My mother started reading the obituaries religiously long before she turned fifty. I remember her reading them as early as her thirties.
She’d fetch the morning paper still attired in her nightgown and duster, plop down in her favorite rocker with a cup of coffee, and turn to the obituary page the very first thing, to see if anyone she knew or if anyone with a name she recognized--North Dakota had/has a small population, and we used to joke she knew everybody--had died.
Birthdays were a big thing to her. She sent birthday cards to everyone she knew and to most of the closest members of our family.
She used to send out two cards to the same person--one funny and one serious. To her, birthdays were a very serious thing. She felt she had to acknowledge that. I mean, when you think about it, birthdays in the end really mean death, right?
And because my mom saw them as dark milestones on the way to THE END, she also felt the need to lighten them up with a joke.
I loved that about her. “Congratulations” and “my condolences” for the same occasion.
As far as Mom’s son is concerned, birthdays don’t mean crap. Not even today’s ‘Big 5-O.’ It means only another day of hammering away hard on my latest western so I can get this one done and started on the next one and to get a check that I can promptly fritter away. Not that writing and frittering are drudge work. I love frittering almost as much as I love writing. I might head to town to my favorite Mexican restaurant for a seven-dollar burrito, to stock up on arthritis medicine for my doddering old curs, and to hit the liquor store.
That’s pretty much what life is all about, anyway, isn’t it? Food and medication? Hey, when all is said and done, Mean Pete’s damn lucky not to be decked out in black-and-white striped overalls!
But aside from the same-ole tedious chores, I’ll be hunkered down here in the old hideout, one step ahead of the law and two steps closer to THE END of my next book and the next check in the mail.