HAPPY MOTHERS’ DAY
It has been a long time since I have posted any stories on colonelskernals.blog and there are many reasons (some would call them excuses) and I am reminded of my plebe days at West Point where I was only allowed four answers to any question: 1) YES SIR!, 2) NO SIR!, 3) NO EXCUSE SIR!, or 4) SIR, I DO NOT UNDERSTAND!
So, I’ll claim answer #3 (adding “ma’am” or “them” as appropriate to each reader) and just move on. Much has changed in my life in the last year, but something that never changes is the good memories I have of my youth. And a huge part of those memories revolves around my mom. And with Mothers’ Day upon us, I thought it appropriate for me to re-enter the world of communications by talking about my mom. The real trigger for this action was my stumbling across a narrative I wrote after my mom’s June 13, 2013, memorial service at the Nardin Park Methodist Church in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Several who had been in attendance at the memorial service approached me at Steve and Rocky’s restaurant immediately after the service and mentioned that they had not been able to hear well in the church and asked me if I had a script of my eulogy remarks. I did not, but I had notes, SO, I reconstructed my remarks, added a few things I had wanted to say, and wrote a narrative for all to read. I sent those remarks to all who had attended about three weeks later. I share that narrative with all of you now.
July 12, 2013 – Nardin Park United Methodist Church – Joe Sanders remarks:
“Wow, I am choked up because I cannot believe how many of you from my earlier life are right here, right now. I am overwhelmed by this feeling of love for all of you. Thank you for making this such a special day.
I stayed up late last night thinking about what I wanted to share with you today, and my first thought went to another late night many years ago when my mom stayed up most of the night with me, grilling me as I attempted to memorize the Periodic Table of Elements for chemistry class. I did memorize them, thanks to my mom’s love and dedication.
My mom was all about doing things the right way. I remember when I was on the Levey Junior High baseball team and our team bus broke down in Berkley (Michigan) on the way home from an away game. A local Standard Oil gas station owner recognized our dilemma (we would have been stranded for hours waiting for another bus) and he personally drove our entire team back to Levey in his 15 passenger van. It took two trips for him and a couple hours of his time. (Editorial comment (EC) May 2022: gas was cheap then, plus he owned the station LOL) But we got back safely and relatively on time to a parking lot full of waiting parents. (EC: no cell phones in those days to let the worried parents know their children were safe).
That wasn’t the end of this story, it had only just begun…As president of the student council, it was my duty (so I learned that night from mom) to write a tank you letter to Texaco headquarters praising the station owner. I remember that night well and specifically weaving into my letter that old saying, “You expect more from Standard, and you get it!” That ended up being a late night as well as I didn’t get to my homework till after 10pm.
The classic late-night story involving my mom occurred about a week before I graduated from Southfield High School. It was June 6, 1972, and I wanted to go to a Led Zeppelin rock concert in downtown Detroit. It was a school night and I had three sports articles to write and submit for the Southfield Eccentric newspaper by 6:00am the next morning. (I had a gig covering local high school sports for our town paper) (It was a cool job which afforded me access to Gordie Howe, “Mr. Hockey” for a personal interview back in 1972!).
Back to the story…mom wanted me not to go to the concert, but I went anyway. I got home around midnight, cranked out the three stories on my typewriter, hopped back in the car and dropped my completed masterpieces off at the Eccentric office drop box, came back home, and hit the hay about 6:00am. Did I mention it had been a school night? Well, here I was, already having obtained a full-ride scholarship to West Point, with one week left in my senior year in high school, feeling my oats, and I just knew I could miss just one lousy day of school, right? NO WAY HOZAY (Jose)!!! The next thing I knew was that I had a drill sergeant (named Alberta) standing over my bed “coaching” me to get out of bed and go to school, which I promptly did…. I did mention had been a school night, didn’t I?
The oldest of five children, my mom went by many names. Some called her “Boots”, some called her Chris, but her name was Alberta Blanche. A few of my friends and I had a nickname for “Alberta Blanche”, which she never knew and I will not tell you now. The reason that I know that she never knew her nickname is that I am alive today to talk about it. Yeah, it was pretty bad 😊.
I was told that my mom was pretty tough on my dad after his marriage proposal. She told him she would marry him under three conditions,,,1) a nice ring, 2) a nice house, and 3) a nice car. My dad took a job as a truck driver and took some extended trips to make some good money. It turns out that while he was on one of his extended trips my mom missed him terribly and realized that she really wanted to marry him! They got married on May 5, 1951, and travelled the world together for 58 years before Dad’s passing. Dad left us in May of 2009, but we buried both mom’s and dad’s ashes privately yesterday at White Chapel Cemetery. They are together forever now, spiritually and physically.
