To My Favorite Child, On Your Graduation Day

May 26, 2018

Dear Ben,

You’ve attended your last day of high school.

I’m sorry your dad is not here on this big day, to send you off to school with a good breakfast and a cup of strong coffee, not too much creamer…but if he were here I know that’s how he would’ve wanted to start the day with you.

I’m sorry he missed seeing all of your report cards, but I bet he knows how hard you worked even when things sometimes didn’t come easy for you. Your talents and skills are more like mine, and that would totally blow his mind had he lived to see it.

I’m sorry he was not here to answer your questions about women, but I’ve always told you the truth about what makes us tick. I’m super sorry he never met all the beautiful, wonderful girls who have been important to you. He would’ve been very proud of your choices in girl-friends and in girlfriends, and impressed with the qualities you find important in women. I certainly am. I sure loved them all, and most girls want a boy’s mother’s approval anyway.

I’m sorry Dad wasn’t the one to teach you about the realities of harsh consequences, but I was just as capable of making you answer for your mistakes like a man, and I think I did.

I’m sorry I was the one who had to drive you and your lawnmower to cut grass, but you learned your work ethic from me anyway, so it was fitting. I hope you inherited your dad’s ability to save money though, as opposed to mine.

I’m sorry I was the only one of your parents to watch you swim, and I tried to be careful not to scream too loud. I think Dad would’ve screamed his head off though, if he’d been there, and he would have clapped and rubbed his hands together in excitement when you raced. I know you can hear him and see him in your head doing this right now, just like I can.

I’m sorry I went through your texts and tracked your phone sometimes, but I promise you, your dad would’ve done the same thing if he’d been here. We always backed each other up like that. Except for when you needed a spanking. He could never spank you. He couldn’t take it, so I always had to be the one to do that.

I’m sorry you were the kid who didn’t have your dad at all the things where you needed your dad, but look at all the other dads who wanted to be in your life because of it.

I’m sorry you lost your favorite fishing buddy, but you are ten times the fisherman your dad was at your age, and he would be beside-himself-proud knowing that. That’s not an accident, kiddo, and you can’t fight those genetics.

I’m sorry you sometimes felt like you had to grow up too fast, but look how independent you are now. You’ve been a grown man for half your life. It’s one of the things about you I love most.

I’m sorry he was not here to help you tie your ties for Homecoming and for Prom, but I tied his for him anyway. I’m not sorry at all that you look just like him, but trust me when I say – those green eyes of yours – that’s all me. You are just as handsome as he was and when I see you, I see him. It’s remarkable, actually. But you know that already.

I’m sorry Dad can’t take you off to college, but he made sure there was enough money for you to go, and that changed everything for both of us. I pray you will take care of your children the way he has taken care of you.

I’m sorry your dad doesn’t know what incredible young men your best friends are, how they’ve made you a better man, a better son and the best kind of friend there is. But when he was alive, he had friendships just like yours, and he loved his friends like you love yours. And now, you’ve got his best friends, too.

I’m sorry Dad isn’t here to see this important moment. He would be as proud of you as I am. Even more. You are everything wonderful in a son that Dad and I talked about when you were a baby. You are everything good about the both of us, but with none of the bad. You were everything to Dad and you are everything to me. Quite simply, Benjamin, you are Everything. Happy Graduation.

Love, Mom

***

I gathered every single picture I could find of your dad and I together. This is a history of our life, and then your life with us. If you are ever out in that great big world you’re about to live in and you start to miss home, here is an easy place to come visit, especially when you need to be near your mom and dad. 
Always remember these things: Your parents loved each other very much, and when we were good we were better than everything in the whole world…and you came from that.
You were the best thing to ever happen to both of us. XO

Happy As a Seagull with a Cheeto

PC: Instagram @mvm_frankfurt

Spring Break when you live on the beach means you get to entertain a good bit of company. In my case, it was teenagers who live forty-five minutes and a quarter of a tank of gas away. I’ve had a lot of visitors this week…mostly sandy-footed shower-takers and sun-kissed beach-worshippers who need power naps, and yes I loved every minute of it. Read more

Last Christmas

I have three Best Christmas Ever memories.

Christmas 1972, 1975, 1972

Going to my Grandma and Papa’s house for Christmas every single year. (I don’t remember a single childhood Christmas in my own house) All the cousins came too, so when you walked into the living room on Christmas morning, the presents Santa left for everyone literally covered the entire floor. At least… that’s how I remember it. Read more

Haberdashing

PC: Instagram @kositcheks

I was married to two very handsome men in my life and neither one of them ever owned a suit. I come from a small town, so did my two husbands, so I’d have to say that was probably our main problem. Tailored suits weren’t part of anyone’s fashion repertoire in those Tastee Freeze communities we grew up in, unlike, say, the Levis jeans and Guy Harvey t-shirts we most often see Florida panhandle boys wearing. For the boys I loved, dressing up meant wearing a Columbia shirt and Dockers, for goodness sake. Read more

Late

Homecoming Court 2017, with @molly_goodson, who made the night delightful!

