Happy Birthday Mom

Yesterday was my mother’s birthday. She would have been 64 years old.

She was the second born child to Bill and Iva Noles. My grandparents were still so young then, just 18 and 23 when my mother was born. They lived in a mill village in west Atlanta that by many recollections was just about perfect. Mother always said that she didn’t know that she was poor since everyone else around them was poor too. My grandparent’s employer provided excellent medical and dental care and my mother’s memories of her home (rented to them by the mill) described a well built, well maintained, but small house.

She met my dad at the Varsity, a locally famous drive-in restaurant. She was initially attracted to his cousin, Jerry, who was there with him, but later she and my dad got together and the rest is history.

She worked for 28 years for a major tax preparation company – you know the one that rhymes with “clock” – and was a damned good tax preparer. She instilled confidence in her clients and had a large clientele. She took pride in being a professional and she was good at her job.

My relationship with my mother was great, but irritating. How do you explain a relationship with a person that is so wonderful, caring and nurturing, but at the same time is aggravating, annoying and overbearing?

My mother was simultaneously the best mom and the biggest pain the ass. She knew exactly how to push my buttons and then would lecture me about my temper after I hit the boiling point.

She was paranoid about my safety to the extreme, demanding that I call her the moment I got to my destination or fearing that I was “dead in a ditch”. She never understood boundaries. She never understood that she had done a good job raising me but needed to trust that I could handle things on my own.

I talked to my mother 4-5 times every day. Most times, not because I wanted to, but because she demanded it. Left to my own devices, I’d probably have still called her at least twice a day, but she insisted on knowing what was going on at all times.

But even as she was irritating, she was knowledgeable. She was one of the smartest people I’ve known and could calculate strings of numbers in her head. She had a wicked sense of humor and loved playing poker. She was incredibly generous. She had no problem sending a friend down on their luck cash to tide them over with no expectation of gratitude or repayment.

Kids and animals loved my mother. She could calm down a newborn or a puppy with a single touch and the sound of her voice.

In an emergency, she was calm, but skillful. Hysterics had no place in an emergency or a hospital room and she’d stay calm and optimistic for as long as she needed.

Now, as I close in on the half way point of my pregnancy, I long to talk to her. To hear her calming and sympathetic voice as she told me everything would be ok. To listen to her maddening air of superiority as she told me about her pregnancy with me.

I miss her so much and even 4 years after her death, I still sometimes reach for the phone to call her when I hear a funny story or have a bad day.

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