My mom had a fighting spirit and was street-smart. She was not big into politics, but she understood how to get things done in a complex world. I will never forget when I was in Den 3, Pack 1670 of the Cub Scouts at Southfield #10 Elementary School and my mom was our den mother. Every year the Cub Scouts celebrate the “Blue and Gold Banquet” in February. There is a “best centerpiece” competition each year. It was tradition that one den out of the 4 or 5 in the Pack would win the award for the best centerpiece at the dinner. Den 3 had never won that coveted best centerpiece award…until Alberta Blanche took over. My mom knew that the Pack Master was a U of M grad, so our centerpiece was a ski slope, with an “M GO BLUE” banner spanning the top of the slope and Michigan skiers skiing under the banner. We won the award that year…Hail to the Victors! (That’s for you Leslie)
Mom always preferred that the parties and fun times occur at our house. Our next door neighbor Leslie, who is here today, had a pool and I used to mow her mom’s lawn to get access to the pool. As kids, we had some great times at the “Frink’s Pool”. We also had a pool table in our basement, and my buddies and I would often go downstairs, blast music, play pool and my mom would make us pizza. She respected our sovereignty by opening the door to the basement at the top of the stairs and would yell out, louder than the blaring music, “Pizza’s ready!” I would go upstairs and bring the pizza down for the guys. We were having a great time, and mom knew we were safe under her roof.
Making my mom upset wasn’t in anyone’s best interests. She was generally an understanding person, but when she wasn’t, she REALLY wasn’t! On those dreadful occasions (there were several of those throughout my childhood) my mom would clench her fist in a threatening motion and say, “I’ll knock you for a row of Sundays!!!” …she never did punch me…maybe because I was long gone before she could catch me 😊!
On a rare occasion, my mom would get mad at my dad. But dad was a really nice gentleman, so he didn’t give my mom much ammunition. My dad’s faults were basically things that he did with good intentions that ran counter-purpose to mom’s plans. He would often go around the house turning off lights, anything electric that was wasting energy (money) in his eyes. About the worst thing he did that I remember was turning off the stove when mom was making dinner. She never said things like “row of Sundays” to dad, the worst I ever heard was “There you go again, Mommy’s Little Helper!” …They really loved each other.
As the oldest of a family growing up in the Depression, Mom played a huge mother-like role in helping my Grandma and Grandpa Christy raise my mom’s siblings. Her sisters Peggy, Betty, and Janet all pre-deceased my mom Only my Uncle Skip now survive my mom. She was tough because she had to be, everyone looked to her for leadership and answers.
Speaking of being tough and clenched fists, NOBODY messed with my mom. Everyone remembers the famous boxers Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas “Hitman” Hearns from back in the day. Well, one day, while performing her duties to check residency for all students enrolling at Levey Junior High, she had the pleasure of checking the credential of a nephew of Mr. Hearns. Mom was not impressed by his prowess or titles, he didn’t meet the residency requirements and, therefore, Hitman’s nephew wasn’t going to get in, simple as that. She stood down the Hitman! Mr. Hearns picked the wrong junior high school in Southfield to try and infiltrate.
With all of this talk about how tough Mom was, she was also sensitive in her own way. Mom had a promotion opportunity to move from Levey Junior High to Southfield High School and she turned it down. “Why?” you ask?…It just happened to be the same year that I was going to start tenth grade at Southfield High, and she wanted to know if it was OK with me if she moved to SHS the same year that I was beginning at the high school. I told her that I would rather her stay at Levey, so she did. Beneath all of her toughness was a sensitive woman.
Mom and Dad loved to travel and they saw the world together. They visited almost every continent on this planet, with much of North America done by Airstream motor home caravan. One of the best vacations of my life was in 1978 when my mom, dad, sister Christy, Uncle Norm, Aunt Peggy, Cousin Vanessa and several families of the Oliver Court Gang flew to German to meet me where I was stationed in the army. We travelled all over Europe together for almost three weeks in my Chevrolet Vega station wagon and two VW buses! We were one big family, and I feel blessed to see so many of you here today that were on that trip in 1978. As Bob Hope, used to sing, “Thanks for the Memories!”
(UPDATED May 4, 2022…Friends, while this Sunday is Mothers’ Day, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that tomorrow would have been my parents’ 71st wedding anniversary. God Bless all of you this Mothers’ Day and thank you again to all of the mothers who have given all of us life. For those who grieve over parents and other loved ones who have passed, remember that God has a purpose for all of us and if you are reading this message you are still alive because He has more plans for you. Live life and cherish your memories. Bye for now my friends….The Colonel)