I love my mom.
There. I said it. Out loud. I will always say it and I will always mean it.
Today is Mother’s Day. I will be seeing her later on and celebrating, of course, but first, I thought I’d share with all of you the little things that make her, “The World’s Greatest.” Let’s go back to the beginning, shall we?
From the moment I was born, it was me and her. I was the first born (I am the oldest of 5 children). Sure, my mom became married. I had a father. Still do, but there isn’t much to say about him and I won’t. The story about me being raised in life has everything to do with my mom.
This sounds crazy, but I still remember 30 years ago, just us playing with my toy cars. I still remember getting that dump truck toy and going nuts whenever it was garbage day and seeing those garbage trucks outside. I remember her reading to me. I remember her making me laugh.
As I got a little bit older, I remember us moving to Fredonia, from Belgium. It was then me and my sister, Lex. Just the three of us. My mom had always wanted 10 children. Ten! She worked full time. She was also a full time mom. A full time cook. A full time cleaner. A full time scolder. A full time teacher of life.
Soon after Lex, Justin was born. And then there were three children. The three amigos. Along the way, attention started drifting solely from me, to two other siblings. And rightly so. Every child needs attention, and care, and love. We always had fun. We always got into trouble. Mostly, it was me though. Around this time I started to act out. I started to wish it was just me and my mom again. A true momma’s boy I was. I would sabotage my brother’s toys. I would throw a soda can in the air because I knew they exploded, only to have it come falling down and slicing Lex’s head open.
A bad ass momma’s boy, indeed. At age 6 or 7.
School would start up for me a little after Elizabeth was born. So, now there were four children running around, all within a year or so of each other. Suddenly, I was the oldest of four. Yet, I still remained a little baby.
I remember waiting for the school bus in front of our house every single morning with my mom. Back in Fredonia, my father used to have a gas station in town (Watry’s), right down the street. My mom would visit in between the day or while we waited for the bus. She just had to see me get on though. At least, in my mind, not hers. One day, I saw the bus coming up ahead and she was still down by my father. I started waving her to come hurry. I would not get on that bus until she was there to see me off. And so, I stood waiting for her to come up as the bus driver sat there, waving me in.
The ultimate momma’s boy, you bet!
While in school, I was considered a smart kid, but had zero care. I was very artistic, which I inherited from my mom. She of the interior design degree, me of the public school of hard knocks. Haha, not really. It was Ozaukee, here, in Fredonia, WI. That’s about as small town conservative as it gets. I just wanted to create things, be like her. I wanted to be the best artist I could.
She would always help with my projects. She would chaperone any field trip we had. And I would cling to her during these. I was proud to have her come with and say that she was my mom. She would, after all, work a mix of second and third shift so that she could be available during the day. And for field trips.
Working from the evening until the hours of the early morning. All throughout all of us kid’s time in school. And she would see us off in the morning, as always. She would then run errands, go shopping, clean up the mess we made in the house and then maybe nap for a bit before we came home from school. And when we came home, there was always food waiting for us. Always. Dinner was served and looking back, how lucky were we?
The best part of my day was just coming home and hanging around her.
After those couple hours, she would head off to work. Rinse and repeat. For about 20 years or however long we were all in school, from me down to Elizabeth. There were many times she would take off or go in late to see all of our sports games, dance recitals, take us to whatever lame jobs we had after school. Or pick us up from practice.
She would be the one to do all of this. She would take me to Brewers games, Bucks games, Packers games. The movies. Shopping. Out to eat. Take us to concerts. A ride to anywhere we wanted to go, or be picked up from. At any moment. Just anything you can imagine. It was always her. She would do it all. She held us together and tried to keep us in our own world, safe from the outside world. It started to backfire though, as I started to change. The pressure was always on. We had to be on. We had to be perfect, I felt.
I just couldn’t make her proud enough, in my head. Around high school, I really stopped caring for school and sports. My father had driven me completely out of sports altogether (read here for my basketball story: Hoop Dreams and a Final Shot). I had up and quit everything. Nothing was fun anymore. I started blaming everyone but myself. I resented everyone.
I still enjoyed all the things she taught me though, so I was conflicted. My mom taught me everything. How to read. How to write. How to draw. How to fix things. How to shave. How to talk to a girl. How to drive… while being pregnant with her 5th and final child, Gabrielle.
When Gabrielle was born, I was 17 years old, a junior in high school. It was a weird feeling. Suddenly, I felt like a father figure of sorts. I was still in school but I was tasked with the babysitting when my mom went to work (of course my sisters helped and did more than I, though). The feeding, changing diapers and every night, I would see her off to sleep as I watched basketball on TV. I still remember her always waking up in the middle of the night and wanting to watch Iron Man with me.
“Noah” would be my youngest sister’s 3rd word. “Momma” being first, of course, and then second was the word “Hot.” I know, weird right? But my mom is always in the kitchen. Always. There is not a day that goes by where she is not baking, or cooking something. So, she was probably always telling Gabrielle not to touch (as if a baby could somehow touch the top of a stove that was 3 feet high). Hot.
I can only assume my name was her third word because I was still, always getting yelled at. During this time, I was home mostly, but still kept to myself. I didn’t go to parties. I didn’t drink. I didn’t smoke. I didn’t do drugs. In high school, I never tried any of those things. I had no interest in them. I saw firsthand what it did to my father.
Still, I just had this depression about me. I don’t know what it was, but I just didn’t feel like acting right. I would get in trouble every day at school. I didn’t feel like trying. I didn’t feel like doing anything. And while I loved my mom, I just didn’t feel like we were all a family. Like it was every kid for himself, as we all had our own agendas, and interests in life. Mine was being out on my own, doing what I wanted.
