My mother was a shell. Once upon a time, she’d crocheted, quilted, gardened, she even fished. After Daddy, all she had left were overgrown flower beds and two kids.

The interstate is quiet this time of morning. A cattle truck just passed me.

“You Are My Sunshine” is on the radio. Johnny Cash is singing it. I cannot listen to this song without thinking of my mother—who used to sing it to me while I made mud pies in the backyard.

My daddy ended his life in September. By October Mama was so lonely you could hear her cry herself to sleep through the walls.

I’d knock on her bedroom door around suppertime. There would be no answer.

Thus, I would fire up the kitchen to prepare my world-famous culinary masterpiece: tres bowls de vanilla ice cream.

My mother was a shell. Once upon a time, she’d crocheted, quilted, gardened, she even fished. After Daddy, all she had left were overgrown flower beds and two kids.

She worked. Like a dog. To make ends meet, she cleaned condos, ran the deep-fryer at Chick-Fil-A, mopped floors, she threw the newspaper, volunteered at church. She raised kids.

When she got sick, the world fell apart.

Doctors didn’t know what was wrong. Whatever it was, it was killing her.

She moved in with my aunt and uncle in Atlanta. They took care of her. I visited when I could—which wasn’t enough.

One night, I made an all-night drive to Georgia. I arrived at my aunt’s at three in the morning. In the driveway: a frail woman in a nightgown stood in my headlights, waiting. I hardly recognized her.

We hugged and I almost broke her.

“Are you hungry?” was the first thing Mama asked.

“No ma’am.”

She made a full breakfast anyway.

A plastic implanted port poked from her collarbone. Her face was gaunt. Her hair was short. She’d been spending weeks going to treatments, sitting in recliners at hospitals.

There, she’d crochet stocking caps, scarves, and mittens for her son. She sent them all with me when I left Atlanta.

On my drive home, I pulled over in a Shell gas station. I put on a stocking cap. It smelled like her, and it made me cry.

A policewoman knocked on my window. She was a small wiry woman. She asked if I was okay. I told her I was.

She asked if I’d been drinking.

I had not.

I ended up telling her the same story I just told you. A story about a woman who raised me. Who once sang “You Are My Sunshine” to a homely redhead baby.

The policewoman listened to me talk.

I will never forget that officer, nor the sweet way she said, “I’ll be praying for your mama.”

It’s been a long time since that night. I’ve gotten longer in the tooth, and my work keeps me busy.

But I’m grateful. Because today, the five-foot-two woman who brought me into this world is still here. And she looks good.

She spends her days in the sun, piddling. She grows things in her backyard dirt. And when we hug, I feel like I’m going to break her.

She makes me proud.

I just hope I still make her happy when skies are gray.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mama.

35 comments

  1. Judy Miller - May 14, 2017 12:31 pm

    WOW, Sean! You are a lucky man. Mama won’t break–she loves those big, strong hugs. Trust me on this one.

    Reply
  2. Laura Young - May 14, 2017 1:07 pm

    Another great story Sean- I can tell how much you love your Mama. My Mother is frail at 92 and can’t remember anything 2 minutes these days. I am fortunate enough to live across the road from her (she wants to live in her house by herself as long as she can). I can and do see her every day, and as I leave her house each time, I always hug her. Sometimes she’ll say as I walk toward the door, “Don’t leave without giving me a hug”. I’ll say, “I just did.” She’ll say, “Oh, well give me another one.” Hugs are gold and diamonds to mothers.

    Reply
  3. Roxanne Langley - May 14, 2017 1:24 pm

    I have no doubt that you, your sister, and the grand girl are the sunshine of her day every day. Beautiful tribute. Being a southern gal who “wears cotton drawers and eats until she’s good and full” I very much appreciate your beautiful and kind words about strong, every day women who keep the world turning.

    Reply
  4. Clint - May 14, 2017 1:28 pm

    God heard that policewoman’s prayers. Take your Mama fishing. It’ll be good for your souls.

    Reply
  5. Arlene - May 14, 2017 1:34 pm

    God bless your momma. Thank her for sharing her amazing son with all of us. And wish her Happy Mother’s Day from me please.

    Reply
  6. Karen Erwin-Brown - May 14, 2017 1:38 pm

    Dang it. I never read these before makeup…except today. Hug your Momma for me.

    Reply
  7. Linda - May 14, 2017 1:48 pm

    You are so blessed that she’s still there for you. Treasure every moment you spend together, Sean. I miss my mom so very much, every day, but especially today. I just hope she knew how loved and appreciated she was, because, unlike you with yours, I never wrote her any tributes. I should have, because she deserved them. Happy Mother’s Day to all the unsung heroines out there.

