Some late college nights when sleep simply was not possible, I’d hope in my car and drive the starlit hours to my parents’ home. Having my own set of keys, I’d let myself in long after they had retired for the night. Before I could close their front door behind me, I’d hear the bed creak from above, then the sound of footsteps. No fear of being shot by my father as a late night prowler, for these steps were as easily recognizable as a familiar heart beat to a new born. Crossing quickly, though quietly to the bottom of the stairs, I looked up, knowing the face that would be there. Always there, always gently waiting, full of faith and hope in me, she whispered from the top of the stairs, “are you alright son.” “Yes Mom, just felt like coming home.” “Need anything,” she asked. “No, I’m good,” is my answer. “See you when the sun comes up then,” as she returns to my father’s side. Long after we’re new born, a Mother’s touch can electrify us into action, cross our palm, even long after its necessary, hear us out without judgment and calm our very soul with a gentle touch. On one of those drop-ins in ‘68, awakening to my Mother’s gentle hand and soft voice whispering, “Bobby’s been shot,” then turning on my TV, she silently left the room.
Less than a dozen years later, taking a break from NYC TV land, I hit the road to drop in on another great Mother, who was then, as now, married to my best friend. Living in nearby New Jersey, with their new 3 or 4 year old, there had been few nights out alone, so I offered to babysit, especially because their son refused to say any version of Mom, preferring “Bah” instead. So off they went for movie date. The “Bah” boy was the first of three sons to this duet of performing artists, and even after his work with Navy Seals training Dolphins for combat, serving with the Capital Police and creating what I call, “Hard Art” by bending steel bars into creative shapes, using only his body, which is usually packing, he’s never forgotten the babysitter who taught him how to say, “Mama,” to his Mother when she returned home that night three decades ago.
Racing from one city to another this week, I dropped in on my dearest friends again. Nearing the end of our beautiful catching up dinner time together, his Dad spoke uncharacteristically softly. The “Bah” son has qualified for one of those Blackwater like private paramilitary companies “training” Afghans in Afghanistan. His Mother simply asked that I pray for him. Does any Mom ever get past “Kangaroo Care?”
On drop-ins to see Mom these days, she’s often sleeping in her home of 35 years, many times blissfully unaware of all the specifics and details of what our world has become. As I wonder what she would think of Mothers like Jan Brewer and Sarah Palin, she wakes to the sound of my voice, clearly not recognizing my face, but I keep talking. Sometimes an hour later, she will suddenly turn to me with a gentle, “Oooooh,” and reaching out with both hands, take mine and squeeze so hard, with eyes that cry out, “are you alright son?”