Every kid goes through some phase of this, I believe. In lashing out, seeking attention. Acting like he knows everything. Feeling unloved, when the reality is, we couldn’t be more loved.
I look back, and I’ll never get those years back. I’ll never be able to go back to school and get straight A’s, which I could have done in my sleep if I wanted. Hell, I would do my friends homework and art projects because I wanted them to get good grades over myself. I just didn’t care enough. It was middle and high school. I was graduating no matter what. To me, having fun was what mattered.
I would dye my hair. Almost every month it was a new color. I would marker my arms because I wanted tattoos. I still played sports with friends outside during the day. I biked a lot. I picked up skateboarding. I played videogames to no end at night. I just did whatever I wanted, and pushed everyone else away.
I remember at night, when I was little, waiting up for my mom to come home. Every time she came home she would come into each of our rooms and check on us. Sometimes, I would pretend to be asleep, as if I was tricking her or something. But I was awake. And once she came home at 2 or 3 in the morning, only then could I go to sleep.
And then there were the times she knew I was awake and we would talk about my day or I’d ask her all kinds of questions. She was the only one I could go to. Back then, and even now.
Getting back to high school life though. Once that ended, I took a year off to just chill and not do anything but have more fun. Eventually, I decided to go to college, at MATC for criminal justice (not funeral service, which deep down is what I really wanted). I guess I got caught up in wanting to be James Bond or a member of SWAT. As if some way a punk ass kid like me was going to make it in that.
Well, a punk I remained, as I then got into a lot of things that will haunt me to this day. For those first couple of years, I truly did whatever I wanted and could. I tried and did everything I swore against in high school. I went astray from being that momma’s boy. I shut her out and just became the bad ass. I won’t go into details, but there were a lot of things I did, tried, saw, became a part of, in which case, I shouldn’t even be here now.
I was in self destruct mode.
Twice I dropped out of school. I went through a lot of bad decisions and situations that I wish on no one. And it was all on me. I had found the game of poker, and was making money hand over fist (Life Is a Gamble When I’m All About My Poker Chips). I had legitimately been making a thousand bucks, easy, a week. And when you give a kid that kind of money who wants to experience the world, nothing but good came from it. But through it all, my mom was the last one standing. She was the one who kept saving me. Kept fighting for me, when I didn’t even want to fight, myself. She was the one who kept believing in me and trying to get me to realize it.
I will never get back those years in college now. I will never be able to say by age 20 I had a degree. I will never be able to say that my past doesn’t haunt me. I will never be able to say I did things the right way in life. But I will be able to say that I rectified those poor decisions because of my mom. I am able to say that my mom withstood all that I had to give back in hell, fire and brimstone. Everything I said or did or acted out on, I knew that. I knew better.
I knew that she was there for me, when no one else was, and all I wanted was to just get back to where I know I could be. Even on those many nights I would be out partying or doing things I shouldn’t have been, I had to get home. In the back of my mind, I always knew better.
“Just go home, Noah. Just get home and it will be alright.”
I would tell myself this every night, and I’d still go out and make poor decisions. I knew better. I know right from wrong. My mom raised me well enough that I always knew what I had to do in life, I just never did it. I don’t know why, still. But I always knew that if I just made it home, it’d be ok for the time being. Just as I would wait up for her, she would wait up for me. Even though I’d come home and give her nothing, I’m sure just knowing I made it home alive was consolation enough.
Not ideal, but the compromise we both subconsciously made to one another. I would make it home, one way or another. And she wouldn’t pry into my life anymore. Only, I wanted her to pry. I wanted her to save me. But I had to save myself first. It took a couple of years, but I was able to do so.
I wanted my mom to be proud of me again. My younger siblings were graduating college themselves by now. They had things they were doing in life that were positive and not destroying their mother’s heart. I wanted her to see me in a great and beautiful light once again.
It would take the remaining years of my twenties to do so, but I did it. I restored my credit. I held a job, even doing one I enjoyed very much in welding. I was able to gain everyone’s trust back again. The one thing that was missing, however, was finishing my degree. This became the final step to what I deemed necessary to complete my journey back, for my mom.
I promised her I would go back to school and finish my degree. Only, it wouldn’t be in criminal justice. I would go back and help people. I would go back and pay back my debts to society forever, by being there for people in their worst moment. I would go back to school and become a funeral director. This is what I had an interest in many years ago (from a high school field trip) and this is what I still thought about. I even wrote, in two parts about this very thing: The Rockstar Mortician vs. The World and A Humbling Foray Into Funeral Service.
I was going to take my heart and give it back to the world. While I couldn’t undo what I had done before, I could always make someone’s future a little bit better. I could send everyone off the way they deserve. However a family wants their story to be told, and shown and seen by the world, is exactly what I will do. I had my chances and I blew it, but I will not let others fall to the same fate.
Throughout my time at school, all I wanted to do was just make it. For her. One more step and then I could say I completed my journey, to make my mom proud once again in my life. She did absolutely everything she could in life, for me. For all of us. And she still does, but we’re all adults now (Gabrielle is 16). We all have to make our own decisions and live with the consequences.
But she made this possible. I graduated, and the greatest moment of my life is walking out into that gymnasium, looking into the crowd, searching for her and then finding her, cheering me on. Waving to me. Taking as many pictures as she possibly could. I teared up and tried to soak it all in. This was my moment in name, but it was more for her than it was for me.
I made it mom. It was all because of you. And it was all for you. I’ll never be able to reverse time, and pay you back… but I’ll always be your bad ass momma’s boy.