Posts Tagged ‘Tom Cruise’

At 84, Mother is from a generation that in my mind (at least) produced if not many bigger-than-life heroes and villains, a corps of more-than-interesting individuals who’s self-effacing way of conversation is/was inadvertently comedic.

Case-in-point:  Mother and I, while I am driving:

“Billy, It’s so hot out and I’m so thirsty, I could really use some water!”

“Mother, there’s some in the back seat.”  Leaning over, I reach for it.

“Oh, no, Billy. You’re driving!  Don’t worry about me!  I’ll wait till later.  I don’t want us both to die!  I was just thinking out-loud!” No!  No!  It’s alright.  I don’t want you to go out of your way …

I’m so thirsty!”

During the above typical exchange, Mother could have drunk a six-pack of bottled water during the time she told me not to worry about her.

At times, Mother wields this behavior in public places:

buying tickets;

at the check-out in the market;

ordering at a restaurant; and/or

visiting friends, etc.

So as a preemptive measure, my sisters and I attempt to diffuse our slight embarrassments due to what we deem as Mother’s pecadillos by saying just loud enough for anyone nearby to overhear:

“Now, Mother, please don’t make a scene!”

” …. Bring a Change of Clothes”

If I am to believe Mother’s story concerning her relationship with my then future father, on a first date with him, he invited her to a Hollywood premier – an event at which in the late 1940’s would have required a black dress with all the trimmings.  According to Mother, Dad told her, “we are going to stop by Mel Henke’s on the way to help him out – so wear casual clothes and we will change at Mel’s before going out.

Upon arrival at Mel Henke’s, my Dad handed my mother a pitch fork and invited her to start cleaning out the horse stalls.  (This was presumably an attempt in my late father’s mind to weed out women who may have been attracted to him solely on account of his budding celebrity).  However, he didn’t realize that Mother, being from Ohio was no stranger to work (or horses and jack asses).  And quickly, Mel advised him that he better not do anything to scare this girl off; she looked like a keeper.

I guess Mel was right, as the image below would seem to suggest:

Lynn and Bill Leyden

My Father died unexpectedly young, causing a trauma in the family that reverberates softly to this day.  But Mother would continue to raise us while maintaining a youthful outlook and appearance well into her late 70’s:

Mother in her 70s.

Can We Maybe Give Tom Cruise a Break?

My sister Regan probably spends the most time with Mother these days.  An avid reality show afficionado, Mother and she rarely agree on TV viewing.  But according to Regan (and because of a possible penchant for embellishment on my sister’s part, I disclaim any factual accuracy of this story – including whether or not it actually pertains to the named actor, but include it for the purpose of illustrating an otherwise common occurrence) experienced Mother’s wry wit turned outward one day as she was watching a story on the busy life of Tom Cruise as the cameras followed him jetting to several continents in one day for business, sporting and culinary reasons.  Looking up from her reading material, Mother blandly offered an unsolicited question, “I wonder what he is running from?”  Regan replied over laughter, “Mother, he’s after all Tom Cruise; give him a break! — But you may be on to something there!”

“Oh, for Goodness Sake!”

During Mother’s first visit in three years this week last:

“Mother, I’ll take to you lunch, what do you feel like eating?”

“Oh, I don’t care. Just someplace near Target so I can do some shopping for you. You need a spoon holder and a summer tray!”

“Ok, Mother.  That would be the place where you threw up after having the Margarita the other night.”

“No, no! Not there!”

“Ok, then. How ’bout Olive Garden?”

“I don’t care. Whatever you want. I’ve never been to Olive Garden! I just want a salad. Do they have salads?”

“Mother, their salad is all-you-can-eat! They bring it to the table with whatever you order.”

“Oh!  That sounds good”

I have to admit that I was secretly thrilled because I was almost positive that the hostess would be the next immediate candidate for the opportunity to use old faithful:

“Now, Mother.  Please don’t make a scene!”

