Trust, But Verify – A Mother’s Day Reflection

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They say all love is built on trust. This concerns me as Mother’s Day approaches. Is my relationship with my mother a loving one? You bet. I realize the World’s Best Mom coffee mug I gave her back in 1984 isn’t definitive proof of the matter. But the fact that she still uses it goes to her fitness as a #1 seed, at least in my region. In other words, ours is a loving relationship built upon a strong foundation. I’m just not sure how much trust is in the bedrock.

A quick story nicely captures what I mean. My mom could never, ever remember names, which really tried my patience as her kid. It’s not like I just loved committing everyone’s name to memory everywhere I went. For many years I was more her caddy than her son, supplying each name as and when she insouciantly forgot it. Over time I realized that I was giving my mother the proverbial fish rather than teaching her the angler’s art.

Something had to change between us, for I was acting like a classic enabler. To my way of thinking, a teachable moment was in order. And if the teachable moment was the loving response then goodness, my love for my mother knew no bounds. I take you back to October 1987 and the promised story, in our kitchen:

“What’s the name of the oldest Jones boy?” my mom asked me. There were only three Jones boys and they lived right across the street. Nobody ever forgot the names of the younger two, Jimmy and Paul, red-headed twins and each a holy terror. Why was mom so forgetful in some areas yet so purposeful, almost mercenary, in others?

Like putting down the family dog. No discussion, no goodbyes, just exit, stage left, Derry. Or her dreaded KGB laundry service. Mom wouldn’t stop you from buying clothing that you liked. But she reserved the right to disappear in the night like a Soviet dissident any item whose messaging she found objectionable.

“Why?” I asked, looking up from the kitchen table.  “Because I want to thank him,” she answered. “I forgot to pick up your brother after football practice. He drove Jack home, without being asked or anything. I just want to tell his parents what a responsible young man they’re raising.”

“Waub. His name is Waub,” I said nonchalantly, barely looking up. “Wob? W-O-B?” she asked incredulously, spelling it out. “Are you sure? What kind of name is that?”

“I’m positive. And the name’s Scandinavian, I think. I’m not really sure. But I do know it’s spelled W-A-U-B.” She studied me quizzically as she moved toward the telephone. I tried to look immersed in homework, but really was hunkering down to eavesdrop on the epic conversation that was about to begin.

“What a strange name,” mom muttered as she dialed. “Hello, Lisa? It’s Donna. I hope I’m not disturbing you, but I wanted to share something that happened today…what’s that?…no, it doesn’t involve the twins. It’s about Waub.” There was a pause on the other end of the line, but mom didn’t seem to notice and pressed on with the conversation.

“I completely forgot about Jack’s football practice today,” she continued, “and came straight home after work. I was about to head back to school to pick him up, when who appears in my driveway? Waub, that’s who, with Jack at his side. He even waited to make sure Jack got into the house. So thoughtful, Waub is. I just wanted to share that with you. Waub is something special.”

“That’s, uh, nice,” Lisa said, stammering a little. It was all she could do, for her oldest son was everything my mom said he was, thoughtful, responsible, considerate, all that. But his name wasn’t Waub. It was Rob. Lisa played it safe. “Yes, our son is a good egg.”

“I’ll say! My Mike is only a high school junior, not a senior like Waub. But I don’t think he’ll have Waub’s maturity in ten years, let alone next year.” As I listened to mom gratuitously throw me under the bus, I felt vindicated for pranking her. “Well, thank you, Donna. Pete and I are very proud of Rob.” Lisa emphasized the R. “Rob? With an R?” my mom exclaimed. “My idiot son told me his name was Waub!”

So there it is. Trust was never the foundation between me and my mother. Humor was. I know for certain that if I had given her the opening, she’d have done the exact same thing to me. Plus she had it coming to her, after what her KGB laundry service did to my favorite Rolling Stones “Hot Lips” shirt.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. Love, Your Idiot Son.