A Son Remembers
In the fall of 1989, I had relocated from Los Angeles back to my home town of Rochester, New York. A few months before, I had accomplished a lifelong dream: I met and interviewed Bewitched TV icon Elizabeth Montgomery. Doing so served as early research for what would later become my first book, The Bewitched Book, which I ultimately would complete upon my return to Rochester, my parents’ home, where I spent my late teens and early twenties.
Upon this return to Rochester, I had absolutely nothing. And when I say, “nothing,” I mean, “nothing.” Not a stick of furniture or a dime or a car or “nothing.” I was forced to sell all of my furniture and belongings to pay my rent and eat, and my plan was to complete my book and spend time with my then aging parents.
And I would do that, as fully, and with as much awareness and appreciation of my mother and father as I could. Returning to Rochester and my parents allowed me the opportunity to right some wrongs. I was always a good son but at times I was selfish, overly-cocky and did not always show the respect my parents deserve — the kind of respect that every tremendous parent deserves. And my parents were tremendous.
In retrospect, being with them again, relatively late in the game, was a blessing.
A Later Love
My parents had married late in life, and I came along when my dad was 50-years-old, and my mom, ten years younger. By the time I arrived in Rochester in 1989, they were in their late sixties and seventies, and I was in my late twenties.
There was no time to waste in correcting those wrongs — and I did the best I could to do that.
But in that fall of 1989, back in Rochester, I was still needy.
One night, I wanted to go out with a few friends for a high school reunion of sorts. But I didn’t have a dime, not even for a ginger ale.
Subsequently, I asked my mom if I could borrow $20.00. And that was a hard thing to do. I had already returned to their home, was eating their food, and living in their house for free — all as an adult. And now, to top it all off, I was asking for money to go “party.”
But when I asked my mother for that twenty bucks, she didn’t flinch for a second. Instead, she gave me the funds immediately.
I remember my thoughts after she handed it to me. Before she did so, I felt like a “loser,” after she did so, I felt like “a million bucks.”
How could $20.00 make such a difference?
How could I have given money that much power over me?
I soon would find out.
Later that night, I took that $20 and met my friends. We all regrouped at a local bar. I was single, and now I felt confident — because I had that mere 20 twenty-dollar-bill in my pocket. If I met a woman who may have proved to be a potential new romance, I would be able to buy her at least one drink.
Is that insane, or what? Again, to give money that kind of power?
But before I even decided who or what was or wasn’t crazy, I reached into my pocket for the “money,” and it was empty. And so was my other pocket, and every pocket I had that night.
The money was gone!
I had lost that 20 — and I was pissed off. So much so, that I allowed it not only to ruin my evening but to somehow diffuse any “good” energy or carefree spirit that I may have brought to that bar or ignited in myself that night.
But more than that, I thought of how disappointed my mom would be when I would tell her about losing that twenty bucks.
Certainly, twenty dollars is not much today, and it wasn’t much in the fall of 1989. But it was a generous gift from my mom, who never had a lot of money to spare in any decade.
But in any case, after I realized I was broke that night — in several ways, I left the bar and returned home early.
I arrived at my parent’s home at approximately only 10:00 PM — and stood at the bottom of the stairs. My mom heard me and was awakened from up in her room with my dad, who was still asleep. She walked down the stairs and wondered why I was home so soon.
I was upset, and she wondered why about that, too.
“I lost that twenty you gave me, Mom,” I said in shame and probably with a few tears. “And I’m so sorry. I’m just an idiot! I know how hard you and dad struggle, and here I am, at 29-years-old — taking twenty bucks from you — taking advantage of you! And then, not evening having the good sense to be careful with what you give me.”
I emphasized once more, “I’m so sorry!”
But as I stood there, in emotional ruin, near the hall stairs, my dear mom just looked at me a minute and said, “Herbie J — you’re really going to let a mere twenty dollars ruin your night? You’re a better man than that — and you have a better mind than that. That $20 doesn’t mean a thing to me — but you — you — mean everything to me.”
And with that, my mom reached for her purse, took out another $20.00, and handed it to me. “Go back out with your friends — and have a good time,” she said.
But she didn’t add, “And just be careful” or “This time, be more mindful” or anything like that. She just simply said, “Go back out with your friends — and have a good time.”
And that was it.
But I hesitated in taking that second 20 and going back to the bar. I didn’t even care to return to that (then-smoked-filled) facility.
But my mom insisted. “Go,” she reiterated. “Go!”
So I did.
And while I’m not even sure if I used that second twenty bucks to buy any drinks for any potential new dates, I do know that the carefree spirit that was once infused in me by that first $20 gift from my mom was now alive in me again.
But not because I had felt confident again with a few bucks in my pocket. But rather because I now knew just how blessed I was to have such an awesome mom — one of two loving, generous parents who were always waiting and ready to be there for me, at any age, primed and ready with an endless amount of unconditional, nonjudgemental love and support — in such a way that was simply not of this world.
But thank goodness they were in mine.
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If you liked this article, you may enjoy the following companion piece, “My Dad Had Twenty Hearts.” Just click below.