Insight For The Modern Man

Eric Louie
MDI Contributor

My mom passed 10 years ago.

I look back fondly with memories of a few favorite stories.

I have one story from a visit she made to San Diego once. I had been there for a year or so, bought a house, and she came down to visit. I can’t remember if dad came with her. She was thrilled that I was a homeowner; she might have came for the housewarming. She got a chance to meet my friends, some of them members of my Men’s Team at the time. The men who met her found her to be friendly, easy to talk to, and she was genuinely interested in who they were and what they did.  Everyone I talked to complemented me on her as a great person, and they could see her in me. 

I was proud of mom during that visit.  It was at that point where I came to the realization that I could not have had a better mom. There’s a theory that men will tend to gravitate toward marrying a woman like their mother. I have always been attracted to women who have her qualities. The stories I would hear, of other people who suffered with their mothers always put a hurt in my heart, because of the care and love I always received, and the pride I always had, towards my mom.

One of the favorite vacation stories with my mom …

I bought an RV shortly after moving into that house and decided to embark on a journey to Yellowstone National Park (from San Diego, via Washington State so I could pick up my two sons). 

Everything that could go wrong went wrong – water pump failure (the motor home part, not the engine), gas leak, gas line clog (limiting it to a 10-15 mph maximum speed, towing a car) and just the stress of sleeping in an RV for two weeks. 

Yet, during that vacation with myself, my fiancee at the time, and my two sons (9 and 10 years old), she never had a cross word, a down moment, no discouragement, no advice to “cheer up, it could be worse,” nothing like that. She was supportive, never complained, had a great attitude, distracted the boys when things got tense, and made sure everyone felt comfortable. Meals were fun, spirits were light, generosity was never questioned, and moments, while sometimes serious, always worked out for the best.

With the buffalo, Old Faithful, deer, stags, trees, fish in rivers, and Golden SpikeIt, it was one of the most enjoyable and memorable vacations I’ve ever had.

So with little twist from an exercise from a men’s event that some of us have attended, I proudly say: “Thank you mom, for bringing me up to be a good citizen, a responsible father, and a dutiful son. I hope, as you see me from heaven, that I’m making you proud for what I’ve decided to do with my life. It’s ironic that this month, April, is the 10-year anniversary of your death. So, I leave you with a little essay I wrote almost 10 years ago, on the eve of your unexpected passing.”

APRIL 2011

I have to write this now. I just had a life-changing experience. Many of you have already experienced it and I’m beginning to relate to you. It was inevitable, but many people say “there is nothing that prepares you for it.” They are correct. My mom died suddenly on the afternoon of April 12, 2011. She was 79 years old.

She was an incredible woman. Joyful, intelligent, high standards, high energy, considerate, caring, generous, kindhearted, outgoing, patient, funny, everything you would really ever want in a person. She had a good ear for people and also a good sense of character. She lived her life basically above reproach – you would never be able to accuse her of anything improper, ever. She gave 2nd chances over and over again. She was a proud person, and held herself in high esteem. She loved her sons, her grandsons, her granddaughter, her daughters-in-law, and her husband of 51 years. And yes, as I remember her, the tears are beginning to roll. You couldn’t have asked for a better mother. Or grandmother. Or wife. Or friend, which is what she became for me in the past few years.

She really believed in her sons, all four of them. She believed they could achieve, conquer, overcome, succeed. And she gave us every weapon, every tool, every resource available to her to give. She stood by her husband “for better and for worse.” The stories of the early days, the struggles, the hardships, were always fascinating to hear, as she’d talk about working full time, and coming home to cook and mother her sons. The stories always got an injection of humor from “Lumpy Grumpy” (my cousins’ nickname for my dad).

In the past few years, I had a relationship with her that was partly son, partly therapist. She would talk to me about what troubled her about me, about my sons, about my dad and brothers. She would give me the updates on how my brothers and dad were doing. And she never needed my input – she just needed one thing.  My ear. And I was so glad in these past few years to be able to give that to her, and to “support” her – I didn’t always agree with her, but I never disagreed with her.  Fond memories of these past few years – When I still smoked cigarettes, she would smoke with me when I visited her. I’d ask her “when was the last time you smoked?” and she’d answer, “the last time you were here”, which might have been 6 months or a year ago. And that was sort of our “bonding time”.  When I came “home”, I always asked her to put together a list of stuff she needed done, and then I’d go about doing it when I got there. Sort of my way of being useful to her.

Her passion was her yard. And if you ever saw it, you were amazed. She was an artist when it came to plants.  It was her church, as she would say in recent years.  It was not unusual for her to spend 6-8 hours in that back yard, pulling weeds, moving plants, pruning, planting, watering, feeding, trimming, composting. She got peace, and a sense of purpose and connection with those plants. She expressed herself out there.

I’m going to miss her. I already do. She was such a positive influence on my life. She was a great teacher – I learned so much from her, cleaning, dishes, cooking, laundry, and life. There are situations that she was informed of that shed a bad light on me, but she really tried to give me the benefit of the doubt (another 2nd chance). And damn, all I ever wanted to do was make her proud of me. I hope I did that once or twice in my life. There will be more for me to share, later, after I process this initial shock.

But for now, bye, mom. I love you.