As I’ve written in the past, Mother’s Day is unfortunately tethered to death in my family. It was on Mother’s Day – May 13, 1990 – when my brother Ken killed his girlfriend and himself at a lounge near Travis Air Force Base. I’ve tried in recent years to be better at honoring my mother and all mothers and seeing the day as a day of love instead of dread.
Anyone who knew my mother knows she was a kind-hearted person. She was fair, funny and generous and she lived her faith. When I picture my mom, I see her cleaning the house while humming a tune, anything from A.W. Dicus’ “Our God, He is Alive” to the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up.”
My mother’s parenting was innovative. When I was a teen, I had a “party drawer.” Underneath clothes sat bottles of wine, cans of beer and packages of cigars. Imagine my horror one day when I went to retrieve my party favors and found nothing but empty bottles, cans and cigar wrappers. Mom had found my stash, dumped the contents and put the empties back in my drawer without saying a word to me. Well played, Mom.
One summer when I was 14 or 15, I sneaked off on my bike to this girl’s house on Pheasant Drive in Suisun City, which was a good ways from my house on Davis Drive in Fairfield. My jaw dropped when my mother drove up to the house yelling for me to “get home!” There was my younger brother Scott, sitting in the passenger seat eating an ice cream. My mom bribed him with an ice cream bar in exchange for my location.
If my mom told me to take out the garbage and I forgot to do it, I’d walk into my room and see a couple of full sacks of garbage sitting on my bed. When she got tired of telling me to stop leaving my shoes in the living room, I’d find my Converse in place of my pillow on my bed.
When I was older, my mom and I would play spades, Scrabble and chess. It was frequently during these games that she confided in me in a way that she never would have when I was a child. It’s a blessing when you can have a true friendship with your mom as an adult.
She told me she wanted my initials to be KJW like Ken’s, so when she had me, she looked through a book of baby names to find something unique. She thought “Kevin” was too common. She might as well have went with that name because I’m called “Kevin” every day anyway!
She confirmed that my paternal grandfather committed suicide and hadn’t died in the car accident as she’d told me when I was a child. She also confided in me that she lost a baby before my oldest brother Orvis was born. It made me wonder how life would’ve been if there’d been six Wade boys instead of five.
I was surprised when I heard her say in a support group that the fact that Ken had committed his horrible final act on Mother’s Day made no difference to her. There is no good day for one’s son to commit murder-suicide.
So this Sunday, I’ll reflect on Katy Wade of San Augustine, Texas. Valedictorian of her class in San Augustine Colored High School. Faithful and loving wife. Mother of five, almost six, boys. Loyal employee of Intercommunity/NorthBay Hospital. I’ll think of the funny things she did, the sacrifices she made and the moral compass and common sense she instilled in us boys. And I will mourn my brother and his girlfriend May 13.
Mother’s Day belongs to my mom. Peace.
Kelvin Wade is the author of “Morsels” Vols. I and II and lives in Fairfield. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.