Living Out Loud

When You Cuss in Front of Your Mama, You Can't Take it Back


I gave folks a chuckle yesterday when I commented that I, an almost 60-year-old man with multiple grandchildren can't cuss on my blog anymore because my mama reads it now. I mean, I can sort of cuss, maybe a damn or a hell, but f-bombs are definitely off the table. There were damns and hells in To Kill a Mockingbird, so I'm going with them being part of the vernacular, but I'm just going to have to find a way to express strong emotion without acting like I'm living in the barracks again.

I'm not exactly a mama's boy by any stretch of the imagination. I left home when I was 14 after the school I was attending objected to me trying to smoke the first joint I ever bought in my whole life on the playground (that could be clearly seen from the classrooms) between classes on a windy day when all I had was three matches. The "please don't come back to our school" situation coupled with a stepfather I didn't get along with very well resulted in my cross-state move to live with a relative who had more of a tough love philosophy. It all worked out.

My Mama is adored by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She lives on a nice 11-acre spread in one of North Carolina's coastal counties. She is 77 years old and cuts the grass on the place herself. And listen, I don't care how fast you walk, she walks faster than you. Most mornings she makes a short drive over to the barrier island near her home and walks miles through the sand dunes and coastal forest at Ft. Macon State Park. In the past five years she's walked across England from coast to coast AND completed the Camino de Santiago in Spain. I recently sent her info about walking across Bali, and she may take me up on it.

She was the youngest daughter of a tobacco farmer and grew up in a house without running water or indoor plumbing. I came along when she was just a few months past her 17th birthday and my brother got here before she turned 20. She and my Dad divorced when I was in first grade (I also had a sister by then) and her second husband turned into the stepfather I didn't get along with. He also turned out to be an unfaithful cad. Oh, amidst all that, she also was diagnosed with cancer and survived that just fine, thank you. Despite everything, Mama managed to complete nursing school in the late 70s and supported my siblings on the meager pay that nurses earned at that time, unlike now when they are relatively well paid and respected. She later earned that pay and respect by becoming a sought-after member of the ICU team at her hospital.

We were all raised to love reading and learning. There was always enough money for books even if we had the same 19-inch TV my whole life growing up. With her support, my brother and sister were both excellent students and went on to attend the flagship university of our state in Chapel Hill. In the early 80s she finally met someone who loved and respected her exactly the way she deserved, and they were married until his death in 2008.

Although we were not religious when I was a kid, faith became more and more important to Mama through the years. She's went to Rwanda numerous times to serve as a medical missionary with her husband, a physician. She is a true servant to her church, and by that, I mean its people. She is forever cooking for folks who are ill or in need. She gives generously to charity and she remembers birthdays and anniversaries and Christmas. The church may also have something to do with her lack of appreciation for my colorful language.

If you can't tell, I adore her just like my kids and grandkids do. Not only that, I respect her and credit her for a lot of the things I like about myself: knowing that people matter, that hard work is important, and that love is unconditional when it's real. Not cussing on the Internet is a small price to pay to stay in her good graces and to avoid hurting her feelings. I know you're reading this Mama. I love you!

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