Bill’s mother will probably pass away this week. The following is Bill’s preface from our book “Wrestling Pigs in a Clean White Shirt.” I thought it was appropriate.
Like most men, I don’t think too much about how I was raised, what I missed out on, or who was in charge when I missed it. I just live. And sometimes, I take things for granted that I should probably appreciate more.
Like my mother. She may not live to see our book published. If she does, she won’t be able to read it because her eyesight is gone. Sometimes I wonder if she even remembers that she has a son named Bill. My brother, Dale, has been her guardian for several years now while she lives out each boring day in an assisted living facility in Colorado.
It’s not his fault that she’s bored. He does his best to make her life comfortable, but what can a 90-year-old woman have to look forward to except visits from her family?
I never asked her opinion when she had it together enough to have one. I usually rejected her good advice and even the religion she brought me up in. Still, I honestly respected her goodness, and maybe that was the problem between her and I. She was just too good.
She never wasted time on style or image. A very practical woman in every way, she did not understand my need to have a little cool. Although I thankfully missed the “jean with acceptable brand names” era that my kids grew up in, there was still a certain amount of “smartness” that I lacked. There were six boys in our family. I knew that my parents could not afford a lot of luxuries because my father had been given a short life expectancy due to having a lung removed at a young age from tuberculosis. They wisely prepared for the fact that he might not live to see all of the boys leave home before he passed away. Wise, but not something that we cared too much about at the time. In fifth grade, my mother bought two pair of sturdy pants for me. Unfortunately, they were the same color, which understandably made my pals wonder if I only had one pair. Add to that the fact that I grew straight up about 3 inches that year without gaining anything in the waist. Mother did not think this was a qualifier for getting new pants. Like many from her generation, her motto was “use it up and wear it out.” And so, while she would have happily emerged herself in farm work and her love of horses, I do not think she had a clue about how to survive John F. Long Elementary in 1963.
She and Dad never argued either, at least not in front of us boys. At first glance that sounds pretty great, but it was actually a little bit of a handicap when it came to learning how to work out relationship problems. Ask Diane. Her parents gave her lots of workshops on how to engage the enemy in combat. But my parents? They couldn’t seem to find a single thing that they did not agree on.
I discounted her ideas about God as well. My mother is the most trusting of believers and I have always considered her naivete as being a little silly. It is only now, when I am reaching an age that I am faced with settling up myself, that I can appreciate how much He must love her innocence. How our God must love those who do not question His motives, His rules, and His unconditional love simply because we cannot see all the answers right now.
My mother had a simple ability to accept, to love, and to be contented with what she had. By her example, I learned for myself that clothes do not make the man, that happy relationships are achievable, and that God is really there.
I hope she gets to see this, but I plan to tell her in person. One more thing she’s teaching me …
…Not to wait to tell someone how much they mean to me.