Friday, May 11, 2012

To My Mom, Thank You ...

At this stage of my life, it is possible to look back, understand and identify the influences that shaped me into being who I am. Those influences include environment, associates, happenstance, teachers, relatives, and, most importantly, parents.

In my case -- mostly -- parent.


Between the ages of zero and 18, I had my father around about half of my life. Sometime around 11 or 12 it was splitsville for Mr. and Mrs. Collins. Dad had his own way of doing things, and his own set of odd and irresponsible dreams to chase. He took off and left my two sisters and me to be cared for exclusively by our mother. Where he was at any given time, I rarely knew. He was in Colorado for a while. Then Michigan, I remember. Who knows where else.

Quite unforgivable actually, but I did ... in time, but that's a story for another post.

It was saddening to see Mom and Dad not together. I remember it well -- particularly the day they told me, "Mike, we're going our separate ways." I was crushed. I am sure that any child that's ever had their parents split knows this feeling.

But here's the crazy thing -- not even a year had passed and I had come to realize that their divorce was for the better. Way better, probably. Seven days a week of an uneventful life was preferable to five days of okay and two days of Hell -- Friday and Saturday. Dad's days to let loose. Yep, I saw some things in those two days that I wish I could unsee, but I can't. In some respects, I think it caused me to grow up a little faster than I otherwise would have, but that wasn't altogether bad.

And through it all, I had a rock...


For all of the crazy, flighty whims of my father, mom was solid as a statue. She ingrained her values and ethics deeply into my being.

I would hold the door open for my elders. I would say "please," "thank you," and "excuse me." I would not litter. I would not lie. I would not steal. I would go to college and get an education. I would lead an honorable and honest life.

I could elaborate, but the important thing is, of all of the above woulds or would nots, I did not ever think of them as either/or choices. These were givens. Musts. Unequivocal truths. I couldn't choose to do otherwise even if I tried, because these truths were so deeply impressed upon me.

I was no angel, that's for certain. Whenever I was a little too troublesome, I got 100% of her ire targeted directly at me and let me tell you ... that did more to ingrain her values into me than anything else!

When I was a youngster, I might get a spanking or a slap on the face every now and then, but in truth, those momentarily surprising (and painful!) punishments left my memory just as soon as the sting wore off. You kind of remember, "Oh yeah, don't sass back to Mom again or you're going to get another one of those lickin's!" but when I got older, I'd receive a punishment 50 times worse than the hardest cheek slap...

The silent treatment.

Well, it wasn't totally silent. It usually started out like this, "Michael, I am so disappointed in you." Followed by a stern glare and a slow, disapproving head shake.

By day three I'd be begging for mercy. I won't do it again. I promise!

Mercy would be granted, life would resume to normal and from that point I knew -- never do that thing again, whatever it was that made her so upset. What a severe punishment, to know that I let down the person that loved me most!

I am proud of my mother to have raised me the way that she did, and I am ever grateful for her strong values. It is wonderful to see those values passed on to my sisters and see how they, too, instill them into their children. I still think of them as sisters, but truthfully, they're mothers now too, and I am equally proud of them.

Happy Mother's Day to all the Moms out there, but especially and  particularly, the ones in my life.



  1. Mike

    You said a lot in these few words. You capture the essence of what was at once a beautiful and, at times, terrifying life time. It's the stuff of great fire side stories by the lake up north. You, your wonderful mom and beautiful sisters lived it. Your dad used to say being in the army during warfare is hours and hours of boredom puntuated with moments of shear terror. Bout captures it. All the best to you guys. Especially your mom she is a tower of strength and compassion.

    Uncle Patrick