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We believe what we believe. And we behave along the paths to where our beliefs guide us. That simple notion is undeniable, I think.

If any of you are like me, then you must feel the same way as I when it comes to the August 12th stuff that happened in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Black lives matter. White lives matter. Hispanic lives and Asian ones and others matter as well.

President Trump’s life matters. So does Hillary Clinton’s. So do the live’s of Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer. Paul Ryan and Nancy Pelosi, too.

The lives of the white supremacists matter. So do those of the folks who detest that supremacist population.

Other lives that matter? Many of you will hate me for saying this. But Adolph Hitler’s life matters. So does Saddam Hussein’s and Osama Bin Laden’s. But so, too, does Franklin Roosevelt’s and Winston Churchill’s. George Bush’s and Barrack Obama’s lives matter, too.

My life matters. And so does yours. I believe and trust that guided path.

My knowledge of such stuff that led me down this path is a bit muddled. It really is. I rarely read the Bible or attend church. But my faith in God has led me to a totally unsubstantiated but profound and equally total belief. That God put us all here for a generally single reason. My belief is really that simple.

He gave us the earth. He gave us life. And he instructed us to, through all religions and races and beliefs and behavior, make the best of things. To make Him proud. To validate His gift to us all.

I watched some news tonight about the Charlottesville event. After viewing and hearing all the stuff on television – the demonstration, the hatred, the anti-demonstration, the deaths and injuries, the eagerness to place blame on one group or person or another – well I kind of shuddered a bit.

This is not at all what God expects of us.

If my sort of muddled beliefs and understanding is somehow and one day made clear to me and to us all, well our paths will become clear. Until that time, I hope we all can at least consider the life and love that God has offered to all of us.

That life and love is undeniable.

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Twice a year, as a child and a teen, I would wake up and find at least forty dollars on the kitchen counter. The man who left it there, before he went to work, used that cash to encourage his wife and children to buy shirts, underwear and other things for him on his birthday and Father’s Day. I thought that to be a selfish notion.

At least I did for a while.

The man had quite a few faults. So did his wife. So did his oldest son, middle daughter and youngest son. Unlike the rest of his family, I think he confronted those faults. In bold and honest and loving ways. That was the very real value of his life.

I have never doubted the man’s words. Or actions, for that matter. Well, maybe I did. For a while.

One time, his youngest son, who had recently become a legal driver, drove the man’s new Chevy Impala to a friend’s nearby house. The next door neighbor of that kid’s friend chose to back into the left side of that brand new Chevy. The kid was afraid to tell his dad. But the kid’s mom encouraged him to confront the man, and to be honest.

It was the very first new car the man ever bought. The news his son was about to deliver would have angered even a saint. So, he timidly approached his dad and said, “Daddy. My friend’s next door neighbor backed into the new Impala and damaged the left side.”

The man should have gone into an uncontrollable rage. Instead, he gave a simple and brief look at the kid and boldly said, “Damn! I thought I would be the first one to wreck that car.”

At some point, his youngest son was attending, as a freshman, The University Of North Carolina. The young guy was missing his home, five-hundred miles away. And the high school sweetheart he left there. The kid told the man that he was ready to come back home. The man’s reply? “Stay one full semester, and I promise you that you will never want to leave Chapel Hill.” The kid didn’t trust his advice. He thought the man was lying. But he stayed anyway. And, damn. The man was right.

I could go on and on about this man. But one sort of final thing about him is this. One day on his birthday, a day when he knew none of his young kids could provide a gift to him, he knew what to expect – a couple of disappointed children. So he did what he had to do. On that day, he bought and installed for his kids a backyard swing set. He gave his kids a gift on HIS birthday! And this may not be true, but I believe he lovingly wished the kids a happy birthday on that day. At least that’s what I believe and feel.

I will be honest with you. Until tonight, I never understood what that kitchen counter cash was all about. Now I know. If that man could leave forty dollars for his family to spend on him, then, certainly, he could afford a trip to Lebo’s Big Man Clothing store himself. Any time he wanted to. He didn’t need shirts and underwear from his wife and kids.

