My Mother – 12-2-2010 – updated 5-10-2015
May 10, 2005
This entry about my Mother was first executed on this site on my 71st birthday, December 2, 2010. The math is easy isn’t it? I am now 75. Mother (pictured above with me) made the transition from this world on the first day of our Summer – almost 11 years ago. I am convinced that she is in the wonderful domain of The Great Guy In the Sky. She visits me now and then in my dreams as do some others I love who have left this world. Today is Mother’s Day and a fitting time for me to revisit this writing – making any corrections or modifications that might be needed. At this time, I’m thinking not only about my dear Mother but also of my wife and how lucky I and our children are to have her in our lives. The three are spending quality time together today and that warms my heart. So, what follows are my December, 2010 thoughts and followed by some May, 2005 musings about mothers. Below is a current image of that happy baby in the photo above.
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December 2, 2010
I turned 71 today. As an adult my birthdays have never been a big deal for me but I often tried to make it a special day for my mother when she was alive. She has been “gone” for over 6 years now. Still, each of my birthdays (which I’ve been so lucky to experience) cause me to think of her even more than usual. Call me a mama’s boy if you like. I am welled-up with gratitude for her making the choice to have me and for the many years she sacrificed for me. Even in 1939 when it was officially illegal, she could have had an abortion. In fact, she was given the opportunity and she along with my father mutually decided against it. My father’s reaction, as explained to me by a relative of my mother’s was: “Lets give the little shit-ass a shot at life!”
Born in 1923, mother had her “sights set” on my father by the time she was 8 years old – at least as she told it. She was 10 when he joined the Navy and 14 when he returned to the farm. They married when she was 15. He was 8 years older and a former “farm boy” converted to a “man of the world” by then. Shortly afterwards the two ran off to California. That adventuresome choice was for lots of reasons but one was the scrutiny under which they were subjected by some of the folks in the nearby small Indiana town. That my mother had been born out-of-wedlock didn’t help matters and I’m sure she was tired of being referred to as the only known bastard in Monroe township. Countless times growing up she was tormented by a very small percentage of the locals (mean, judgmental individuals some with kids who parroted what they heard). Dad’s version of the story is that he got tired of kicking asses over that treatment and then getting in trouble for it. She was 16 when I was born in Long Beach. Nurses at Community Hospital referred to her as a baby having a baby.
Things went fine until December 7, 1941. The sneak attack on Pearl Harbor drew my father right back into active duty where he spent most of the War in the Pacific (New Guinea and the Admiralty Islands) as a Seabee. Mother worked long hours at multiple part-time jobs to take care of me and herself; that’s another story worth telling at some time in the future. Dad was not the same when he returned, God bless him; he was one of those casualties for which there were no obvious visible wounds, and his alcohol abuse eventually played a major role in their breakup when I was almost 10.
The years of hard work and sacrifice that followed for my mother will one day be documented as I continue to write on the subject. She was so very special (and so was dad for that matter).
This essay that follows was written by me over 5 years ago shortly after Mother’s Day. For some reason, it seems to fit with my mood today. Yes indeed – my experience leads me to believe that mothers are extra-special in so many ways. I’ve had the good fortune of being married to two terrific mothers – one for 15 years and into year 32 of my current marriage. Though I can’t explain it and I’m no expert regarding gender differences, I’m convinced that mothers possess some magic that we fathers can’t even come close to duplicating.
MOTHER’S DAY HAS PASSED – AGAIN
Tonie Ansel Toney
Hours before my first of four children was born, I nervously did what little I could for her mother, my first wife, as she went through contractions in preparation for birthing. That amounted to mere words of encouragement along with back rubs – maybe also some moist towels on the forehead – I’m not sure. That was over 43 years ago. A nurse occasionally peeked-in the labor room and sensing my nervousness and dismay said, “She’ll be ready to go when she’s ‘at’ about 10 centimeters.” In those days, the labor room was as far as the father could go. Many did not even do that – rather, they sat in a waiting room with no real notion of what their wives were experiencing. Some first-time mama’s must have been terrified to be left “alone” like that. Some of the fathers fled and went back home, to work, or to a local bar. There were no cell phones to provide him updates or to issue the command to return. Often, a family member had to find him hoping he was still able to think clearly.
I wonder how many men in this country have the slightest notion of the 10 centimeter goal for the diameter of dilation prior to delivery. As a science major in college also working full-time with close tolerances in a factory, I knew that it was about 4 inches. I know that for most men 4 inches seems decidedly unimpressive but just imagine any opening of your body getting that large for any purpose! What many men do not understand, even if they can envision 10 centimeters, is that we are talking about the dilation of the cervix, the mouth of the uterus, an opening that is quite small most of the time – a tiny opening about the diameter of a pencil.