    Reply
  8. Becky - May 14, 2017 2:01 pm

    I love you, you make me cry!

    Reply
  9. Tish - May 14, 2017 2:02 pm

    Happy Mother’s Day !!

    Reply
  10. Tish - May 14, 2017 2:03 pm

    Thank you for all the wonderful stories you have shared.

    Reply
  11. Nancy - May 14, 2017 2:58 pm

    Beautiful story. My husband and I just left Jacksonville after visiting our son and his family. His mama is buried in Oklahoma and my mama in Alabama. I read your story to him as we travel along I-10, and we both thought of our mamas and had a good cry. Your mama did well, Sean. She raised a great boy.

    Reply
  12. Joan Raines - May 14, 2017 4:23 pm

    Just Beautiful. Glad she is still with us and you.

    Reply
  13. Kathy Lane - May 14, 2017 4:54 pm

    I was so happy to get to the end and read your precious Momma is still with you!! Grief can be deadly. So happy she is well and back to piddling and such! Love your writing- it brings me such happiness and I eagerly await each new story.

    Reply
  14. Debbie Galladora - May 14, 2017 5:33 pm

    Oh Sean!

    Reply
  15. Suzanne Rainey - May 14, 2017 5:57 pm

    You evoke wonderful memories with each short story of yours that I read. I was glad to read that your Mom is still here. That was important to me. My Mom is not, but oh! She was wonderful!! Have a wonderful day………..

    Reply
  16. Joyce - May 14, 2017 6:28 pm

    Made me cry again. If I had a dollar for each time that happens I could buy a condo in Florida.

    Reply
    • Connie - July 4, 2017 3:10 pm

      Right!!

      Reply
  17. Jeannie - May 14, 2017 8:22 pm

    I am so sorry that your mom had such a difficult life. But I am sure that today she does not even think about those times, but the joy she received from such a loving, caring son.

    Reply
  18. Candy Clark - May 14, 2017 9:48 pm

    Thank you Sean, your stories are so simple and sweet and almost always make me cry. Makes my heart ache for how precious this beautiful life is!! In this technological world of chaos, you help me remember to be thankful, truly thankful for every simple little thing! Blessings to you and yours!!

    Reply
  19. Gloria - May 14, 2017 10:56 pm

    Oh, Sean, you have once again touched my heartstrings ❤️. Thankful that you still have your mother..

    Reply
  20. Rose - May 14, 2017 11:36 pm

    Moms are our glue. My world fell apart several years ago. I still miss her every single day.

    Reply
  21. Buck Godwin - May 15, 2017 2:56 am

    Thanks Sean,
    Stories about Mama are always the best of all stories.
    I have some good ones too!

    Reply
  22. Sam Hunneman - May 15, 2017 3:12 am

    You’re a good son, Sean. You and your momma have done each other proud.

    Reply
  23. Weeks Linda McDowell - May 15, 2017 4:10 am

    Such a beautiful story! Happy Mother’s Day!

    Reply
  24. Maureen - May 15, 2017 8:50 am

    means a lot to me as well, this song. My dad used to sing it to me when I was very small. He’s long gone now but the song is always associated with love for me…

    Reply
  25. Janne Swearengen - May 15, 2017 1:34 pm

    Just wow…

    Reply
  26. Kay Keel - May 15, 2017 2:29 pm

    Both my parents sang this song to me and my younger brother when we were young. I sang it to my boys too. My Dad is still with us, my Mother is not… Thanks for the memories even though they made me cry.

    Reply
  27. Lilli Ann Snow - May 16, 2017 3:29 am

    Oh, Sean…
    Especially…when skies are gray…
    ❤️✨✨✨✨✨

    Reply
  28. Vicki - May 16, 2017 5:07 pm

    Beautiful story…..made me cry. I think my mom had the same port, but she didn’t have the same happy ending, well hopefully, in heaven she did. I still miss her like crazy every day.

    Reply
  29. Susie Munz - May 17, 2017 5:54 pm

    Beautiful, Sean.

    Reply
  30. Deanna J - July 9, 2017 1:00 pm

    Thank you!

    Reply
  31. Patricia Taylor - July 9, 2017 2:16 pm

    This is wonderful. You are such a great writer!

    Reply
  32. Presley Boswell - July 9, 2017 2:43 pm

    Enjoy your short stories very much. Keep up the good work.

    Reply
  33. Sylvia Williams - July 9, 2017 3:09 pm

    No words, Sean. Simply no words.

    Reply
  34. Ben smith - July 10, 2017 10:56 am

    Awesome. I am a very lucky man God has Blessed me with both my Mom and Pops. Their the greatest parents a man could
    have. God Bless them for being there for their children. Always and forever. I guess I will say this is parent’s day.

    Reply

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