All he needed on those days was to show his love. He left that cash to make his wife and kids feel good about themselves and about giving to the man he knew we all loved. I am convinced of that now.

The man I am talking about is my dad.

Look, my brother’s birth year is 1945. My sister’s is 1952. Mine is 1954. And the birth year of the last of the man’s 17 children, grandchildren and greats was just five years ago. My life and those of the others are defined by that kitchen counter forty dollars. The lives of each of us began long before any of us actually reached our place on earth.

All of us were born on July 16, 1921.

So was my dad.

Happy Birthday, Joe! Thank you for giving our lives real value.

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Look. This a Lunacy. So I need to at least attempt some humor here. I will likely fail. This is really just about a pie safe, though. Bear with me okay?

My mom was a Baptist from Burlington, North Carolina. My dad was a Methodist from nearby Graham, a town whose city limit sign is a mere two inches from the same Burlington sign.

When I was a child, Burlington folks were the elite of Alamance County. The Grahamites were outcasts even though Graham was and is the county seat.

My mom is a Mangum. My dad is a Moon. Mangums are die hard Democrats. Moons are die hard Republicans.

I think you get where I am going with this, right? My siblings and I were a confused bunch! At least, I was.

A few blocks from Maple Avenue in Burlington

The first couple of years of my life, I lived in one of Granddaddy Mangum’s Burlington rental homes. The house next door to my mom’s parents. So, I guess it was natural for my mother, siblings and me to stay with my mom and Burlington grandparents those times we later visited from Roanoke, Virginia and Jacksonville, Florida.

Graham County Courthouse not far from Melville Street

But my dad was from Graham. Maybe he hated the idea of spending another night on Burlington’s Maple Avenue. So, instead, he always chose Graham’s Melville Street. And I don’t blame him. His mom lived there! And his four siblings and longtime friends lived nearby. After hearing all the stories of my dad and his outcast crew from Graham, I don’t blame him at all for ditching his family in Burlington!

But there’s more to this. My Moon cousins from Graham were mostly all much older than my sister and me. On the other hand, our Mangum cousins were mostly around our age, so there was play time on Maple Avenue!

Look, this is my demented and long-winded way of explaining my youthful neglection of my dad’s family in favor of my mom’s. Over time, that notion of neglect changed. In so many ways.

Aunt Edith

I loved many of the qualities of the woman I married and the mother of our son. But I have to be honest here. One of her greatest qualities paralleled that of a Moon aunt. My bride reminded me of Aunt Edith, my dad’s only sister – the middle Moon in that clan. Both of those women just had and have a knack of making everyone feel special. And in genuine and fun-loving ways.

After our son was born, Aunt Edith held a family “get-together” at her home on a small lake outside of Graham. Everyone called that home and lake “The Hill.” Don’t ask me why. I am guessing it was a typical Graham label of such a place. And because of that, I love that name, too.

At some point toward the end of that gathering, Aunt Edith called us all into the kitchen area. She was standing next to a cupboard, or something, draped in a cloth – a bed sheet or something. That woman loved attention, and she got plenty of it that evening.

Papa Moon and Mama Moon

She told us all about having searched, endlessly, for a piece of furniture her and my dad’s dad, Papa Moon, once built and somehow gave away or lost during the Great Depression.  At that moment, Aunt Edith revealed that she had found it. After years of work. The woman found it.

As she removed the cloth from that piece of furniture, she honored my wife, new born son and me by telling everyone that she felt Papa Moon would want this to go to the youngest and possibly last Moon kid – my young male child.

That entire event honored my dad as well. He was probably cracking jokes during that presentation – to avoid the emotion of the moment. But he got what his sister was saying.

My son

Well, the edict my Moon aunt issued that night was this: that I possess, for the rest of my life, the pie safe Papa Moon built . Then, I was told to pass it along to my only son. Now I kind of feel sorry for my son.

