My mom died almost 40 years ago at about the age of 65.
At the time, I was a busy guy, starting a family, making career changes. I really did not have time to grieve for the person who, by a large margin, was the most important influence in my life. It’s hard to believe it was so many years ago. Yet I can vividly remember my life with her and how she molded me into the person I am today: some good molding, some not so good molding.
So, how did “Plain Ole Frank” get molded into “Brutally Frank?” My mom was educated through the 5th Grade. However, she was an exaggerator, so who knows. She spoke broken English with a lot of words she made up.
For example, the word “High-Stick-Alarrie” was a word she used for a person with an attitude of wealth. My mom had a way of dealing with obstacles in life that most folks would consider insurmountable.
My mom brought me to school when I was “of age.” But when she learned, from my older sister, that kindergarten was only half a day, and she wanted me out of her hair, all day, she convinced them to put me in 1st Grade. After all, school was school. I have no idea how she accomplished this feat. But when my mom wanted something, no one could deny her. To put it politely, she was persistent.
P.S.78 was not the right school for problem students. Sitting in the back of class, trying to figure out what was going on, best describes my years as a problem student. Learning to “get by,” in times of adversity, starts at a young age.
Every Tuesday, I went to religious school. I went through Communion. I went through Confirmation. Finally, I became an Alter Boy. I was proud of my achievement. Until I asked my mom why she never went to Church. She told me she didn’t have time for such foolishness. That ended my career as an Alter Boy.
Good job, mom.
Before I turned 11, my mom found out where the newspaper delivery service was. She sent me to get a Paper Route. When I informed her I had to be 11, she told me to lie. She told me to stall them until my birthday, when I could get my Street Trade Badge. I did what my mom told me.
My career as a Newspaper Carrier started and continued until we moved, at age 14, out of The Bronx. I worked 6-days a week, never missing a day, not even when I was sick, for 3-years.
I was an entrepreneur: buying newspapers, collecting money from customers, losing customers, getting new customers, running errands to increase my tips, and being totally responsible. I could write a book about those years. But no one would believe it was non-fiction.
When I was 14, headed into sophomore year, we moved to Hartsdale, near White Plains, New York. I never did thank mom for the early start in school, “Thanks mom.”
It was “great” being the youngest guy at White Plains High. Girls “love” dating younger guys. I adjusted to abstinence by getting a job in a gas station. I crawled under a car for 2-years.
Our new house was built by The Trades my dad hired. Plus, every weekend, I worked to help finish the house, brick by brick. With mom’s guidance, I did the all landscaping on the back yard. She taught me how to steal bushes from the neighbors at night, so they wouldn’t notice.
As evidence of the lesson’s lasting impression, when I got old enough to buy a car, I taught myself how to steal tires from cars so they wouldn’t notice until they got a flat tire.
Thanks for the guidance, mom.
My mom had a knack for rationalizing bad behavior. My mom had a gift for simplifying tasks others would find insurmountable. There was nothing we couldn’t achieve. She pushed me to get an education; when I graduated from high school, with crummy grades, she pushed me to go to Junior College; she pushed and pushed and pushed until I got serious about education.
When I finished Junior College, my mom found a friend whose daughter gave me counseling on getting into 4-year colleges. Oh, she gave me counseling. Of course, I gave her something in exchange. But that’s material for my first novel, non-fiction
My mom never minced words. My mom wasn’t politically correct. To be Brutal, to be Frank, my mom was a compassionate woman with larceny in her heart.
In her world, it was family first, no matter what. In her world, it was dinner on the table every night, no matter what. My mom didn’t shower us with kisses. But you could feel the love. It was undying love, no matter what.
She told it like it was. Nothing could stop her. That is, nothing could stop her except Cancer, at an age so young, I’ve never been able to forgive God for the foolishness.
I like to think she molded Brutally Frank. And as I’ve watched President Barack Hussein Obama, over the course of his first term, positioning himself for a second term, with flights to Afghanistan at night, with Gay Equality announcements on Wednesday, with an opponent who can only be described as “High-Stick-Alarrie,” I can’t help but feeling, his mother used a similar mold.