My dad was the rough and tumble John Wayne type of guy. He loved the outdoors; roughing it…hunting, fishing, boating, and even frog gigging.
Mom was, shall I say, more refined in that she enjoyed opera, won a tango contest as a teenager, and she played piano by ear (“Tea for Two” being her favorite).
She was definitely a “city slicker” and admitted to liking what she called the “cement jungle” (meaning she liked going to Las Vegas with Sister Donna but only played the nickel slots).
Dad liked the music of Spade Cooley. Mom liked duets by Nelson Eddie and Jeanette McDonald (“The Indian Love Call”). Anyway, my mom and dad fit the classic example of the old adage that “opposites attract.”
Dad worked long and hard hours as a semi-truck driver for Safeway Stores, and when vacation time rolled around, he hauled their Airstream trailer to Bombay Beach at Salton Sea (long before it became so polluted), or to Walter’s Camp on the Colorado River, in the middle of nowhere, and hotter than you-know-where.
More often than not, they took my oldest son, Steve, along with them. I know that time spent with grandma and granddad are special memories for him. Also, and quite often, other family members would caravan to join them.
This business of “roughing it” meant that dad got to do all the sportsman stuff to his heart’s content. While mom, on the other hand, in addition to preparing a full-on breakfast, she had to cook dove, fish, or frog legs on a Coleman Stove out in the heat of the day. Whatever dad caught, she cooked.
If she needed water, she’d have to haul it, if she had to go to the restroom, it was somewhat of a walk. If she wanted to shower, it was done alongside bugs, spiders and other creepy crawlers.
I want to make this perfectly clear: my mom was no quitter; this is how she spent her vacation time for a good 20 years or more!
I received a phone call from her one day when I thought they were still on vacation. She said, “Hi Shay, I’m home.”
I asked, “Well, Mom, is everything okay, is Dad home too?”
To which she replied, “No, he’s still there; enough is enough, I’m done. I took the bus home, and I’m not doing this vacation thing anymore.”
She and I had a good laugh together over the situation. When I called my sisters and told them about it, the laughter had then quadrupled! We got together at mom’s, took her to dinner, and laughed the night away.
That was mom; the kindest, gentlest, most giving person you’d ever meet, and the single most influential person in my life.
But when she put her foot down (which wasn’t very often), we knew she meant business (and more important, so did Dad).
Sharon Benson Smith is a member of the writing class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. It is held off-campus at the Norwalk Senior Center.