Camden, today on “Coffee with Kev” I would like to talk to you about calling your mom. I will wait a minute for you to pour yourself a cup. Ready? Here we go.
I know that you are a little young to comprehend what I am trying to say here today. One day you will get it. So, let me explain.
Just like you I have a mom. Yes, I do. You know her as Grandma Oneta. She is your great grandmother. She is my mom.
I spoke to Grandma Oneta recently over the phone. We talk every few weeks. Not often enough according to her. She is probably right.
We talk about all kinds of things. We talk about my garden. We talk about you and your family. We always talk about the Cardinals. We also talk about our health. Yes, as you get older it appears that you spend time talking about your aches and pains.
Grandma Oneta will be 80 years old soon. People think that she must be older because I am getting close to 61. She was a young mother. She was almost 19 when I was born. Remember Camden that the first child can be born at any time. The second one takes nine months. Wink…wink.
When my parents were married was kept a secret for many years. They did not want me to figure out that I was sort of present at the wedding.
Your Great Uncle Keith figured it out. He told me. I was too busy playing ball and getting into mischief. He did the math.
I was a little bit of a surprise because my mom had been told by her doctors when she was younger that she would be unable to have children due to her polio.
Polio. Thank God that polio is not a word that you here very often these days. Unfortunately, I understand that it is still common in other countries.
Today we are going through the Covid-19 virus pandemic. When my mom was growing up, they did not have this coronavirus, but they had polio.
Polio is a contagious virus that is also transmitted from person to person. I hope that soon we have this new virus under control like science was able to develop a vaccine for polio. The polio vaccine came many years too late for my mom.
The poliovirus attacks the nervous system causing paralysis. It attacked mom’s spinal cord which left her unable to use her legs. That is why she is in that wheelchair.
When I was growing up, she did not have a wheelchair. She wore braces on both of her legs and used crutches to get around. She got her driver’s license after she was married. She never let not being able to walk stop her.
Of course, I was always a little faster than mom, and I often used that to my advantage. Sometimes I would say things or do things that I should not have done or said. I know that is hard for you to believe, but it did happen.
Why not? She could not catch me. I did learn that I should have done more social distancing around mom when I would say or do things. She might not be able to catch me, but boy she could swing a mean crutch. Ouch! She was a switch hitter or amphibious as I often say, incorrectly. I do have a scar on my right wrist as I tried to block one of those swings. One of the screws on the crutch left a lasting mark. Where was child protective services when I needed them. HAHAHA. I still bring that up to her.
You have only seen her in that motorized wheelchair. She went to the chair after several rotator cuff surgeries. Years of using crutches had taken their toll.
She gets around well in that thing. She goes forward, backwards, up and down. I bet it even slices and dices. I think that chair is the Linda Blair model going around and around. Do not worry if you do not get that Camden, most people will not. I laughed.
I think that chair might also be possessed. Because on a phone call a few weeks ago she told me how that chair broke her leg. Yup, the chair broke her leg.
This is what happened. She drove her chair into the bathroom and when she was transferring from the chair to the toilet her clothes got stuck on the chair control stick thingamajig. She did not have that bad boy in park so when it got a little juice it drove forward and pushed her leg right into the edge of the vanity snapping her leg. Double Ouch!!
Broken so bad that if she had normal use of her legs she would have needed surgery. But in her case, they wrapped an air cast around her leg. She is still in it.
I wanted to have this little talk with you Camden to tell you a little about my mom, and how remarkable she is. I am going to share somethings with you now that your mother, Uncle Justin, nor Aunt Amy know. They will know now. That is what this is about. To give you a little history of your family. Stories that if I do not write them down, well they might never be told. At least not from my perspective. Wink…wink.
When my mom was seven years old, I am sure she was just like most seven-year-old kids. Running and playing on the farm trying to keep up with her two older brothers. Her younger brother was not yet born.
When she was seven, she started falling often. No explanation except that she had fallen out of a swing at school and it was suspected that she might have hurt her back. She saw a chiropractor many, many times. That did not work.
One morning before going to school she walked into the kitchen and fell to the floor. She could not get up. She never walked again.
She was running a high fever and the doctors thought that she had the flu and she was sent home.
Much later at St. Mary’s Hospital in St. Louis the doctors told the family that mom had polio and that she would never walk again.
Mom does not remember much of her life before polio. She remembers the surgeries she went through before having her braces and crutches. Before getting her leg braces she had to be carried everywhere or she scooted on the floor.
She attended a one-room schoolhouse out in the country near Vandalia for grades 1-6. She remembers being treated like all the other kids. Since she could not walk her friends at school would put her in a little red wagon and pull her around. She did not get her braces until she was 11 years old. She persisted.
These are things I want you to know.
Now when mom and I talk on the phone we often talk about the past. I ask questions about things that have happened. She tries to remember.
Yesterday we talked about an uncle who was a midget clown in the Barnum and Bailey Circus. You wonder where I get my height. Uncle Alvee. Not sure of the spelling. Anyway, that is a story for another time.
We talk about current topics and what is new in her life. Sometimes I get upset and frustrated. You see as you get older the child in some respect becomes the parent. That role for me is hard being hundreds of miles away. I am so thankful that she has many good friends who look out for her.
We also talked yesterday about one of her friends that recently died. The fear of death is a worry we both acknowledge. She worries about losing me. I worry about losing her.
The phone calls have increased over the past years. On my trips back to the Homeland I always make sure I stop by her house. That did not always happen. Yes, I may have driven to St. Louis for a ballgame and not stopped. That does not happen anymore. A few times I have showed up she had no idea that I was in the area. I am a little shit.
During one of our phone calls she told me about your last visit to her house. You sat in her lap and she gave you wheelchair rides. Up and down her porch into the driveway. Over and over you rode. She enjoyed your visit. I hope they continue.
Have you finished your coffee yet? I have been doing all the talking. I need to microwave mine. One last thing I want to leave you with today.
I realize that it does not matter how old you and I will get. We both have mothers and we will always be their little boys.
One day you will grow up and have your own family. With that comes new responsibilities and worries. It can be easy to lose touch. No matter how complicated life gets promise me that you will do this:
Call your Mom!
Your life is really blessed. I’m glad you’re able to still talk to your mother. I wish I could do the same on many days.
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Yes Vince, I am truly blessed. I am sorry that you are no longer able to talk to your mom.
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I agree with Vince … I was very close to my mom and it’s been ten years since she passed away. Many days I would love to be able to tell her the outcome of something we spoke of years before. My mom, like yours, had health problems, having been hit by a car at age 11 and developing osteomyelitis. She was hospitalized from age 11 to age 15 and underwent 42 orthopedic operations in her lifetime. She, like your mom, was a trooper. I have no other relatives … my father announced on Christmas Day 1983 that he did not want to be part of the family and took a hike, back to Germany where he came from, but he stopped at the bank and took the money out of an annuity fund and the bank before he left without a trace. This caused my mom and I to become even closer. Call your mom while you have the chance to do so Kevin.