This is a spot quiz. Who is making the following statements?
You look too much like your father to be my child.
There is nothing for nice girls to do past midnight.
I'm not here to entertain you.
Am I talking to a brick wall?
Eat those carrots - they're good for your eyesight.
You had better wipe that smile off your face before I do.
Did you flush?
I worry about you.
You can be anything you want to be if you just set your mind to it.
You just have big bones.
What have I done to deserve such ungrateful children?
But you have a beautiful complexion.
Do you think money grows on trees?
As long as you live under my roof, you'll do as I say.
I hope someday you'll have children just like you.
Don't talk with your mouth full!
Do I embarrass you?
If you slouch like that, you'll get a hump in your back.
I'm not just talking to hear my own voice.
I love you.
If you guessed the Internal Revenue Service, you were wrong. The above quotes have to do with raising human beings — mom division. Repetitions required for successful implementation of one idea into the pubescent human skull — ten thousand times.
Being a mom has always struck me as a certifiably lousy job. Look at it this way: Say you have just graduated from San Diego State and are being recruited by IBM, AT&T, Bank of America, Boeing and somebody who wants you to raise a human child person. The raising the human child guy says the career requires 30 years of oversight, a lifetime of responsibility, hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenditure and pays nothing. If you do the job right, the human child person might forgive you for your efforts after 40 years and fix your front door when you become too old to remember your name.
Given those facts, what you would do? You'd run to a minimum wage job at Arby's and consider yourself lucky to have dodged that bullet. The real miracle of life is the miracle that any two adults would agree to be parents. But most people do. The amazing thing is that so many parents, in this case, mothers, do so well. They do well enough that the above homilies are recognizable to anyone who has read this far.
But not all of us can read this far.
"My right leg was busted."
At one in the afternoon, Glenn is drunk. He's hobbling down Fifth Avenue in downtown San Diego. There is something wrong with his right leg. Glenn seems young; I figure him for 35. He's tall, six foot three, lanky, has short dirty blond hair and a four-day stubble. Glenn wears a denim jacket and long pants on an 85-degree day. I put the afternoon's topic on the table, "Tell me about your mother. What kind of a woman is she?"
Glenn sits down on the sidewalk, leans against a building, "She was French and English."
"What sort of personality did she have? Was she funny, sad, bubbly, quiet?"
"She stabbed my father with a butcher knife when I was nine years old in Alabama. My
dad worked for Daniel Construction." The red glaze covering Glenn's eyes brightens.
"Did she kill him?"
Glenn looks down the street, regards a near-empty bottle of wine sitting on the curb next to a double-parked FedEx truck. "No. He went back to Saudi Arabia and worked for a petroleum corporation."
"What happened to your mom?"
"I saved her life in 1970 from a .22 pistol in Augusta, Georgia. She is alive today. She works in the Georgia civil service - 23 years of it. She makes $100,000 a year. She forgot that I saved her life in 1970 when I was 15 years old."
Glenn is studying the sidewalk crack in front of his right boot. I'm feeling a little dizzy from the abrupt time jumps. "Exactly how did you save her life?"
"She stabbed him in the back and he left her and she was grieving because she lost one of the best men to walk the face of the earth. He's dead now."
"How did you save her life in 1970?"
"I took the .22 pistol away from her."
"She was going to kill herself?"
"Yep. I threw her .22 pistol in the swamp and I left."
"You left home?"
"I left a couple of times."
"Okay. Try and remember when you were a child. Did your mommy play with you? Monopoly, Scrabble, that sort of thing?"
"I was molested as a child."
"Did she molest you?"
"Did she know that you were molested?"
"Probably, I don't know."
Glenn turns his attention back to the wine bottle. I am intruding. Time to wrap this up. "Okay, in closing, do you have any words for your mother on Mother's Day? Is there anything you would like to say to her, something forgiving, healing, something to close the old circle?"
Glenn looks at me for the first time. "Why?"
I move south on Fifth. Today is hot, a record breaker they say. This is a day that explains why people move to California. A block down the street on my right I spy a tiny man in his 50s. He looks leprechaun-ish, five foot four, red hair, red beard, carrying a black garbage bag over his shoulder. "Hi. Tell me about your mom." By now I understand that I don't need a long-winded introduction.
Edwin Lynn Hill replies, "It was $200."
I think for a long moment. "Was it stolen from you?"
"I was counting it and I was going to put it back in my wallet and somebody walked down the street. It was one in the afternoon, broad daylight. He just took it and ran. I couldn't catch him. I got no place to go."