I have on occasion implied that my mother, Rose Ross, had her hands full raising me. That is what we call gross understatement. I almost killed her during childbirth, and the following years weren’t much easier for Mom. I had double pneumonia and measles when I was three years old and polio when I was seven. Poor Mom suffered as much as I did from all my illnesses, and my behavior didn’t always make things better, to put it mildly.
Let me provide you with a few examples of conduct that would challenge the most loving mother. Mom was a substitute teacher in the New York City school system. One day, she didn’t have time to find a babysitter, and so she took me, then five years old, to school with her. No sooner had one of the elementary school students had the unmitigated nerve to talk while Mom was teaching class than I let out, “Shut up, you. My mom is talking! She’s the teacher, so shut up.” Mom never took me to class again.
I guess my worst behavior came out while on a trip to Florida shortly after I was released from five months in the hospital following polio. Mom thought it would be a good idea for me to escape the cold weather and get some water therapy in Florida.
We had finished eating at a large cafeteria and Mom waited on line to pay the cashier. I was near the exit door and shouted for all to hear, “Mom, come this way and you won’t have to pay.” Now are you beginning to understand what my mother went through?
But none of this compares to what I am about to tell you. In other words–“you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” Mom was driving me to a physical therapy session in Coral Gables, Fla. She was driving above the speed limit when she was pulled over by a state trooper riding his motorcycle.
I remember he was right out of a movie. Pressed pants, hat sitting perfectly on his head, and those dark sunglasses reminiscent of “Cool Hand Luke.”
“Ma’am,” he said with a slight southern accent, “you know you were going 20 miles over the speed limit. You must be in a terrible hurry.”
That’s when I chimed in, “Officer, she speeds all the time. Just a few weeks ago she got a speeding ticket in Hackensack, New Jersey.”
The officer glanced my way. He tipped his hat to my mom, and said, “Ma’am, you have enough problems.” He turned around, got on his motorcycle and drove off, never having given my mom a ticket. I wanted Mom to give me credit for getting her out of the ticket, but she wasn’t about to buy what I was selling.
Despite my bratty behavior, Mom loved me every day of her life as only a mother can. I will be forever grateful for that love. Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there.