Remembering Momma: Simply A Shift Of Tense.

10 years ago today, my Dad called me to tell me that he was purchasing an airline ticket for my wife and me for the worst reason. Our bags were already packed. Less than an hour later, my Dad called me again. It had happened. My mother, Norma Jean McAfee, had passed away at 65. It’s hard to believe it has been 10 years. Some years are harder than others. These past couple of days have been a punch in the gut.

Momma, I miss you terribly. Having said that, I often look in the mirror, at my wife, at my kids, and at my grandson and YOU ARE THERE. When I had my TIA, as I lied inside an MRI machine, you were there. When Taelor took his first steps and said his first words, you were there. When Shayna got married and I walked her down the aisle, you were there (likely amused with my kilt). When Tom got married and I was introduced as Father of the Groom, you were there (likely shaking your head and giggle about my clown makeup). When my wife and I walked across the commencement stage together, you were there (I even said “Hi, Mom!” on the stage). I would not have obtained that degree without your inspiration and influence.

As easy as it is to recognize all the moments you WERE there in the last 10 years, I must remember that in many moments where you ARE STILL THERE. Every time Brianna sees a butterfly, you are there. She even bought a solar powered one that flaps its wings on the dashboard of my car. As Caleb becomes more and more independent, you are there. Every time I write one of these essays, you are SO THERE (to the point where I can almost feel your presence sometimes). I hate that I cannot share my writing with you face to face but you are still very much…THERE.

Most importantly, I need to remember that, in so many ways, you will STILL BE THERE. As Renee’s education and mine lead to new endeavors, you will be there with each of us finding out where our respective roads will lead. You will be there as each of the kids move on with their adult lives (watching in wonder alongside me). You will be there as your great-grandson, Taelor-James, continues to grow into the young mighty warrior that he has been since birth. Every time, I walk the boardwalk along the Genesee River, the harbor off of Lake Ontario, or the trails along the Erie Canal, you will be there. With every day that I wake up and pledge to do something about my weight, you will be there (as you understand that struggle better than anyone I know).

Yes, Momma. I miss you terribly. But I know, as you would poignantly point out to me, this is all just a matter of shift the tense: you were there, you are there, and you will be there. You have never truly left me. I know you will be there again…soon. I may not realize it until after the fact or even expect it (in spite of all the aforementioned examples). All the same, I can’t thank you enough for teaching when to shift the tense. I look forward to seeing the next shift.

[Note: Before I had a chance to post this, you were there. Once again, you came in the form of a butterfly in our backyard while Brianna played with Taelor. Thanks for visiting, Momma.]

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Stop Laughin’ Momma!

I have often written about my mother. I could go on and on about her many enduring qualities. She was incredibly wise, unbelievably supportive, and the most loving creature you’d ever meet. However, of all the positive traits that I saw in Momma over and over again, there is one attribute that constantly comes to mind. Momma was a good sport. I’d like to think that she was that way all of her life. It’s quite possible that she was. However, by the time I met her she was already 25 years old (I’ll have to go into the day we met some other time). The truth is she most likely HAD to be a good sport just to endure the average day in the McAfee home.

My father is a man who, like me, has a very warped sense of humor. My father uses this trait to do many things. We have all fallen prey to Poppy’s practical jokes, southern sarcasm, and zingers that became a staple in our house. This sometimes meant that my Dad would exercise his humor at my mother’s expense. Momma took this all in stride. She usually gave Poppy a dirty look or sometimes laughed as much as he did. The downside of this is that my parents saw fit to reproduce. This meant that while my brother, sister, and I inherited our mother’s diplomacy, we inherited our father’s warped sense of humor. We all took playful verbal jabs at each other. We also would occasionally set out sites on Momma. So, along with tolerating my father’s antics, she would bear the behavior of her three darling children (who were just like their father). Like I said, Momma was a good sport.

Momma was a little over a year older than Poppy. In addition, her hair greyed prematurely. Momma got her first grey streak at 12 years old (it’s not ALL my fault). This meant that Momma was subjected to a lot of jokes about her age. Most of these jokes were at the hands of her loving husband and offspring. For example, my sister, a high school senior at the time, was making decorations for the homecoming senior float. She asked Momma to help with the decorations. My mother replied: “I’m not a senior.” My sister quipped: “Yes, you are. You’re a senior citizen.” I was beet red with laughter. Mind you, it was my sister that made the snide remark. It was me, however, that got the dirty look (for laughing so hard). I once asked my mother if Methuselah was her prom date (read the book of Genesis if you don’t get that joke). My Dad would get his jabs in once in a while as well. My mom knew that, one day, she would get to see all of us have our comeuppance. Once, in a restaurant, Poppy was teasing the waiter. The waiter playfully (but unexpectedly) returned the fire. My mother not only laughed at the waiter’s response; she applauded.

These days, the tables have turned. I am 44 years old as of this writing. I am older than my mother was when SHE was getting jokes about HER age. I work in a technical support environment. Most of my nearest co-workers are at least 15 years younger than I (some are more than 20). Needless to say, the old people jokes fly left and right at my expense. I get jokes about enjoying movies with sound. I get jokes about not being able to use my mobile phone because it has no crank. I even get jokes that it’s OK to tell these jokes because I’ll just forget them 5 minutes later. Today, however, my comedic colleagues hurled this greatest jab of them all. It went like this: “Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Neither, SHANE did”. I couldn’t help but hear Momma laughing and applauding.