Mom ruled that household with an iron fist. An iron fist that very rarely touched us and even when it did it was symbolic more than physical. At 5’ 5” 140 pounds she was not a physically imposing figure to anyone that was not the fruit of her loins. To us she was a force that managed all aspects of that house. This is not so say she didn’t have physical abilities, rearing five boys grant’s mothers’ of any stature access to special muscle groups used to control flailing male children with deft control. Hands, wrists and arms would were rewired with steel after the third boy passed the threshold and entered the world. Her limbs were granted super-elasticity to go with her strength so that she could reach down the length of a grocery store aisle to grab your, hard, just as you were about to grab anything that you weren’t supposed to put your hands on.
I remember when I brought my wife home to meet my Mom for the first time. It was Thanksgiving of my sophomore year and this was the first time I had been home since I left for Dayton in the fall. As I entered the back door of that house I greeted my Mom with a “Hello” which she returned in kind and I fell into introductions of my future wife.
Later, I found out, my wife was horrified. She could not comprehend how after so long being away there was no hugs, no kisses, no contact as I returned home. I was baffled.
Although we were a family of six males and one female, Mom is the alpha Male. Mom dictated all structure as we were growing up and Love is implicit in our family. It is not necessary to say it, in fact to use the words too often devalue them. Love is presence and togetherness.
It was the fact that my father was gone so much that set Mom into this role but it was a role she was prepared for and well suited for. She is the oldest of three girls, perhaps another argument in her favor of only wanting to have boys growing up with all females. Pop, Mom’s father was around but I suspect it was Grandma Spangler, Mom’s Mom who was the Alpha Male in that family as well.
Mom would spank us with a ruler, rarely, much more rarely that we would get hit at school. Mom would wash our mouths out with soup, at least she did mine. I don’t think I ever witnesses this with any of my brother but I vividly recall shouting out a blasphemous call of “Jesus Christ” in the basement after a questionable call in a hockey game by the ref. Mom called me up to the tiny entryway by the back door to ask me what I said, which I repeated, and ended up in the equally tiny bathroom off the tiny entryway with a bar of soup in my mouth.
I often wonder if Keith got it like I got it growing up. But even he was old and gone before I was really aware of him. I remember he and Dad would battle and battle over cars and curfews and everything.