My son’s sons

He has three guys of his own. Who the hell does he leave it to? Aunt Edith never instructed us about future generational males!

In every place I have lived since, Papa Moon’s pie safe has been in my living room. It’s sitting in my living room now. I looked at that heirloom the other day. For the first time, I noticed and understood some things that I had placed on the pie safe. There is no reason that I placed them there except that I like what they are. But take a look.

It’s full of clutter.   That would impress any Moon.



And the clutter seems to me, to be indicative of just why my siblings and I were as confused as we once were.   But I believe my dad would be most impressed by the important things that now, somehow, bring order to the confusion.

The “New Moon” gang!

Happy birthday, again, Daddy!

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FROM JULY 22, 2013

mama and daddyI’m a dad, you know.   And I’m a granddad.   My son had a couple of granddads.  Both of them are gone now.   They both left way too early to teach my son some of the differing and significant ways for him to truly appreciate the both of them.   But they each left my young son just enough of their different selves.   And what they left is certainly significant.   It is indisputable that the sense of adventure found in the hearts of my son and his mother came from her dad – Herman.  “Herm,” we call him.   Herm took us all to places we could only imagine.   He made real our imaginations.   That man made us parts of memories that will forever hold our hearts in timelessness.

But there’s another granddad of my son.  “Paw-Paw,” my son calls him.   We call him Joe.   I call him Daddy.

Daddy died when my son was almost 8 years old.   Joe lived in Jacksonville, Florida, the city where I grew up.   When he died, I lived with Herm’s daughter and my son in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

This Lunar is about Joe.

Daddy gave to us some things that normal men and guys like Herm just could not.   Herm was a no-nonsense Marine.   Joe was a “fly-boy” during the war.   You get the difference, I am sure.   One of my son’s grandads, the Marine, lived mostly “by the book.”   The other lived mostly by the seat of his pants.   And he tended to use whatever was at his disposal at the time to make differences with folks.   His methods were rarely clear.   But his outcomes were.   Always.

The man could laugh.   The man could cry some, too.   But mostly Joe gave us all laughter.   And he was a jerk, too.   He screwed up plenty.   He knew it.   His wife knew it.   I know it and so do my siblings.   But the man taught me how to just relax, enjoy whatever the hell is going on, and to move forward, showing me that doing anything else at those times is moving in the wrong direction.

I don’t believe Joe’s only grandson yet understands exactly what he got from Joe.   He certainly understands Herm’s influence.   My son was by that man’s side until the very end.   Those two were best friends.   But there is so much more that I see in my son these days.   Of course, I see Herm there. But, my God, I see Joe, too.   We all need a little “fly by the seat of your pants” attitude, don’t you think?   And, for the love of God, we all need humor and laughter and some “at ease time,” too.

I guess it’s all just a balance of things.   And balance is outcome.   Simple.   And clear.

Daddy was born 92 years ago. On July 16.   That anniversary was just a few days ago.

As the years pass so frantically away from the given comfort of the living loved and from the clear and unclear methods of those who taught us things, life seems to last a bit longer and be truer when we witness in the eyes and hearts of those left behind the hearts and souls of those who left us.   I hope that my eyes and my heart give witness to such keepsakes from Joe.

The eyes and heart of my son do.   So do the eyes and hearts of my child’s sons.

Significant.   To be sure.   On Daddy’s birthday.   And every day.

For generations.

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FROM JULY 19, 2010

German Johnson Pink



What began as a simple tomato war between brothers decades ago has now come to this.    Harassing emails from the son of one of those brothers who rather subtly accused me of neglect.    Well, I stood up to that son.   “Patience is a virtue,” is what I wrote him back.  I guess I told him!


Joseph, or “Big Coon” as they called him, left Graham, North Carolina in 1956.    In 1962, he found his way to Florida, hundreds of miles from the nearest North Carolina homegrown German Johnson tomato.

Eugene, “Little Coon” stayed behind.    The lure of the Carolina German Johnson was just too great, I suppose.

