Scott Simon is an American journalist who captured world attention in July 2013 when he took to Twitter to grieve the illness and ultimate passing of his mother. Hundreds of thousands followed his poignant and terribly sad tweets about the woman he looked up to, and loved.
Simon has since written a book about his mother’s life and has shared this beautiful extract with Debrief Daily, today.
The heart revises memories to fit the occasion, and there was no reason for my mother and me to use her deathbed to recall a lot of painful truths. During our colorful years of canned soup and chicken Kiev, my father was also drinking himself to death. My mother loved him, but she had to leave him before he could bring us all down in drink; then he died when I was sixteen.
Her mother, who was also her best friend, had already taken her life, which had left my mother feeling abandoned with a young son, unsteady work, and a husband who was funny, sweet-natured, but destructive.
My mother met lots of other men during those years. Almost all of the ones I knew were kind and good. But the one she really loved was married; that left her feeling even lonelier. She eventually met and married two fine men, but only after, as she put it, “a lot of trial and error.”
In my adult years, I’ve tried to imagine (for she kept all such worries from me) how many nights my mother must have spent staring at the ceiling from the springs in her sofa bed, figuring how to make it to the end of the month.
The days she went without breakfast or lunch (which I never did) so I could have a din- ner of cauliflower with shrimp cocktail sauce (a course my mother devised when she observed that the real appeal of a shrimp cocktail for me was the sauce), hamburger, green beans, Tater Tots, and chocolate milk; the long winter sieges through which she wore a worn winter coat because I outgrew mine and needed a new one each year. Or how many lunches she had to miss (or times she had to walk home instead of take the bus) to buy the baseball glove I was convinced would make me a major leaguer (or at any rate, a Chicago Cub).
Years later, she laughed off my admiration.
“I guess some days I’d miss lunch,” she said.
“And some days some guy would want to take me to Chez Paul’s.” (And she’d bring home a doggie bag to share.)
I wouldn’t say our lives were always a laugh a minute. But I’ll bet two days never passed during which my mother and I didn’t laugh loud and long about something that we would find funnier than anyone else.