If I am going to write a blog about the influences, experiences and stories of my life that have shaped who I was and who I am and the “way I tend to be”, I have to start with the one person that influenced me more than anyone else in my life, my mother.
There were no two ways about it. When I was fourteen… I was a pretty cool kid. Not in the ninety-ninth-percentile of coolness, maybe, but definitely the top third of my class. I knew the walk. I knew the talk. I had my own kinda… style.
But, like a lot of “cool” kids my age, I did have one tragic flaw. One terrible secret that threatened the very fabric of my fragile image. One secret that most teenagers try to hide… I was a momma’s boy.
When you’re a little boy, you don’t have to go very far to find the center of your universe. It’s your Mom. She’s always there. It’s a pretty good arrangement. No matter what happened in your life she was there. When you went to bed, when you got up in the morning, she would be there when you left for school and there when you came home. When you’re a young boy, all you can imagine is the fact that you will be with her for the rest of your life. In your mind, nothing could ever change that. She would always be there and never leave your side. I would always be momma’s boy and nothing could change that.
But around age fourteen, there starts to be… a problem. The problem then is…she’s always there. And I mean always.
Now a mom has to be a mom, but a guy’s gotta be a guy. And when the irresistible force of independence meets an immovable object… Sooner or later – somethings gotta give.
Unfortunately it did…
I guess I could tell a story of how we ended up having some big terrible fight or some extreme family crisis and that we didn’t talk to each other for years and we would reconcile years later…however, none of that would be true.
It may be a better story to be read than the one I’m telling…but what actually took place is something a little more sinister. Something more hurtful. Something filled with more regret. I did what teenagers have done since the beginning of time. I did something that I can never take back.
I ignored her.
When I say, I ignored her; I mean I took her for granted. I did not take the opportunity to spend more time with her. I started to make my own decisions and I left her out of most of my plans. I did not do it intentionally. It wasn’t meant to hurt her. It was a part of growing up and I regret it to this very day.
Over the past few years, I have spent much of my spare time writing the story of my family. I am intrigued at how we all came together and became a family. I do as much research as I possibly can. I’ve found that every American family has its own unique blend of personalities, my family is no exception.
Within our family tree we range the full spectrum of types. From the flamboyant… to the demure. From the repellent… to the ideal.
My mother set the standard of the “ideal” in my family tree…
Agnes Elizabeth Clemens was born in November of 1931 in Washington, Pennsylvania. She was the oldest of eight children born to William and Lida Clemens.
Her young life was filled with events and situations that would have defeated and broke the spirit of most of the young girls her age. Times were hard and things were tough. That’s not to say there were not good times, but as I remember my mother telling me stories, there always seemed to be a common theme…nothing stayed “good” for long. She felt as if she had the responsibility of her family on her shoulders, with no real help in sight.
She was forced to grow up way too soon. She left home at 17 and left Pennsylvania and never looked back. She had to make decisions that would affect her for the rest of her life. Had not it been for that Greyhound Bus breaking down outside Sandusky, Ohio only God knows what would have happened to her.
Simply put…she found her happiness in her children…she found her destiny…she was meant to be…a mother.
She endured and persevered, but lost a part of herself when she lost a child, my brother Bobby on a cold November day in 1970. He was killed tragically in a car/train accident. That sparkle in her eyes was dimmed and I look back with wonder trying to figure out how she made it through. I can think of nothing worse than outliving your children.
That wonderful sparkle came back when she got to hold her grandchildren shortly after their birth. And now as she is part of the newest generation of “great-grandchildren” and I am not sure that anything makes her happier. Whether as a child, grandchild or great-grandchild, each one of us have been privileged to have her love and to be looked upon with that beautiful sparkle in her eyes.
(Agnes and Robert J. Lee in 2008)
I can never go back and fix the times in my life that I could have spent more time with her. She tells me that she wants to live to be at least 100, so she can see what the world will be like then. I don’t know about that. But what I do know is that I hope she makes it. Because there is more to this woman than I have ever learned and there is so much more to her that I want to know.
She is the primary reason that there is anything “good” in the way I tend to be.
When it is all said and done, at the end of my life, I am sure there will be many things said about me. I have left a trail of failure and some footprints of success. I am sure that the words to describe me will vary about as much as the times I have been successful and the times I have failed.
Say what you will.
I can think of no higher honor than to have words that describe me as a man that loved his God, his wife Pamela, his children, grandchildren and that I was simply and proudly a “momma’s boy”.
Live long mom…
“Happy Mother’s Day”