!

As pay back, Santa started visiting our entire family on Christmas day … every Christmas day, the entire time my girls were growing up. And, now he spends time with their kids as well, when they come to mom’s for Christmas and her birthday.

His most recent visit marks the 17th consecutive year.

On our Santa’s off days, he plays the role of a mild mannered postal worker (I think all superhero types play mild mannered folks on their off days).

He will be retiring at the end of January after 35 years.

I think being a postal worker has had its advantages in terms of helping him deliver gifts to everyone in the world on one Big Day (This is no place for Post Office delivery jokes  … just remember the rain, sleet or snow part).

When my sister passed away a few years ago after a horrific battle with early-onset Alzheimer’s, we held a memorial service for her at a little, old country church where many of my relatives lay at rest, including my dad.

As I stood before friends and family who had come from near and far, I noticed, three rows from the front, our Santa, dressed as an ordinary, everyday man. I remember his tie making him look a bit uncomfortable.

I literally stopped what I was saying, pointed to him and said, “Look, it’s Santa. Thanks for coming our way, Santa.”

It seemed everyone looked in the direction I was pointing at once, to get a glimpse of this unexpected, world famous celebrity visitor.

Without a word, he raised a finger  to his lips. It was the universal signal for, hush. He didn’t want to confuse any of the kids, or compete in any way with the sole purpose we were all there for.

I got the message loud and clear and went on with our celebration and commemoration of my sister, Nel.

A couple of weeks ago, my eleven year old granddaughter, Livi, left a message on my mobile.

“Hey Daddy Daddy, this is Livi. I was just wondering, was Santa Claus really at Nel’s funeral? ‘Cause that’s what my mommy thinks. And … I hope to see you soon. Bye.”

I really thought hard about my response before returning her call. I didn’t want to blow Santa’s cover, or my granddaughter’s beliefs. Livi was at Nel’s memorial service, but must have missed my “special introduction” all together.

When I got her on the phone, I got right to the point, “Livi, your mom was right. Santa, well …”

Before I could regroup, Livi interrupted, “Daddy, Daddy, it’s all right. I know Santa was there, because he loved Nel. And, he was in disguise because he didn’t want anyone to notice him at her funeral. That was really nice that he came, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, Livi, that was really nice. Really nice.”

After hanging up, I put my finger to my lips.

Then, I wiped my eyes.

It’s Scarf Day, No More, No Less

Mom's Scarf

The notice to caregivers was: Celebrate Scarf Day, tomorrow! Everyone is invited to wear a scarf.

That was all I needed.

The next morning I rummaged through mom’s dresser drawers until I stumbled on the perfect Scarf Day scarf (the only scarf I could find). I wrapped it around her neck and drove her adult daycare, otherwise known as heaven on earth!

I love Circle Center and the angels who work there! If they had an Early Bird Special, I would sign myself up for sometime in the future, right now.

When we arrived, I made sure mom’s scarf was snug around her neck before we made the grand entrance. After inspection, I gave her a big hug and told her just how good looking she was in that scarf. I believe I followed that with one word … HOT!

She looked at me and said, “I know I’m good looking, but that does not mean I am planning on marrying anyone today. No sir. Maybe I will later, but not today!”

Before leaving, I scribbled out the following message and hung it on the bulletin board.

To Whom It May Concern: I know my mom, Helen, is as good looking as they come, but Scarf Day is strictly Scarf Day!

Mom is not planning on marrying anyone today, nor will she be until further notice. Thanks for your understanding and cooperation, Tom  Laughon 

PS – Hanky-panky is strictly off limits!

I’ve Got Your Back

“I was normal once …”

I had the opportunity to be one of nine storytellers who crafted and shared our stories to a live and lively audience at a wonderful theater in Richmond the other night.

Here’s my story, and I’m sticking to it …

AUDIO: I’ve Got Your Back told by Tom Laughon.

My Vote’s for Topnotch and Mom

Mom’s a lifelong flag waver

Mom’s showing her true colors and at almost 93, still bleeds red, white and blue.

It is amazing when you think that she has voted in 17 general elections and her first vote was for Franklin D. Roosevelt to serve a third term. Her last vote was for Obama four years ago, and when I say last, I mean her last, because she will be sitting this one out.

