Friday, May 7, 2010



Elva Abbett Millspaugh was a wonderful woman who worried about me all her life, but I think she enjoyed it. We moved around a lot so she became really adaptive about setting up new households. She could perform the duties of several high-pressure occupations with style and grace and ease. In other words, that woman could juggle—with her three kids, wildly intelligent husband and assorted family pets over the years. She foresaw problems ahead of time, which avoided minor disaster and kept us all intact. When I wore a Superman costume to bed, she would switch me to the lower bunk despite the protests and wailings of my sister. She knew sometime in the night I would attempt to fly and so she kept me grounded—literally.

She was an excellent cook, yet served the five of us leftovers every meal for at least 20 years. Meatloaf, fish, chicken, potatoes and an abundance of multi-colored vegetables were our staples. The meal had to have color. We never said grace at the dinner table. My father had a falling out with the Catholic Church in his years as a struggling poet and he directed our dinner conversations toward books, politics and comedy shows. He was an expert in all of those fields. My mother just let him rant and smiled.

Another trait I loved about her was that she could always understand what I couldn't say. She could read my mind. It was frightening. She taught me about logic by saying, "If you fall out of that tree and break your neck, you won't be going to the Saturday matinee with your sister." Ocular science was driven into me by the remark, "If you cross your eyes like that, they'll get stuck and you'll be that way for the rest of your life." The hygiene lesson that always baffled me was, "Change your underwear every day. What if you got hit by a car and people would find you with soiled garments?" I always figured if a vehicle hit me, I would probably soil my pants anyway even if I had just put on clean, fresh ones.

I miss her. I miss the life lessons. She was 86 when she died. She was 86'd, as they say in the restaurant and bar vocation. I bet she had a laugh about that.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom. I couldn't have lived without you.

Nice talking to you, mothers.

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