John Boston | To my Voluntary Mom, Mrs. P: ‘Yay. It’s You.’

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Dearest Mrs. JoAnn Peters,

I’m not going to tattle, because who wants to get hit. But one of your children the other day did something. Tuesday, April 16, 2019, 4:15 p.m., time stopped. You left. Forever. A scant week before your 91st birthday, you packed your celestial suitcases and vaulted into the comforting mystic.

You and I, over the years, we talked about this. Life goes on. 

There are gears and pullies cranking smoothly in unseen realities. You’re getting ready to come back, again, somewhere, maybe to catch a series of trains and hot air balloons just to meet someone special in 2049. 

Let’s hope it’s not B.C.

Cripes. I can’t even imagine what you need to accomplish next lifetime. Your only character flaw was being a little skimpy on the black olives when you made enchiladas.

I know you’re here. I can feel it. Still. Miss you.

I’d like to snitch on my brother-like substance. But you know what you always used to tell all of us:

“Don’t be a tattletale.”

Followed by a long pause. Then:

“Who was it?”

And we’d laugh.

I won’t name names. But he’s the famous choreographer with the good posture who stands like an indignant Daffy Duck. He echoes many of our sentiments.

How are we going to make it now that you’re longer with us?

It’s a valid question, JoAnn.

I’m numb. Exhausted. Discombobulated. I cry on the hour. You big dopey so-&-so. You’re irreplaceable, you know.

My own dear mom was a tortured soul, tormented constantly by her own mind. One moment she was giddy. The next, homicidal, several incarnations beyond the Wolfman. From 7 on, I wandered the streets, sometimes ’til 1 in the morning. I slept in bushes at the park, peeked through dining room windows to watch families sitting down to dinner. I once was so hungry, I stole food from a grocery store. I wouldn’t have made a master criminal. I swiped a can of beef stew but didn’t have a can opener. 

I survived. Better? I met you. 

I’m sort of the Tom Hagan of the family. You surely loved your six kids. And the grandkids. And the great-grandkids. And even Becker. You didn’t have to love me. But, you did. You took me in. Over the years, you fed me. Consoled me. Counseled me. Sometimes, I might add, with an unasked-for but good-natured “… you idiot.” You rooted for me. Always, effortlessly. 

Isn’t that what love is supposed to be?

Geez. This family. I can see Les, Tweedie, Lisa, Willie, Joe, Hondo and grandkids, wiggling, gagging, making throw-up gestures and saying: “Love. Ewe, cooties.”

And worse.

What a ballclub. The heck with the entire ensemble.

And aren’t we so beyond lucky to have them?

JoAnn. I owe you. Never by any pedantic lecture, but by your example over the years, you taught me that love is a magic elixir, just the right parts of mischief and laughter. It’s treats, a fireplace, a cup of coffee. You taught me and the rest of the knuckleheads how to be tough — in a good way. You taught how to be kind and supportive, that sometimes the best moments in life are holding a baby or trying to make a Taco Bell list with bleacher monkeys yelling from every corner of the house for “whiskey in a dirty glass,” “a bicycle,” “shrimp salad” and things that never appear on a Taco Bell menu. 

I learned from you that the worst news cannot smudge the eye’s holy twinkle, an irrepressible glow singing forever something corny and profound: 

“Yay! It’s YOU!”

Every time I walked in the house, from being a kid to my 60s, you held my hand and enthusiastically tap-tap-tap-tap-tap patted my forearm.

“Yay! It’s YOU!”

And therein, exactly, is the answer to my dear sibling-like substance’s question. How do we get through losing you?

Well, JoAnn.

Thanks to you, we’re doing it already.

I know these bozos. Not to worry. They get up. They dry tears, tighten belts, suit up and show up. They pass along what you taught. That patented sweet albeit wiseguy smile? 

We learned that from JoAnn Peters.

We learned to greet, from our hearts:

“Yay. It’s YOU!”

John Boston is a local writer.

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