Posts made in May 8th, 2011

Happy Mother’s Day

A tribute to my mom…

It’s been a long time since my last post. The truth is, I’ve been working on a book I hope to finish by the time our Almendinger Family Reunion rolls around this August. It’s our family history – the story of White Charley, my paternal great-grandfather, who was a German immigrant, a U.S. Infantry soldier who served during the Indian Wars, a blacksmith during the corruption-filled days of early Minneapolis, and finally, a pioneer in the deep woods of northern Minnesota. It’s a story of tragedy and triumph that took me on all kinds of crazy adventures, and I plan to share the story here on my blog… right after I wrap up my Love Letters story this week.

But first… on this special day… I wanted to share a bit about my mom.

Joy and Kathy, Quebec 2010

Joy and Kathy, Quebec 2010

Her name is Kathy, and I love her to pieces. She’s not your typical homey-bakey mother… not by any stretch of the imagination. She was never the head of the P.T.A., a bake sale organizer, nor a Brownie troop leader. She is… in the best possible way… a complete and utter goonball.

I think it was my Aunt Carol who coined the nickname Goonball, and it’s what my cousin Lisa has called her ever since she was old enough to talk. It’s entirely appropriate.

My mom does not like rules. In fact, she hates limitations or boundaries of any kind. Those of us who know her well shudder from fright whenever we hear her say, “How hard can it be?” I’m sure it will be a fitting epithet for her headstone one day: “Here lies Kathy. Apparently it was harder than she thought.”

If my mother hadn’t been such a good legal secretary back in the day, I’m sure she would have been doing stand-up comedy instead. She is a gifted storyteller who loves to “work the crowd.” She knows how to make people laugh, and considers it her duty to do so. In fact, when riding an elevator, I’m sure it would kill her to stay silent for the entire time it takes to reach her floor. She would consider it a personal defeat if she didn’t have everyone laughing by the time the doors opened.

This is her gift… her sense of humor… and she uses it to her advantage whenever possible.

In 1988, my parents celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. My twin brother and I were college seniors at the time, with no means to throw them any kind of fancy party. They knew this, and instead, made their own plans. They rented a hotel room in downtown Minneapolis and invited us to join them for dinner at Murray’s Steakhouse – “home of the silver butterknife steak.” If you’ve never been to Murray’s, it’s an upscale Minneapolis landmark – a swanky place with lots of red velvet and waitresses who look like they started sometime during the Nixon administration. And man, do they serve a mean steak.

We enjoyed an amazing, luxurious dinner and were treated like royalty by the attentive wait staff. It was a perfect, magical evening. After we finished our dessert and my dad finished his snifter of Drambuie, we headed back out to the car. They drove a full size conversion van at the time, and my mom offered to sit in back with me so my brother could sit up front with my dad. We were still ooh-ing and aah-ing about the amazing dinner and didn’t seem to notice at first how long it was taking the car ahead of us to pay for their parking fee. It appeared to be a heated discussion between the driver and the parking attendant, and I could tell my dad was losing patience. He got out of the car to go check on the situation.

From the back seat, I could now see that my dad had gotten involved in the heated discussion as well. There was a lot of fast talking and finger pointing, and I was starting to get nervous. My brother got out of the car to see what was going on. I witnessed more fast talking, and then suddenly, the two men got out of their car and started taking their jackets off. Not a good sign.

Without thinking, I jumped out of the van and ran into the middle of the melee, determined to be the voice of reason. I have no idea what the problem was, except that the two men refused to pay their parking fee, and the poor parking attendant was noticeably shook. The situation was escalating from bad to worse when, out of nowhere, we turned to see my mother coming toward us with a snow brush in her hand yelling, “I… am… a MOTHER!”

And just like that, it was over. We were silent a moment, staring at her in complete bewilderment, and then each of us quietly retreated to our respective corners. The men in front of us paid their parking fee, and drove off. And that was that.

There are many lessons my mother has taught me over the years. Good life lessons… about being honest, having integrity, and doing the right thing. “Remember who you are,” she used to tell me. I didn’t really understand what it meant until I got older, but it’s something I now tell my own boys. It’s a phrase that grows with you along life’s bumpy journey.

So, thanks Goonball. For all the fun and crazy times… the adventures and misadventures. Thanks for being my proudest supporter, my loudest cheerleader, and my most loyal fan. Thanks for grounding me when I deserved grounding, and for picking me up when I was broken in pieces. Thanks for believing in me and always telling me I could do whatever I wanted. (And thanks for not allowing me to wear that pair of boxer shorts to school in 7th grade when it was all the rage. You were right about that.)

And the two life lessons I will remember the most? First, remember who you are. And for God’s sake… carry a big snow brush the next time you run into the middle of a rumble.

Got it. Thanks Mom.

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