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Doug Clark: Thanks to the woman who made me what I am

Sun., May 12, 2013

She loves Rosauers muffin bread, but only if it’s the thin-sliced kind.

When she sends me to the store on a fresh-fruit run, she always adds …

“Don’t buy anything unless it looks good.”

What, like I’m gonna spend money on moldy strawberries?

A while back, I lovingly gave her the nickname “Gompers.”

She wasn’t so sure about that at first. But now if I forget to call her Gompers, she wants to know if I’m mad at her.

In return, she calls me “Little Eddie.”

Unlike my made-up moniker, my nickname is based on someone she knew long ago who, well, let’s just say he didn’t have all his cornflakes in the bowl.

Makes me laugh every time I hear it.

That’s the challenge about picking out a Mother’s Day card. Even the really expensive ones at Hallmark don’t contain references to thin muffin bread or crazy nicknames of endearment.

So on this Mother’s Day, I decided to write my own tribute to my 90-year-old mom, Carol, to tell her how special she really is.

And I know there are a lot of sons and daughters out there who will relate to what I’m saying.

Analysts who study trends in our culture would call someone like me an “informal caregiver” because of the things I do for my mom, like shop, make sure the bills get paid, wash dishes and take her to the doctor every now and then.

My involvement has allowed mom to stay in her own home and maintain a level of independence that she cherishes, preparing her famous hamburger stew, eating spumoni ice cream (except for the chocolate part) and making late-night calls to her best pal, Winn.

A story I read recently reported that “19 million Americans care for someone over age 75, typically a parent or a grandparent, who may not live with them.”

But statistics are cold, brittle things.

The years I’ve spent caring for my mom have rewarded me with a great relationship with this wonderful woman who did so much for me.

I grew up blessed with a stay-at-home mom. She packed my school lunches and chauffeured me to weekly trumpet and guitar lessons, baseball games or movies with my friends.

One year I got into tennis. My mom took over my Spokane Daily Chronicle route and delivered the afternoon newspaper for months so I could play on the school team.

She’s always been my biggest champion who would support whatever crazy idea I came up with.

Nowadays I drive her around while she regales me with great stories like the one about her childhood boyfriend, “Lemonhead.”

There’s a nickname for you.

Still sharp as a pin, she’ll tell me about growing up in southern Utah, where quite a few of those old classic westerns were made.

As a teenager she worked in a restaurant that, when Hollywood was in town, was frequented by actors John Wayne and Joel McCrae. Good thing they didn’t know about the cook’s habit of scratching his itchy head with the same fork that he used to turn the steaks.

Some days I’ll go over and find my mom sound asleep.

Old age, from what I’ve observed, involves taking a lot of power naps.

The other day I crept in while she was dozing and lay down on the floor at the foot of her bed. Then I dug out my cellphone and called her up.

GOMPERS – “That you, Little Eddie?”

L. E. – “What have you been doing, sleeping?”

GOMPERS – “Oh, no. I’m not sleeping. I’m watching TV.”

L.E. – “Sure looked like you were sleeping.”

GOMPERS – “Are in my house again?”

That was my cue to slowly stick my head up and wave.

GOMPERS – “You jackass!”

We do a lot of laughing, Mom and I.

I call it humor therapy, based on the old notion about laughter being the best medicine.

My mom might argue the point, especially when she’s receiving prank calls from her bedroom floor.

Then again, she has made it to 90.

So happy Mother’s Day, Gompers, and to all you moms who were there for your kids.

We love you.

Doug Clark can be reached at (509) 459-5432

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