“Well, I suppose I better hit the road. It’s a long drive home and I have work and classes tomorrow.” There was a time when I used to wonder why those words caused my mother to cry. The reaction then required more words as if they had somehow created a chain reaction. “Please don’t cry mom. It won’t be that long until I come back.”
She always had a handkerchief tucked away in her sleeve on the mornings she knew I would be leaving. As I stood to walk to the door the tears began filling her eyes and what had been a face filled with laughter and delight all weekend had quickly turned to sorrow and sadness.
Dad always managed to stay close and would place a comforting hand on moms back while walking along beside her following me to the door. As we stood on the front porch I would first give dad a quick hug. I can still feel his whiskers on my cheek as he said something like, “Take’er easy now and get home safe.” Then I would turn to mom seeing her face and gentle little hands reaching for a hug which always made it difficult for me to hide the tears as well. But I had learned over the years that if I cried it only made it more difficult for mom. Besides, no young man wants his father to see him crying. Mom had a way of giving a loving hug but you could also tell when she knew that it was time to let her baby go.
Quickly turning away to hide my tears as I headed toward my car there was yet more left in this whole chain reaction. Trying to shed some humor was typical for me and I would teasingly say something like, “Now please don’t worry about me mom, I’ll try to hold the speed below 100 miles per hour!” Her retort was always one of, “Now please don’t tease like that. You know how I worry about how fast you drive. And don’t forget to call when you get home. You know I’ll worry until you do.”
As I got into my car mom would either wait on the porch, hanky in hand, wiping the tears from her eyes and face or retreat to her favorite chair beside the living room window where she could watch me turning around and heading down the driveway. I always made sure to hold back my own tears and put on a huge happy smile as I waved goodbye and most importantly I made sure to take off gently when pulling onto the highway because I knew she would be listening and I wanted her to feel that I would drive carefully. (At least until I was out of sight.)
Having grown up in the midst of the muscle car era probably didn’t make matters any easier for mom especially when I was always driving the fastest muscle cars available and I probably should have waited longer before calling when I got home to let her know I was home safe considering I usually made the 10 hour drive in less than 8.
I recall one weekend when a couple of buddies tagged along with me. Mom and dad always enjoyed meeting my friends and classmates and weekends in Oregon always seemed to whisk by far too quickly. As we all loaded into the car to leave there was mom as usual hugging and kissing everyone goodbye with hanky in hand and here came the tears as usual.
As I drove down the road everyone was quiet and then all of a sudden I felt someone from the back seat reach up and punch me in the arm. “Ouch! What in the hell was that for?” I asked. “Dammit Faules, your mom even made me cry! My mom never hugs me and cries like that when I leave home. But your mom really made me feel like I was part of the family.” Then the other guys chimed in expressing their similar sentiments.
We all laughed about it but that was the day which I began to realize not everyone was as blessed as I was with a mother who truly had a gift of being able to show her affection openly. It was an amazing gift and one I have long cherished.
I never believed or realized I would have to one day feel the sadness she felt each time I pulled out if the driveway or what it would feel like to wave goodbye with tears in my eyes while waving a frail little hand but then one day my son said, “Hey dad, guess what? I just bought a company and I’m moving to Texas!” It was the punch in the gut I never saw coming. Instantly deep inside I felt what my mother felt all those times I said, “Well, I suppose it’s time to hit the road.” It’s a real conundrum feeling pride and happiness knowing a son is finding success, fortune and happiness in this world and yet the many worrisome concerns we have for them and having to see them disappear down the road not knowing when we’ll see them again. We know deep down inside no matter how soon it is it just won’t be soon enough.
Simply put, now it is I that is haunted by the silence and I am the one left standing in the driveway with tears and wondering when I might get another hug.
Gary Faules is a former Oregonian who still holds records as a former Olympic skeet shooter, racecar driver and team owner and competed in the world famous 2007 La Carrera Panamericana. He has traveled the world as both a big-game hunter and angler and has been a freelance writer for both racing and automotive as well as sport shooting publications not to mention his latest book I Slept In Africa made The Forbes Book List. Seeking adventure is only second nature as he continues his dream of living life to the max since almost being left blind as a child due to a freak accident. Gary has been the recipient of numerous awards, several being congressional recognition awards for helping others. A once retired CEO of his own corporation, Gary continues to work and lives near San Francisco, California, where he spends much of his time enjoying the love of his life and waiting for the next adventure so that he can continue the journey.
Wonderful. The story brought tears to my eyes too. This must be close to a universal story. Your writing is clear, precise and moving. I am looking forward to reading more of your work. Thank you for sharing your experience.
Lovely and touching story. Wonderful that your mother could feel so deeply without making you feel guilty and you could later empathize.
Growing up I assumed all mothers could just as eaisly show/share/express their emotions. Life taught me another thing.
Nice way to distill the love between parent and child (or child and parent) down to a single moment. I especially enjoyed the way you joked about driving fast, only you weren’t joking (and no doubt your mom knew it).
Nice catch John. 🙂 Mom always said, “You have to get up pretty early in the morning to fool this ole gal.”