It worked again.  I think the waitress thought that she was going to have an easy time with these two tourists.  But she was premature.

The waitress began her obsequious, obligatory delivery:

“Hi!  I’m Bippy!  I’ll be your server today.  Can I start you out with something to drink? Or are you ready to order?”

Mother injects,  “I need your help.  Can I get a salad with something on it?  Maybe chicken or shrimp?  You know, like Philippine Adobo?”

“Excuse me? Well, we can put some shrimp on our Spinach Salad! “

Mother says without hesitation, “Great!”

I ordered a Diet Coke and the Chicken Parmesan with the  all-you-eat salad —  and when it came to the table, Mother grabbed the bowl away from the waitress exclaiming, “This looks fan-TAS-tic!!  It’s just what I wanted!”

“That’s your son’s salad!” offered our waitress.

“Oh? Why didn’t you tell me I could get an all-you-can-eat salad?”

The waitress wrestled the all-you-can-eat bowl from my Mother’s grip (otherwise impossible unless as recently weakened by IV’s during cataract surgery) as I looked-on slack-jawed across the table at what I suspected would happen all along: Mother making a scene!

“Oh, for Goodness’ sake! That’s your son’s salad!”

Were We Ever That Young?

As I’m listening to Mother’s worrying, I sometimes invite myself to visualize vignettes of the past, where she seemed bigger than life to me — a strong disciplinarian with all of the answers.  The memories are sometimes accompanied by the imagined drone of the Malibu surf and the smell of honeysuckle.  And I find myself in the same place that my grandfather must have found himself in the autumn of his life — pondering the dichotomy of remembering the past as if it had just occurred and  wondering, ‘who is that man in the mirror staring at me?’  Where Mother and I ever that young?

Mother and Son on Malibu Beach

Remember Me

It has been for me a poignant visit.  Mother has been remembering conversations from her childhood – names and faces of people long passed.  She has been emotional, loving, self-critical and curious about everything.  She wanted to meet and talk with people with whom she felt she had unfinished business — what the shaman would call re-capitulation.

At the time of this writing, I asked Mother to come to the computer to see and to hear what I had written on the off-chance that I had crossed the line.  She seemed more concerned about Tom Cruise.

Suddenly – in a moment of emotion:

” I can’t believe how inflexible and rigid that I have been all of my life!  I could have been much more help to my children when they needed me.  I could have been a much better wife to your Father.  Before he died, I believe we were just starting to understand each other.  I could see what was important to him and he was more tolerant of my spiritual quests.”

As her tears began to well, I reached for the bookshelf and lifted up a small, blue,  hard-bound  book by Emett Fox.

“Mother, this is the book that was in my late Father’s night stand the day he died [in 1970].  The bookmark is where he left it.”

Mother took the book and shielded it from her falling tears.

“Oh, Billy.  Someone tried to give this to me that day, but I couldn’t take it.”

Looking up from the pages, Mother continued,

“I don’t want anyone to cry when I am gone.  I think I want to be cremated, and someone to read that poem about remembering with a smile — you know the one I mean?”

“Not Really,”  I answered.

“You know.  The one by someone Rossetti, with two ‘s’s’ … I’ve tried to show it to your sister, but she won’t listen when I talk this way.  I’ll guess that I’ll just have to wait ’til I get home to find it.”

“One more reason to have an iPad, Mother.”

Trying to remain the collected observer of these emotions in crescendo, I turned slightly away and began searching the Web slightly in front of her, and immediately found the following poem by Christina Rossetti in a list of  ‘poetry read at funerals.’  I began to read it out-loud:

” ‘Remember me when I am gone away ….‘ “

“That’s it!”

I begin to read out-loud again:


Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land:
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you planned:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

Christina Rossetti

Through her tears, Mother says, “Oh, Billy! I have been so inflexible.  Will you forgive me?”

“No need to ask, Mother.  Now, would you like some more coffee?  Or would you just prefer to sit here make a scene?”


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