Even so, I asked her who she would be voting for and she said, without really knowing the candidates’ names, “I am voting for topnotch, whoever that is.”

Mom’s a voter’s voter.

I pulled a postcard addressed to mom out of the mailbox a couple of days ago and proudly showed it to everyone I could. It compares mom’s voting record in the last five general elections with others in her neighborhood, and you can see she received the highest mark.

I wish the organization that sent the postcard would have gone back in the public records far enough to add the other 12 general elections mom voted in. She might have won a trip to Disney World!

So, today, I will be casting my vote in mom’s honor as well as to all of you who consistently exercise your right to vote. As long as you vote, and vote for topnotch, whoever that is, the red, white and blue will continue to fly above all others, it’s a gift of freedom to honor, cherish, protect and behold.

A Side Note: Mom’s home was built in 1796 which means it has been on this earth for every general election since our second president, John Adams! No telling how many votes have been cast from folks who lived in this home. I know mom, dad and my sister, Nel, sure did cast their fair share. 

Mom’s Second Thoughts About Marrying Me

Mom: You make me so happy. You always know exactly what you are doing and you do it right every time.

I really want to marry you … but, I don’t know whether that’s right or not?

Me to myself: (Wow! A moment of clarity! Finally mom’s brain is seeing reason.)

Mom: I am only six, so I’m not sure if my daddy will let me marry you.

Me to myself: (Listen to your daddy, mom. Listen to your daddy.)

Clockwise, going from the youngest, to oldest: My mom, Helen, at age six, Hunter, Berk and Fanny.

Post Script: This is not the first time mom has expressed her desire to marry me. I first wrote about this in my blog post, ‘Til Death Do Us Part, Just Not Quite the Way Mom Sees It.

And, it’s not the first time mom has said she is six: Girls Lie About Their Age

Mom’s mother died when mom was only six years old.  Mom was  the youngest of four and her mother’s sudden, unexpected death had a profound impact on her and how she has lived her life.

When her mother was carried down the steps of their home on a stretcher for the last time, she reached for my mom’s hand, held it tightly and whispered, “Be good and be strong. You are my little angel.”

And, that has been mom’s credo and mission her entire life. Be good. Be strong.

Her mother’s last words to her were, “I love you, sugar.”

Mom was raised by a brilliant, no-nonsense, God fearing, general practitioner who started his career as a horse and buggy country doctor in Richmond, Virginia. As the city grew westward, my grandfather’s practice and investments made him a wealthy man.

He loved his children, and ruled with an iron hand. He taught them values and was a pillar of strength. There was no misunderstanding my grandfather. You knew what was right and was was wrong. Good and strong were not options in this family … they were expected. 

Thanks to mom’s aunts (her mother’s sisters) she had plenty of loving, strong women who helped raise her to become both good and strong.

Her father made sure each of his children was provided for, had great educations, and knew where they were going in life. Her sister, Fanny, was a teacher before becoming a minister’ s wife. Her brother, Hunter, was a lawyer and her other brother, Berk, followed in his father’s footsteps and joined his practice before continuing his education and pursuing a career as an ophthalmologist.

Then there’s the little one, my little stick of dynamite of a mom, Helen.  She could have been a CEO for any organization in the world … she was an energy source, a  leader, a creative thinker, a visionary, my mentor and my role model. She, like her sister, married a minister, and her leadership complimented my father’s and they were an amazing team. When these two strong and good people joined forces, it was a powerful combination that made a difference in the lives and communities they served!

And, they both played leading roles in putting my younger sister, Nel, and me on this earth and guiding us to become leaders, and players on their team. Strong and good. It was embedded in our minds, hearts and souls. 

Of all the people mentioned in this Post Script, only mom and I are left standing. It is a strange feeling. An indescribable  feeling of loneliness.

“Be good and be strong. You are my little angel.”

For me, these whispered words become a connection of the past, present and future, and they somehow blend into a bittersweet mix of mandate, melancholy and comfort.

We may not be “right” for marriage (Listen to your daddy, mom. Listen to your daddy.), but mom and I have a lifelong bond … a tie that binds us together forever.

It is a death-do-us-part-bond of unconditional love, mutual admiration and acceptance. We are here, now, for each other.   

Be good and be strong. Be good and  be strong. Be good and be strong.


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