It’s 1989. Mom and I are sitting out on her apartment deck, infuriating the hummers who have dibs on feasting on her flourishing fuchsias in hanging baskets above our heads.
“I have a hunch about him,” Mom says to me lowering her voice, meaning her downstairs neighbor. “I think he’s spying on me. Listening at the walls.”
Oh, no – not Augie again.
My mother was an astute observer of human behavior and often her hunches were right. She could spot a phony politician in three seconds. But Augie? He just seemed shy, quickly said hello, and then disappeared into his apartment whenever I encountered him.
“How exactly?” I ask. “His apartment is directly under yours.”
“I wouldn’t put it past him to figure out a way.” Now she’s whispering. “He’s always lurking on his deck when I’m sitting out here with someone.” She mouths “eavesdropping” and vigorously points downward.
The Augie spying saga was a regular topic each visit. My mother was generally fun, funny, and fun loving. And while we had healed most of our early contentious history, this ongoing scenario reminded me of two of her less-desirable aspects – she was often worried about something or mad at somebody. Poor Augie.
On this Day in 2023, I prefer to remember my Mom when I was in tenth grade. I’d been invited to a party and was standing in the kitchen doorway, working the “nothing to wear” routine.
“Okay,” Mom said. “Let’s go.”
“What? now? You’re in the middle of cooking dinner.”
“No problem. I’m tired of hearing you whine.” She gave me her I’ve-called-your-bluff infuriating smile, took off her apron, turned the stove off, gave the stew a stir, and put the lid on.
“What about Dad?”
“What about him? He’s buried in the newspaper with his scotch, like always. The house could catch on fire and he wouldn’t notice.”
And we were off in the car like two escaping teenagers, heading for the local Famous-Barr twenty minutes away. We giggled and shopped and giggled on the way home. This is the mom I love remembering. To say she was a hoot doesn’t do her justice.
Not long after the Augie saga, my mother did something so brave that it still brings me waves of love and admiration for her.
Unlike peers I know who’ve had “the talk” with their parents or taken the car keys due to their advanced age, Mom decided, on her own at age 76, that she’d had enough. She was a vigorous walker, lived close to stores, had a good bus system to rely on, and had me and others for large shopping trips.
I see this taking responsibility now, at my age, as one of the more poignant losses of cherished independence. One of life’s 180-degree experiences. On the opposite end of when getting that beloved driver’s license felt like having your whole life ahead of you.
Without a word to anyone, my mother worked with Gina, the apartment complex manager and good friend, to find a buyer for her elderly, bulbous Chevy sedan. As you might guess, it was purchased by a twenty-something who had love at first sight. “He said it’s so cool, so retro, whatever that means,” Mom told me later.
What she hadn’t noticed was Augie seeing her in distress, wiping tears, as she watched her car being driven away.
“He came over to me, ‘Mrs. Allen are you okay,’ put his hand on my shoulder, and said ‘I understand.’ I would have never guessed he was such a kind person.
“He told me that he’d given up his car after he was a hit in a crosswalk and never fully recovered the use of his right leg. That’s the reason why he walks so funny,” Mom said, with regret in her voice for all she’d said about him. All hunches erased in that moment. “And, they never caught the bastard who knocked him down.”
After that the Augie stories involved them having coffee at the apartment clubhouse a few times, talking plants and politics, and if he was out on his deck she stopped watering the fuchsias and caught the water in a bucket rather than letting it drip below. She even shared her noteworthy homemade zucchini bread with him now and again.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom – I don’t need a special day to remember you.
Photo credits: Hearts – freestocks, Open Sign – mike-petrucci, Keys -jozef-hocza, Chevy – cortney-cook, Best Mom Ever – karolina-bobek