Big Coon relied on Little Coon for a number of years.    Little Coon was Big’s best tomato connection.    “Maters,” they call them in Graham.    You say “mater” around those two, and you knew what was meant:  homegrown German Johnsons.

Little was a good brother to Big.    He used to visit Big in Florida during July.  For several years he did this.    And he always brought maters.    Big was in heaven.    Big was big.    A big man.    The maters Little always brought were big enough to, once sliced, cover an entire Miracle Whip coated slice of white bread.    One good slice, Miracle Whip, salt and pepper was all Big needed to do one of his patented inhale whistles.   An inhale whistle is when one breaths in while whistling.  Not out like normal whistles.     The inhale was Big’s indication of total satisfaction.    He always did  that just before taking the first bite of his “mater sandwich.”

There was another brother, Garland.    They called him “Goosey.”    He was the oldest.    One summer, somehow, Goosey got involved.    I do not recall his exact involvement, but I do believe it ultimately led to the mater war.    Maybe he sent Big an unscheduled shipment.    Maybe the maters he sent were bigger than the ones Little always sent.    I really do not recall.    All I know is, the war began when Little brought his family to Jacksonville Beach, Florida, along with a supply of maters for Big.

When Big visited Little’s beachfront motel room for the first time on that trip, he walked right by his brother, his brother’s wife and their two children.    He went right for the maters.    At least this is how I remember the original recollection of the story.   Big bent down and opened the refrigerator where he saw a huge platter of the largest most beautiful display of Carolina German Johnsons he had ever seen.   The wire rack of the refrigerator shelf was sagging from the weight of that incredible harvest.    The inhale whistle was blowing full steam ahead.    Little quickly reacted to this sort of refrigerator invasion. “No, no, Sonny,” Little barked.  “Those are mine.    Here are the ones Goosey sent you.”    Little gave Big the sack.   The paper sack.    The rather small paper sack.    With three of the smallest non-Roman, non-Cherry tomatoes Big ever saw.    Big stood straight up.    His eyebrows almost reached his hairline.    And his mouth popped open so wide the cigar that lived in the right corner of his lips hit the floor.

“What?” Big asked.    Little just gritted his teeth tightly, trying to hold them inside his amazing and sinister grin and rubbed his hands together fast and furious like he was trying to start a fire.   The others in the room just laughed.    Big laughs.    The war had begun.

It wasn’t a real war, of course.    It was all in fun.    Occasionally Little Coon would mail Big Coon a photograph of a mater the size of Big’s head.    One time Big used Carolina mater seeds in Florida soil, trying to grow his own.    It didn’t work.    But Little always made good on the maters.    Big was never hurting for a good Carolina German Johnson.    Not as long as Little had anything to say about it.

Big Coon died in the fall of 1992.    He was buried back in Graham a couple of months after the last German Johnson was harvested in Alamance County that year.    The following summer and a few summers after that, on July 16 of each of those years, I took a single German Johnson tomato and placed it on Big Coon’s grave.   The sixth year, I took two maters.    Been doing two ever since.    Little Coon died July 4, 1998 and is buried right next to Big.    I just can’t take one for Big and leave nothing for Little.

One year, though, probably in ’99, I left a really large German Johnson for Big.    And I left a scrawny little one for Little.    I hope Big and Little both saw the humor in that.    Like all the other years, those maters were placed there in love and amazing fondness of those two and of the relationship they had.

So, the latest in the mater war?    The email.    From Little Coon’s son.    I got this last Sunday.

“I was hankering for some free German Johnsons, but the tomato fairies have not left any at the cemetery yet.”

My reply?  “Patience is a virtue, Cuz.  Friday is ‘Mater Day!’”

“Mater Day” was last Friday.  July 16.  My Dad’s birthday.

I left three this year.

Peace at last.

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Call me weird. Call me a wimp. But I fear severe weather. I guess my mom had something to do with that, although watching, annually, “Wizard Of Oz” tornadoes for the first twenty years of my life didn’t help!

King James Bible

When I was young and when a thunderstorm hit, my mom made us unplug everything electrical in the house. Even lamps! Then we sat toward the middle of the house and away from windows while Mama read Bible verses to us. I do not recall nighttime thunderstorms, so reading the Bible at night and in the dark has never been an issue within my memory.

But, dang it, I think I came up with this OCD thing on my own!

Just an hour or so ago, a severe storm passed over my Charlotte home. I unplugged nothing, and I sat in my favorite chair next to a window, watching television. I did ask God to protect us all from the severe weather, but I didn’t read verses. No. All I did was put my shoes on.

Look, it’s summertime. I love being barefoot. So, when that storm ended safely, I took the shoes off and opened every window in the house.

Well, just now, yet another “Severe Thunderstorm Warning” came across the television screen. So, yeah. I closed the windows and put my shoes back on!

Here’s my weird and wimpy fear. It’s not that I will be struck by lighting. It’s not that watching television with the lights on will attract deadly bolts that invade my living room. I don’t even fear the house being destroyed by the wind or fallen trees or spinning uncontrollably to Oz!

All I fear is walking barefoot through all the rubble and debris to a safe place!

Seriously, y’all!

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In September of 1996, most of us many inland North Carolina residents prepared to endure the brutal strength of Hurricane Fran. Chapel Hill is not a normal place for a hurricane to visit. But I prepared. Somewhat.

I did not fill my bathtub with water. I didn’t buy bottled water. I did not use masking tape on my windows. I bought no canned goods. No candles. I mean, I was not living in my hometown of Jacksonville, Florida where those are normal hurricane things to do. I was in Chapel freakin’ Hill!

But as the threat of that dangerous storm approached Orange County, I did prepare some. I moved the living room sofa to the middle of that small room, and made my son and his Dalmatian sleep there and not upstairs where they normally spent nights.

               I removed my son’s pet rabbit from his front yard cage and his pet parakeet from the stairway landing and placed them both in the downstairs laundry room.

I moved my La-Z-boy chair as far away from the front window as I could – maybe two inches. That’s where I tried to sleep.

But before I even considered the valued lives in that house that night, I first took care of my feet and my fear of walking barefoot through all the rubble and debris that a major storm might cause to our home. Yeah, that’s right!

First thing I did? I put my shoes on!

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Mama loves the color purple.  She says it’s Jesus’ favorite color.  When I first saw that dress, I didn’t even know Jesus had a favorite color.

I still have an image of that dress today.  It was nothing special, really.  Even by June Clever standards.  But when I was ten, it was the most beautiful dress I had ever seen.  And it made Mama just as beautiful.

I told her how much I loved that dress.  She must have said something like, “Well aren’t you so sweet.” And that was it.  Nothing more. Nothing more was necessary.

When I was a kid, like most kids I guess, I would procrastinate from time to time.  But I got that trait from my Mom or Dad or someone in my family upon whom my therapist can reasonably help me pin that blame.  For argument’s sake, I’ll blame Mama.  That will certainly help me rationalize the way she bailed me out from time to time.

She did some things she probably shouldn’t have.  I remember not having done some school work before going to bed a few nights.  The mornings after those nights, I’d wake up worrying.  I was a worrier.  Like Mama.  I guess she understood me because of our similar emotional patterns.  But when I woke up expecting the worst from the day ahead those few mornings, I found my work all done.  By Mama.

Now, maybe I would be more of a responsible human being today if she had just let her child suffer the consequences of his inaction.  But I credit Mama with the love and understanding I have for my own son.  That I’ve had for almost 26 years now.  And maybe I have done that man an injustice.  If I have, well – he’ll just have to take that up with his own therapist.  Like Mama with her children, I cannot stand to see my child suffer.  Even in the slightest of ways.

One night before going to bed, during my sixth or seventh year, I noticed that one of my gold fish was sick.  It was just floating.  On its side.  In that tiny little bowl that it shared with its mate.  I thought it was dead.   It should have been.  And if it wasn’t, then surely it would be the next morning.  I didn’t want to leave the little thing.  I loved the little gold guy.  Mama, as she always did, assured me everything would be okay.  “You need to go to bed,” she said.  So I did.  And I don’t remember doubting her.  She was always right when she gave reassuring information like that.  At least in my eyes.

And.  I was a bit of an idiot as a child.  Thinking back on it now, I should have known that little side-floater would die.  I should have known that no parent or anybody could have saved that fish.  But I went to bed as an innocent and trusting little idiot-boy, never doubting at all the love and strength and ability of that woman.

When I woke up the next morning, I ran into the living room where the fish bowl stayed.   On top of the upright piano.  There was only one fish there.  The sick one was gone.   Mama let me down.  For the first time ever.   The woman let me down.  That was a difficult moment for me.

I walked to the bathroom.  There I saw Mama for the first time that day.  She was just sitting there.  On the closed toilet.  Leaning over the bathtub.  She looked old and tired that morning.  Her right arm and hand were in the bathtub.  She was moving water around.  So very gently.

She had been there all night.  Hunched over that tub.  Nursing that damned little gold fish back to health.

Its mate was happy to have it back in the bowl later that morning.  Mama was happy to get some rest.  After seeing us off to school.  I was simply in awe.

Several years later, I was beginning to grow up.  I was about 9 or 10.  Out in the world.  Or at least out on the block.  In the neighborhood.  Taking care of myself.  Exploring.  Doing things that would surely cause Mama to hemorrhage.  If she only knew.

I wasn’t worrying so much anymore.  Growing away from the love of my life just a bit.

Jimmy Jordan’s older brother, Jickie, helped us build a tree house in the Jordan’s back yard.  It was more of a tree platform.  But is was ours.  The guys’.  Jimmy’s, Jody’s, Johnny’s Arthur’s, Paul’s and mine.

The foundation was triangular.  The flooring was made of equal sized planks.  The planks hung over the joists slightly on the wide end.  Greatly on the narrow end.  As I explored our place, the entire construction, I trusted my friends and their brothers just as much as I had always trusted Mama.  I was growing up.  So I stepped onto the floor that was over-hanging the narrow end of the triangular foundation.  My foot landed on the outside of the joist.  The other side of the plank let go and flew straight up like little Arthur on a seesaw when his large sister Rebecca sat opposite him.

I dropped from our tree platform.  Straight down.  To the ground.  I think Mrs. Jordan’s close line broke my fall just a bit.  But I couldn’t move.  It was my back.

Some neighborhood men made a makeshift gurney.  They carried me to a station wagon.  And to the hospital.  That’s where I remember seeing Mama.

I was in such pain.  I was worried.  Again.  I was crying.  But there was Mama.  Standing in that room.  Wearing that beautiful purple dress.  She took the time to put on that dress before meeting the neighborhood men and her son at the hospital.

I don’t remember anything she said or did.  Maybe she said or did nothing.  She didn’t need to really.  That purple dress said and did it all. It may not seem like much.  But it was another extra mile or ten to me.

And, I’m not Jesus.

But on that day, purple was my favorite color, too.

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FROM JUNE 23, 2014

I guess, if we’ve done stuff right, we hold within ourselves meaningful memories. The most meaningful ones come from the folks who have graced our lives over time.

I have shared with you many memories that came from folks like that. They were about a grandmother who said to me, “Please don’t go!” About a grandfather who trusted me with his tool shed. An aunt who brought me a birthday cake. An uncle who took me fishing.

They were about my dad who made me laugh. My brother who remembered a fallen war hero. My sister who cared for my ailing mom. There was one about a cousin who sent a timely message of encouragement.

There have been many of my son and his wife, and their children. They once filled my empty cupboard with fresh food. My grandsons laughed at me and called me by my new name, “Paw-Paw.” My granddaughter cooked eggs with me.

And my friends – there are many stories of those who lifted me when there was no other direction I could go alone.