Once I had the opportunity to look I realized that we were probably going to have a very long wait. Hours later I could finally see the top of my daughter’s head. I called the nurse and she let us know that in a few more hours it might be “time”! Eventually (and that’s not nearly a strong enough word – I’ll try again) – – – In an eternity our family doctor walked in, took a look at the dilation and said these words, “Well, let’s get the block and tackle, jack her up, and yank that outta there!” I was then directed to the waiting room – exempted from the remainder of the procedure. I didn’t know about episiotomies (you might have to look that up) nor about the giant tongs (the sanitized term is forceps) that were going to put a dent in our daughter’s head and that she truly was going to get yanked outta there!
A few days ago I didn’t think too much about the exclusiveness of Mother’s Day because in the 10 months since my mother died, almost every day has been mother’s day in my mind. There are some mothers who don’t get much attention during the other days of the year. My mother was one who got plenty thanks to my understanding family and mother’s willingness to move close to us after my step-father died. Yet, as her emphysema progressed, no amount of love, time, attention, expertise, or money, could save her life.
16 years ago, as my son was in residence in his mommy’s womb, my second wife suffered a detached retina. Emergency surgery was absolutely necessary in order to retain the sight of that eye. She knew that general anesthesia would increase the risk of her losing her baby. So that brave lady endured over three-and-a-half hours of eye surgery just on local injections to dampen the pain. They actually had to remove her eye from the socket to work on it! I wonder how many men would do that? My reaction probably would have been, “Knock me out! I’ll take my chances!” That event earned my wife an additional ranking in my eyes – that of an extraordinary hero.
Mother’s day has passed for this year. But I encourage you – if it is possible, please express your appreciation to her often. If you were raised by your biological mother, especially if you were born after 1973 in the U.S.A. – though it might not have ever entered her mind – she didn’t have to bring you into this world. She could have legally terminated you. Aren’t you glad she didn’t?
Yes – mothers are indeed special –whether biological or otherwise. Even if you are among those who never knew your biological mother – perhaps because of circumstances that led to adoption, don’t think that stretching to beyond 10 centimeters or the alternative abdominal surgery was the ultimate sacrifice for her. It wasn’t. Carrying you to term was probably no “piece of cake” and if she played no role in raising you, don’t think for a minute that she has not agonized over not having kept you; probably her primarily consideration in turning you over to someone else was doing what was best for you. So – in my way of thinking – that was the ultimate sacrifice – letting someone else have you for your sake. If she doesn’t know you, remember that she probably thinks of you every day and prays for your well-being. And, if you are an adopted child I hope you consider that there’s little chance you were “unwanted” by the lady who raised you. She must really love you so very deeply. What a very special relationship that must be.
My mother still called me her “baby” until the day she died. Parenting doesn’t end when the child has grown up and left the home. I was able to retire from my job as a full-time college science professor but mother never could retire from being a mother. She said that it gave her something to live for those last years when she was living alone. She called me her “pride and joy” yet scolded me when I had it coming. Once a parent – always a parent; that is Nature’s way. Don’t deprive your mother of that right. Respect her and try your best to see her side when you have differences of opinion. On my first birthday my mother was 17; I was not even 6 percent her age. On my 17th birthday I was half her age. When she died I was over 80 percent her age. You see – I was catching up with her! Consequently, as the years went by we understood each other with more clarity and we became more “alike”.
Don’t exclude your mother from too much of your life. If she is still alive then you have never been her age. In other words, whatever your age, you have not yet been where she is. But – she HAS been your age and it’s most likely that she has been in most of the same spaces you have occupied, especially on the emotional level. Trust that no matter how she acquired it, she probably has you out-classed in the wisdom department. Please give her the respect she deserves and don’t be timid about expressing your gratitude – even if she implies that it was nothing.
For those of you who are curious about this photo: This was taken during the time that my lifelong interest in open-wheeled racing began. After WWII my father took us to many midget races at a variety of tracks in Southern California. On this particular afternoon a gentleman came through the stands looking for a “good looker” to present the trophy to and plant a lip kiss upon the winner of the feature race. Mother was quickly noticed and just as quickly declined the invitation. She wasn’t shy about being in front of people but she was shy about kissing a sweaty total stranger with whom she had no involvement. My father was upset because he really enjoyed “showing off his young prize.” He insisted that she be a “good sport” and got pretty loud about it. I’m fairly sure that it was alcohol enhanced behavior on his part. To keep the peace, mother agreed.
This is where the fun began. Though you can’t tell by the photo, mother was pretty bent out of shape out there at the finish line – upset that my dad pushed her to do something she preferred not to do. So – when the time came – she planted a real whopper on Gib Lilly’s lips. As she withdrew, displaying a knock out smile of pleasure, she nailed him with another even bigger Hollywood-style romantic kiss! There is no doubt in my mind that Gib enjoyed every bit of that ceremony.
I remember this well because she won that round. My dad was absolutely bent out of shape. Never, in similar circumstances afterwards, did he ever try to draw attention to her when it came time for a track representative to find the trophy presenter of the day. At least in that arena, he respected her wishes a bit more. My Mother was one special woman. Here is an image of her with me in November 1979 at the wedding of my lovely wife and myself: