I continue to be riveted by the journals my mother, Pauline, kept throughout my upbringing. Towards the end, a year or more might go by between entries, but the continuity that exists, flows as smoothly as Mama’s voice, as she highlights specific moments in my early journey in life.
"Bone of Contention"
The joys of reading the journals your mom kept about you, growing up, include passages like this one. I was 16-years old, when Mama wrote this,
“May 29, 1969:
Mark seems to be almost a typical teen age boy, if such a thing is possible. His interests are those of most boys and his attitude also. He is loud, rude, rebellious, belligerent, anti-everything, rarely appears to study, and knows every popular singer, group and recording out.
On the other hand he is reasonably tolerant to the little boys [Matt, 12; Tom, 10; and Kevin, 3], rarely holds a grudge when I chew him out for something and sometimes is in a good mood.”
I was all of those adjectives she just used? Belligerent? RUDE? rebellious? Who would have thought?
My sunny disposition aside, there are certain recurring themes which pervade Mama’s entries, one of which is prominent in my life right now, my feet. It would appear that footwear and I have had a 64-year-long war with one another, with no end in sight.
April 2, 1956: We have so much trouble with his shoes. He is always taking one or both off outside and losing them. As a result, he frequently wears two different kinds of shoe, which doesn’t bother him or me at all.
October 15, 1965:
Physically speaking, Mark had a hard summer. One day in late May, he was smashing up firewood, barefoot, with a big rock when that event occurred I have dreaded for years. He dropped the rock on his foot. * X-rays followed showing the foot wasn’t broken but it hurt him for weeks.
Later he stepped on a nail-infection set in, several trips to the doctor. There were a couple of other infected sores on his feet-simply because he refuses to wear shoes around the house.
May 29, 1969: He does all the lawn mowing in the back yard himself-that’s another bone of contention between us. He wants to run the power mower in his bare feet and I won’t let him. Also he wants to walk up to Sunrise Market in his bare feet and Papa won’t let him.
There were the Planters warts that required six trips across town to have them removed via x-ray, in 1968. Though no blame was placed on me, for this added inconvenience, it kind of went without saying, that my feet were the Devil's own...
Mama wrote about my ingrown toenail; after soaking it for months, I had it removed. I had a hate/hate relationship with shoes because they always hurt. As an adult, I have always had to search for my nine-and-a-half, extra-wides, or special order them.
Funny, that never came up in the conversation growing up.
Mama’s not here to write about my feet issues anymore, or she would be having a field day even as we speak. The VA had me make a podiatrist appointment in Santa Rosa, to deal with this issue with my second toe, but went on to have me sign up for the Veterans Choice Program, which allows me to make an appointment closer to home. It seems Santa Rosa is booked up until mid-June.
I am in a holding pattern now, which is standard operating procedure with anything to do with the military. You know, hurry up and wait. But as I explained to that nice Dr. Mulligan in Ukiah, the pain is not chronic. It’s just that when it appears, the discomfort is intense.
I keep insisting they can’t put a toe in a cast, so what is the big deal? They will say, “Stay off your feet,” I will do so at night and Mama won’t be here to record the results. Gluten-Free Mama paints a dire picture if I continue to ignore it, but right now, it doesn’t hurt, so what’s the big deal?
After all, I am “loud, rude, rebellious, belligerent, [and] anti-everything…”
- I most emphatically did not “drop” that huge rock on my foot. My method for busting up wood was to place one end of the board to be broken up on something, and to bring the rock down on the board, halfway between the ground and the object upon which the board rested. Theoretically the board broke. When it didn’t, the rock went airborne and came down…wherever the hell it wanted. In this instance, I had already bounced the rock twice and dodged it, so I changed the angle to make it higher in the air on the one end.
The result was that the rock came back at me like a bullet and landed smack on my right foot. Sheesh, Mama, dropped a rock on my foot?