All over the world at any given moment there are billions of people missing someone they’ve lost. Tonight, that was us.

Float-building with dad. Parade driving with dad. Tie-straightening with dad. That was our week, only the dad wasn’t with us. It’s hard, if you don’t know. Most don’t.

His Bio for the Homecoming Court read that he liked surfing, snowboarding, and being Captain of the Swim Team. It also read – in its original form – that he was the son of two people instead of just one, but that part was edited out. Maybe it was too much to ask to include it. Maybe it didn’t seem as important to someone else. Maybe it made those folks uncomfortable. Read more

The One Hundred Dollar Migraine

PC: Instagram @iammariovee

The bill for us to dine tonight in one of the best restaurants in town was well over $100. It was an evening supposed to be spent in a quaint corner booth in the darker back rooms of a steakhouse, one of those places that always has an hour or more wait to get in. We had important adult things to discuss, some exciting news to share, and a few of us hadn’t seen each other in awhile. You can imagine my frustration when the baby at the table next to us fought his mother like an angry little tasmanian devil and screamed his bloody head off as he tried to claw his way out of his baby carrier. Read more

Oyster Culture

Website: www.frankabbott.com Instagram: @frankabbottphotography

PC: Frank Abbott Photography

I have two vivid memories of my dad saying to me, “You’re gonna have to learn to do this by yourself.”

The first was riding a bike and his exasperation came from having to give me a hundred pushes but then also having to catch up and run behind me as I peddled. He held onto the back of my bicycle seat with one hand, trying to keep up, exhausted after just a few hundred feet of that nonsense. (And once we’ve all attempted that awkward move ourselves as parents, we realize that crap’s for the birds.) Well, my dad figured out that pushing off of the curb with one foot provided the launch I needed and when coupled with a bike that was just a tad too small for me, I had the foot reach I needed to keep myself from falling over. Necessity breeds invention, so they say, and he stopped having to wear himself out while I, like every other child in the world, learned to ride a bike.

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Mommie Dearest

Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest, 1981, Paramount Pictures

A lonely, steaming plate of fresh waffles topped with warmed maple syrup, a dollop of melted butter and three delicately sliced fresh strawberries sat on a bar all alone this morning near it’s companion, an ice cold glass of milk. I waited. I paced slowly, sipping my coffee and trying not to lose my temper on an otherwise beautiful Sunday morning. Then I lovingly beckoned, “Breakfast is ready my darling boy!” Still, the waffle sogged and the butter congealed as one minute and then ten passed. Quickly cooling under the ceiling fan, the spritz of whip cream also dissolved.

I made my way into the dark room where I knew he was awake. I mean, it was at his request that I made the damn waffles in the first place. He was texting, covered up under a mountain of blankets, snuggled in for the long haul…which reaffirmed to me that he was at least three steps (pee, put on pants, make a cup of coffee) behind the stage in his morning where he would actually sit down and eat. I decided instantly that I would never cook for him again!

He saw me sending him the laser eyes and exclaimed, “What? It’s been like two seconds!” I turned and left, saying nothing, but speaking volumes. Several minutes later, I heard him call from the other room, “Thank you for breakfast, Mom. It was good.” Only I know that it wasn’t.

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My Mama’s Pajamas

Me and Mom, August 13, 1971. PC: Greg Moore

There I was again this past week, a few days before another Mother’s Day with zero inspiring ideas for how to show my precious mother how much I love her. Friends, she is damn hard to buy for. Trying to come up with some bright, creative idea to buy? or do? or a place to go see? The same burning question posed itself when we talked on the phone the other night: “Mom, please tell me what I can get you for Mother’s Day.” The best she could come up with was, “I need some pajamas, I guess.

Ask anyone who has lost their mom…What would you give for another chance to do something for, to say to, or to show to your mom what she means to you?  I think about those people and that loss all the time and it makes me ponder the opportunities I am still lucky enough to have. I want to make it all count. I don’t ever want to reflect in wonder, asking myself, did my mom know what she meant to me? I don’t ever want my mother (or anyone I love) to feel like I don’t get it. I do. I recognize that my life is full of people who do so much for me and at a minimum I need to be that kind of person for others as well. Thank you and I love you, or some sappy Facebook post (we all do it!) with a nostalgic picture go a long way but if we can do better, I think we should. Read more

Rumspringa: A Study of Wants and Needs

PC: Instagram @munsookwan

Don’t let the drab black bibs and the bonnets fool you, the Amish have good taste. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. What they lack in fashion choices and modern conveniences they more than make up for in their flair for custom homes with trendy designs. I visited Lancaster County recently and yes, I was one of those people, the touristy outsider rubbernecking from a charter bus as these quiet, private families made their way home (via horse and buggy) from church. They fascinated me. Their pallid homeliness baffled me. Their penchant for volleyball made me laugh. And their gorgeous homes with the wrap-around porches and the detached 3-buggy garages left me a little envious, to be honest. One thought came to mind, “Ya know, at the end of the day, we all kind of want and need the same things.Read more