My Dear Sweet Mother was calling to confirm the dates of a baby-sitting venture I'd requested for later this summer, but, crushed by impending deadlines and frustrated by a failed vocabulary, I was anything but appreciative.
I'm admittedly lousy at social multi-tasking. It was rare for My Dear Sweet Mother to call, and I did little to encourage future attempts. Sensing my mounting impatience and emotional distance, she kept the conversation brief and to the point.
As the day wore on, I couldn't stop thinking about how rude I'd been, and how that was no way to treat the woman who raised me to be the person I am today. (And I mean that in a good way … all the weird stuff I blame on Dad, who let me watch too many horror movies and never saw a comic book he didn't want to buy as an "investment.")
Lord knows, it wasn't easy. The way I acted in fifth grade alone would've inspired a lesser woman to drop me off at the local animal shelter in hopes a nice family would confuse me with a beagle. I was house-broken, at least.
To think of what I put My Dear Sweet Mother through, and now I'm too busy to take a phone call.
There was the time I got busted stealing comic books from Piggly Wiggly. I wasn't a particularly acute criminal, carrying around a bulging bookbag in the middle of summer.
And there was the stack of nudie magazines I hid in the bathroom. Too bad the toilet overflowed and the plumber had to pull back the carpet, revealing my treasure trove while my mother stood back in horror.
And of course there was the 2 a.m. phone call I made from jail. Having been pulled over at a roadblock, the cops thought it was odd that I didn't have a driver's license, just a yellow, wadded-up piece of paper from an Auburn circuit judge. But the nice officer was kind enough to speak with my mother and explain the situation. Trouble was, she didn't know I'd gotten a DUI, which explained why I didn't have a driver's license.
Driving four hours to bail her 23-year-old son out of jail was not how she envisioned spending that particular Mother's Day.
To think, now she calls me "the greatest thing in her life."
But I can't help think My Dear Sweet Mother is romanticizing the past just a smidge.
Still, she did the best she could, which was downright amazing. She worked two jobs, often going without just to keep me flush in acid-washed jeans, KISS tapes, Trapper Keepers and Atari games.
I can't imagine I said "thank you" enough. But I understand now just how hard it was — the worry, the heartache, the responsibility, the love that was at times so great its weight was suffocating. And every time I look at my own children and feel how my heart swells, I think of my Dear Sweet Mother.
There's not a day that goes by when, in the midst of raising a cantankerous teenager and doubting the long-term effects of every tiny decision, I don't stop and wonder, "What Would Sharon Do?"
And I guess that's the greatest compliment I can give: trying to raise my children exactly the way she raised me — only minus the nudie magazines.
That stuff I blame on Dad.
Contact Brett Buckner at firstname.lastname@example.org