In the Time of COVID. Day 54
May 11, 2020
My Mother Showed Her True Colors
This weekend was Mother’s Day . The sky was gray and our energy was zapped. We do so much better when the sun is out. This Self Isolation directive weighed heavily on us all weekend.
Our kids called their Mom and that was thoughtful. We spent time thinking of our Mom’s as well. This year is an election year and that brought to mind the first presidential election I can remember. I can also remember how my mother made her political choice abundantly clear, one night. That night, my mother showed her true colors.
Mom and Dad came of age during the Great Depression. They were both raised in West Seattle and both sets of their parents struggled mightily to make ends meet. The policies that President Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted helped lift the most destitute Americans out of crippling, gnawing poverty and my folks appreciated that very much but by the mid 1950’s politics in America were shifting away from The New Deal. In 1952, Dwight Eisenhower (Ike) ran on the Republican ticket and won the White House. That ended a 22 year run of democratic control. Ike had been Supreme Commander of Allied forces in Europe and had overseen the defeat of the Nazi’s.
In 1956 “Ike” ran for re-election. Again the Democrats put up Adlai Stevenson as the party standard bearer. Stevenson was a stalwart New Deal Democrat.
It was late October 1956. We were living on East 11th Avenue in Spokane, Washington. There were six of us kids. We ranged in age from 17 to a newborn infant. Mom was sitting on the couch , cradling the baby. Dad was in his cups. He’d had a quart or two of beer and was feeling frisky. He took a dime out of his pocket and flipped it onto the rug. This was how I, at 8, got allowance. I dove down onto the rug and reached for the coin. Just as my fingers grazed the edge, my father grabbed one of my ankles and pulled me back. There was no polite handover of money from my Dad. You had to fight for it.
I always loved how physical Dad got with me. He put me in a half Nelson. He applied other wrestling holds, head locks, Dutch rubs , and he made me squeal, he made me moan, he made me scream for mercy. He grabbed the dime and then I had to try to press it out of his grip. This went back and forth for at least a half an hour.
We had recently gotten a Silvertone Black and White TV. It was always on. Our cat lay on top the TV and it’s tale swished back and forth across the image. That night, the impending election was discussed on air. My dad started to ruminate about how he was going to vote. He announced “ I’m going to vote for Ike. He beat the Nazi’s and he’s doing a hell of a good job”. My Mom was aghast. She confronted him about how he was just “spouting bar-room blather”. They got into it, but my Mother didn’t suffer fools. That was a time when most men thought women didn’t have the intellectual acuity to make wise voting decisions , that they should vote as their husbands advised. My Dad still had me in a squirming headlock and we were still on the floor.
The more my Mom pressed him to wake up and make sense, the more irritated he became. She was a firm FDR Democrat, had never voted for a Republican and wasn’t going to start now and be dammed if she’d tolerate my Dad voting for Ike. My drunk father made a very bad mistake, then.
My Mother had terrible bunions and ingrown toe nails. She suffered throughout her life. She worked in a hospital kitchen and stood on cement all day. Her feet killed her all the time. My drunk Dad was frustrated at Mom for being so resolute. Dad hated to loose an argument. In a heated moment, he reacted toward Mom as if he was wrestling with me. He pressed a dirty thumbnail against one of Mom’s swollen toes. She screamed “You Son Of A Bitch” and then hauled back with the ball of her heel and kicked in one of my dad’s ribs. He sprang up, holding his side, and dashed out the door.
My Mom didn’t cuss. We’d never heard her cuss. All us kids got real quiet. We got scared. Were they going to get a divorce. Oh no, oh no. Dad didn’t come back in the house, the minutes ticked by. Finally, Mom said to my brother Ray “Go down to the tavern and bring him home”. Ray said. “They don’t let kids in there”. “Go!” She demanded.
Sometime later Dad and Ray came on the front porch. Ray came in but Dad stayed outside. Mom handed the baby to my sister and went out. 15 minutes later they came in together laughing and hugging. They slipped into the bedroom and closed the door.
I believe a broken rib taught my Dad how he was going to vote on Tuesday. My Mom could be very convincing when she showed her true colors.