Just Four Words


Steve Nauman

(This is a reprint of a post from May 14, 2017 with only a few slight changes)

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.   1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NASB
(and a good description of my mother)

Mother’s Day! Let’s stretch it out a little longer and call it “Mother’s Week”, they deserve It!

My mother always took her job (7 kids, it was a job) as a mom, seriously. I can remember before I was old enough to go to school, when sometimes in the morning she would read stories or even poems to me after my older siblings had left for school. She also invented clever ways of teaching me things too. Like a cardboard template shaped like a foot that she put shoe laces in to teach me how to tie my shoes. I learned almost instantly using that “cardboard foot”!

She was always very frugal too, she had to be. (I always tell people “we weren’t poor, we just didn’t have much money”!) She would save certain things or parts of packages for us kids to make rainy day projects. One of my favorites was a little covered wagon, about 10 or 12 inches long. It actually worked and looked great and it was all made from things that would have been thrown away!

One thing I could never figure out was my mother’s “radar” and I used to wonder if all mothers had it, or was mine unique? What I’m taking about is, when I was 5 years old, I started getting tonsillitis. Many times I would wake up in the night with a very sore throat and I would walk into my parents bedroom, go around to my mother’s side of the bed, and without me making a sound she would instantly open her eyes! I never had to touch her, whisper or anything, amazing!

Those tonsils got worse and I soon had to have my tonsils and adenoids removed. In the early 1960’s, everything about hospital stays and visiting rules were much different than they are today. I was to be admitted to the hospital the day before the surgery and I would be in for about three days. Visiting hours were a few hours during the day and a few hours in the evening and parents were not allowed to stay in the room. But……all of this sounded okay to me because my parents told me that if I was “good and brave”, I could have any toy I wanted from the store (Nauman’s General). Well, I right away had my father take a Roy Rogers gun that shoots real plastic bullets off the shelf and set it in the back  room (just to be sure no one would buy it before I got home). I’d already determined that to get that gun, I was going to be “good and brave”–no matter how much it hurt.

The night in the hospital alone before surgery was uneventful, in fact I don’t remember anything about it–I just kept thinking about how close I was to getting that Roy Rogers gun! BUT, I now think it was a horrible night for my mother. The hospital I was at was farther away than the normal one, this one had a 30 mile trip of back roads over big hills and empty spaces. Yet, she surprised me by being there before I went in for the 6 AM surgery. For all the effort, love and little sleep my dear mother must have had that night, I sure wish l’d had a more loving greeting. When she walked in the room as they’re getting me prepped for surgery, I looked at her and said “what are you doing here?” (I don’t know why I said that or what I was thinking or expecting, I didn’t intend to be hurtful but I don’t know where that came from)

I remember waking up in severe pain after the surgery. I was in a big room full of people who were moaning and groaning and crying out in pain. I had blood in my mouth, blood on my pillow and it felt like someone had been ice skating inside my throat. I couldn’t stop the tears from trickling out of the corners of my eyes, but I had to remain in control because I had to be “good and brave” to get that Roy Rogers toy gun. So, I just stared at the ceiling until they wheeled me to my room. There I saw my mother, she had been waiting for me the whole time. When I saw her, it looked like SHE had been crying and I wondered why? But I had to stay focused on not crying (be “good and brave”) so I just laid there staring up at the ceiling with tears leaking out the corners of my eyes. I couldn’t talk after the surgery and I couldn’t spell many words yet, so some sort of sign or body language was about all I had. The nurse gave me a spoonful (and I was so thirsty) of ginger ale every fifteen minutes-just a spoonful! (I treat ginger ale like medicine to this day).

After watching me awhile, my mother came over to me and ran her hand through my hair, I remember it felt like there must have been dried blood in my hair too. Then she said, “it’s okay if you cry.” I shook my head no and motioned holding that toy gun. She said “just because you cry doesn’t mean you won’t get your toy, you’ve already earned it”. Instantly, my stomach and chest started bouncing up and down as I started sobbing and she hugged me. And just that quick…..she had her little boy back.

A mother’s perception. A mothers wisdom. A mother’s love.

Growing up at home, my mother constantly gave of herself and I don’t remember her complaining or wishing for things for herself. One by one, her children were growing up and leaving home. When the day came that I left with everything I owned in my car, she told me years later that she cried for two weeks. When I was about 40, she sent me one of her favorite little poems and it helped me understand why me moving away even at 20 was hard for her, and that regardless of my age I would always be her “boy”. The poem is called “Cowboy Steve” and I’ll share just the ending, as that gets the point across.
Oh, how I hate to see the day, when all grown up, he’ll ride away, when I must lasso and retrieve, the memory of my “Cowboy Steve”.

I’m sure many of us when we take time to reflect as I just did, would like to give some kind of award or outstanding recognition of some kind to our mothers. But most mothers are probably like mine and are not looking for any award or recognition of any kind.

But I’m pretty sure your mother and mine would still receive fulfillment from “Just Four Words”………”Mom, I Love You.”

Till next time

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Steve Nauman

These wonderful posts are written by my good friend Steve Nauman. He lives on a farm in northern Indiana with his wife, Ruth.

He owned and operated a machine shop until 2020. These stories come from the people and experiences that made lasting impressions upon him as he grew up in his father's general store in Upstate NY and later in his own business.