Panorama of San Bernardino

Monday, March 14, 2011


My seventy year old mother Judy has a crush.  She has always had a fondness for old white men in cowboy hats. 

My dad John was a cowboy and my mom loved him to distraction.  She admitted to me that she loved him more than us girls.  My dad died more than five years ago and we buried him with his "Big John" belt buckle. 

I think my mom yearns for someone to take care of her.  She always has.

My grandmother died when my mom was only fourteen from complications with diabetes.   My mom was devastated and tried to throw herself in the coffin at her mother's funeral.

My grandfather had a new woman before his dead wife was in the ground.  He put my mom in a convent to live.  My mom was depressed and her brothers convinced their dad to let her come back home after a year.  When my mom returned from the convent, she responded with a teenage rebel yell and caroused the streets with her best friend Tilly looking for love in all the wrong places.  My mom had no shortage of suitors with her dark skin, short skirts and beehive hair.

At sixteen, my mom got married to a boy named Leroy and by eighteen she was divorced.  She said she didn't love him and that he bored her.

At twenty, my mom got pregnant by Jerry and at twenty one she became a mother.  Their son David was born deaf and my mom's relationship with Jerry lasted only months past her twenty first birthday. 

Two years later, my mom married a man named Frank.  She thought it was a good idea, David needed a father.  She divorced him within three weeks because he bossed her around.
When my mom met my dad, she was twenty six and living in Oregon trying to get David into a deaf school.  All of her family was back in California and she struggled to pay the rent.  When my mom met my dad at a honky tonk bar, he offered her a place to stay and she took him up in it.  He told her that he would take care of her and her little boy.

David was only five when he got hit by a car and died.  My mom clung to my father in her grief.  My dad knew what it was like to lose a child because his ex-wife (also named Judy) killed his daughter Debbie when she was a toddler.

After David died, my mom and dad moved to Montana to be closer to my dad's two girls Barbara and Roberta who lived with his ex-wife Tiny in South Dakota.  My mom tried in vain to get pregnant for years.  To hear her tell it, God answered her prayers.  She promised God that she would take her kids to church every Sunday. 

My mom found out she was pregnant with twins when she was almost thirty.  We were born in 1971.  My mom says my dad was overjoyed and they wheeled us around Great Falls in a twin stroller dressed in identical snow outfits.  Only my mom could tell the difference between Jackie and I.  She said my head always lolled to the side.  We cried so much that we gave my mom headaches. 

Six months later, my mom found out she was pregnant again and convinced my dad to move to California to be closer to her family.  Annie was born in Orange County in 1973.  My mom said Annie was a perfect baby because she never cried. 

When my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at age sixty nine, my mom was in a state of disbelief.  She thought he could be cured.  The day he died she hugged me for the first time in years and wailed his name.

When my mom moved in a couple of months ago even the smallest things would annoy me.  Her coffee cups left around the house half full.  Empty sugar packets scattered on the counter tops. The front door left wide open.  She talked during my television shows.  She set off the alarm every morning.

For some reason, my mom doesn't annoy me as much anymore.  Maybe it's because she tries so hard to be nice to me, even when I'm irritable.  Maybe it's because she is a companion to my mother in law and drives her to the senior citizen center in Fontana.  Maybe because I see how hard my mom struggles for her independence and how lonely she is.  

My mom goes dancing every Saturday night with her singles club at the American Legion in West Covina.  I picture the group of them dancing to the oldies.  In my mind's eye, I see my mom jumping and waving her hands in the air to the fast songs.  Her rhythm is always off. 

A slow song comes on.  My mom asks a man in a cowboy hat to dance.  His arms wrap around her as they sway to the music.  She leans her head on his shoulder and sighs.

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