It’s funny. When I look at all of those moments objectively, I mostly think of just the stories and of the folks who created them. The stories each, seemingly, intertwine with nothing. They are each merely segments. Segments of time.

Maybe they don’t need to intertwine. Maybe they need to simply exist. But how do I reconcile the simple existence of mere portions of life after what I was given by a woman who embodied the emotional ties that bind all such moments?

She has some segments, too. I’ve shared her moments quite a bit over the years. I look at those times as I do all of the others. At first. But when I remember hers, and when I try to classify them, she clouds things a bit for me. When I think of her, all of my segments lose their definition. And her moments magically fall into place behind all of them.

Her moments have driven all of my life’s portions.

It was her mother who pleaded with me. It was her dad who showed a young child how to use a hammer. Her sister did the baking and delivering. Her favorite brother-in-law baited my hook. Her husband was the clown. Her oldest son remembered. Her daughter cared. Her niece was the timely one. Her grandchild and his family filled my cupboard, laughed and changed my name – and cooked eggs. And the friends? Without what I was given by her, I would never have been able to put a true value on those folks who lifted me all those times.

The woman seemed to bring order to things in my life. She still does. She has, for the past sixty years, taken all of those segments – all of them – and through emotion and love scrambled them into the one solid memory that I need. It’s the only memory that allows me to trace, to a single moment, my very own history and the origin of all of the elements that comprise my life.

That single moment happened when I met my mother.

And the moments following? With her? There were laughs. There were smiles. There were tears. There was some genuine stuff going on. But the definitions of her segments were always clouded by her ability to intertwine those moments in such an inclusive manner.

The one where she stayed up all night to save the life of her son’s goldfish. It was a sweet and singular moment much like all of those from each of the other folks in my life. But when she saved that little swimmer’s life, she didn’t stop there. She brought life to fatherhood – mine. She brought life to my son. And to his children. The days and hours and moments that have passed from that night in 1960, when she stayed hunched over that bathtub in her goldfish emergency room until well after daybreak the next day, clouded that one moment in time into lives – real ones – mine, my son’s and those of his children and into the lives of every child we each touch these days.

The woman seemed relentless in including more into simple moments that were, until she stepped in, easily and clearly defined. Like the time I fell from a tree and hurt my back so badly that the neighborhood dads rushed me to the hospital. All she had to do was to let me heal and move on. That would have been enough to give me a simple segment and a story to tell one day. But on the day I was hurt, she remembered what I said of a purple and flowered dress she wore not long before that accident. I said to her, “I love that dress, Mama.” She looked beautiful in that dress.

That afternoon at the hospital, she arrived wearing purple and flowers. She knew she could do nothing to help heal me that day. But she did what she could. She wore that dress. And she knew. Words and thoughts that come from other folks mean things. So do deeds that come from mothers in purple dresses.

If I was the only one who understood what she did that day, this, too, might just be another sweet moment – just another segment. But Mama clouded this, too, and included in my life deeds and words that I see and hear and feel from my very own son and his wife. I have seen the very same stuff from my brother and sister. Even from my young grandchildren.

They all wear purple and flowered dresses from time to time. They each bring goldfish back to life. And those friends? When they see purple dresses and rescued gold fish, they understand. They understand Mama, and they wear and rescue, too. My survival is proof of that.

The woman gave me life. She loved me. She showed me how to use her kind of love to survive and prosper in such ways – beautiful and clouded ways that take my regimented sort of segments, blend them into things that are difficult to define but that include all of the loving and funny and sweet and endearing moments her son has been allowed to live.

All of them.

No one but Mama could do such a thing.

No one.

Ninety-four years ago, on June 23, way before she gave me life, the woman graced me with the promise of some meaningful stuff. That was the day Mama was born.

I cannot say how much right stuff I have done all these years. I would argue that I haven’t done nearly enough. But by clouding segments into six decades of meaning that intertwine perfectly with every moment her son has lived, well…

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I’d say Mama did some stuff right.