The ringing of the phone startled me. There I sat on my couch, recovering from my trip to Ireland when the sound of the phone shook me from my half-catatonic state. I caught my breath, glanced at the caller ID screen on the phone and saw it was my mother calling me.
“I liked your column this week,” said my mother.
“Well, thanks. I appreciate that.”
“Sure,” she said slowly, before letting an odd, and quite rare, silence fill her side of the conversation. “I noticed you decided not to go with your Mother’s Day column this year.”
To be fair, I was awfully distracted last week. My trip to Ireland was both physically and emotionally draining, I was a little out of sorts regarding the calendar because I was so far away from the action and ...
Nah, I got nothing. I really botched this one up pretty badly. Have you ever gotten to the point where you realize you simply screwed up — that there was no real remedy to the situation, and you only have yourself to blame for how deep a hole you find yourself in at that given time? Oh, I was twisting ... trying to find that rope to cling to that would get me out of the situation without making it worse.
“Well, I can write it next week, Mom.”
“Oh, that would be great. So, how is everything else going?”
Only there was no “everything else” for me at that time. All that was present in my life at that very moment was The Big Kahuna — yes, the shroud of guilt. Now, guilt is not something new to me. As a veteran of various Catholic schools and the son of parents who wield guilt around like William Wallace waved a sword, I have learned to accept that I am often led around by my guilt. It’s every bit as much a part of me as my bald head or insatiable appetite for ice cream cones. In fact, if eating ice cream cones didn’t make me feel so guilty, I would lock my bald self in a ...
But I digress.
What we were discussing was guilt, and there have been few moments in my life that were as filled with self-condemnation as the realization that I had forgotten to scribble out a few words about my beautiful mother on the day that is specifically set aside to appreciate the efforts of mothers everywhere. See, while many of us love our mothers and feel like there is no other woman in the world that could possibly be as wonderful a mother as their own, I know the truth.
My mommy can beat up your mommy.
There is only one Elizabeth McCann. Only one woman who could shut this smart-aleck mouth with a quick glance, and only one woman who would have woken up early every morning to scan the baseball box scores in the Washington Post so she would have something to talk to me about while I was eating my cereal. Only one woman was there to knock a little sense in me when I started drifting off course from time to time, and only one woman prepared gourmet meals every night for dinner so the ...
Sorry, that last one was tough to finish with the tears of laughter filling my eyes.
Fine, maybe we weren’t exactly the Cleaver family. For most of my youth, my father was a salesman in the computer industry. Since personal computers were not as common then as they were today, his job demanded that he traveled ... a lot. That left my mother solely in charge of McCann Asylum — even though she was a full-time teacher at the time. So, yeah, an overworked, underpaid woman got to come home every night and watch the ranch.
We ate what we ate, when we ate it. And we liked it.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to appreciate more what my mother went through in those days. It was a nonstop workday, from the time she woke up, to the time she went to sleep — often including several chauffeur services a day to keep up with her children’s sports schedules. I’ve also learned that the job of being a worrying mother doesn’t really stop when the child turns 18 and moves out of the house. No, for my mother, that’s when her real headaches began, as my footloose days grew more fanciful with my first taste of freedom.
But, to her amazing credit, there was never one nanosecond in my life when I doubted her unconditional love for me. Be it putting a Band-Aid on me for the 49th time that week, cracking my backside when my backside needed cracked or talking about a Hemingway novel. I never doubted her love.
I love you, Mom. Sorry for the delay in telling you that.