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Mind Of Man: What I Learned From My Mother

Oscar Wilde quipped, “Every woman grows up to be her mother: it is her curse. No man does, and that is his.” Men should aspire to the best of their parental units. No dig against fathers. But my mother’s example has made me a better man.

I’m not a momma’s boy, I’m just a man who loves his momma. I try and call once a week. We’re not all up in each other’s businesses, but we’ve got each other’s backs. We are each other’s biggest fans, and we both prefer our beer in bottles.

I like to think I’ve broken Wilde’s curse and grown up to be like her. Maybe I get points for the attempt. Some things you should know up front about Mrs. DeVore: She is a badass, an artist, and a very beautiful lady. She taught me the very basics that a mother should teach her son: how to cook, how to sew, and how to be gentlemen. Most importantly, she taught me to make the most of who you are because you are all you’ve got.

She taught me to root for the underdog, to befriend the misfit, to stand up for those who can’t, are afraid to, or ask for your help. To protect those you love with measured ferocity. Sometimes, it is cosmically right to take a punch for what you believe in, so long as you get right back up.

My mom is Mexican-American, so I grew up a mutt. Having a mother of a different color in the South was challenging to say the least. There were stares, whispers, and I remember being asked during my first birthday party if that nice, brown-skinned woman with the pinata was my maid. “Yes,” I said because I was afraid of being different. It was a small betrayal that I regretted, even after my mom laughed it off. Tough luck, kiddo; I was different whether I liked it or not. If my mother was bothered by what people thought of her, her kids, or her husband, I’ll be damned if she ever showed it. We were her pride; our every awkward flaw was her victory, our geeky quirks were reasons for joy.

She’s a fearless non-conformist who is utterly at ease with who she is because she gives herself no alternative. You get one skin, and it wears you. To that end: I am a half-Mexican, half-redneck web nerd who loves comic books, barbecue, and makes passes at girls who wear glasses. What’s it to you?

My mom is a preschool teacher, so I grew up surrounded by rambunctious love critters. I learned young how to command the attention and respect of a platoon of five-year-olds, possibly the most brutally honest and devilishly clever enemy one can face. Our house has always been a place of construction paper stacks, glue stains, and random sprinkles of glitter. Whenever I visit, my mother will be planning some crazy arts and crafts project for class, and I will immediately sit down to help. I rock safety scissors with Olympic skills. Just call me the Michaelangelo of macaroni murals. I know how to make a mess, and I know how to see the world in rugrat-vision. Which is to say, I know how to play. Play is not the opposite of work; it is its happy companion. In fact, the ideal life is when you can combine vocation and avocation. Plus, cement glue is a sweet contact buzz.

Because of my mom, I am an avowed thrift store fanatic. To this day, I troll thrift stores for shirts, books, bizarre knickknacks. There is a difference between cheap and thrift. Thrift is the love child of cashmoney and imagination. These days, I’m relearning the virtues of thrift. Cutting coupons, visiting sales racks, haggling when possible. My mother likes to emphasize the “hunt” in “bargain hunting” — it is a challenge, a sport. If she could get away with lashing whatever she bought on sale to the hood of her car like some great, dead beast, she would.

My momz never feared the good fight. She raised me to stand up to bullies. I can’t abide bullies on the playground, in the office, or at the bar.

She taught me to root for the underdog, to befriend the misfit, to stand up for those who can’t, are afraid to, or ask for your help. To protect those you love with measured ferocity. Sometimes, it is cosmically right to take a punch for what you believe in, so long as you get right back up.

Finally, she taught me about love. How love is about loving someone not for who they ought to be, or could be, but as they are, until the end.

My dad fought a long battle against cancer, and with my mom’s help he put up a hell of a fight. They were married for over 40 years, and laughter was the language of their decades-long affair. In those final years, she was his pill Nazi, playmate, and best friend. Favorite meals were prepared by request. They’d goof around and giggle like kids on summer vacation, and she’d run fingers through his lonely wisps of hair in public as if he still wore a healthy salt-and-pepper mane. The more he withered, the sexier he became to her, it seemed. They counted pennies and planned for the future, even if that future didn’t stretch beyond next week. And she fought for him when he could not any longer. When the terrible time came, and there was no more fight left in him, she had plenty to spare. Doctors were ambushed and interrogated, second and third opinions sought, every detail vetted with passion and purpose. The treatments won. The coma took him first, and then the machines, and she climbed into his hospital bed when no one was looking. Because that’s the point of all this, right? This little life. To find somebody who will crawl into a hospital bed with you. Or to be that someone to somebody.

Happy Mother’s Day, y’all. Now, go hug yo’ momz.

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