A Letter To My Mother – Happy Mother’s Day

May 4, 2013
Saturday, 9:22 PM

I’m a week early, but it’s better to be a week early than a week late…

Dear Mother,

It was a cold day on December 10, 1977 in Somerset, Pennsylvania.  The maximum temperature was 13 degrees fahrenheit, with a low temperature of 2 degrees.  I looked it up online.  They keep record of these sorts of things if you can believe it.  Anyone can look it up if they’re curious, and well, you know that your son has a curious mind for things that most people don’t care to know about, so I looked it up.

I was born on a Saturday morning at 9:45 AM, just a few weeks before Christmas, which is why you and Dad settled on the name Christopher.  I don’t know where the Paul came from.  I never thought to ask before, but I think it was because you and Dad liked the biblical character, Paul.  I looked up the meaning of the name, and the name Paul means “small” or “humble.”

I came into this world weighing 7 pounds and 10 ounces, and measured 20 1/2 inches in length.  Having your ass smacked by the nurse and being covered in all that goop is a pretty humble beginning for any child, so I guess the name was suitable for your early Christmas present.  Christopher Paul was born.

Birth Certificate

Pictured are your newborn son’s foot prints in black ink, and right below them are your thumbprints marked with the same black ink.  When the nurse took my feet to the ink pad –  most likely kicking and screaming, and hopefully taking a whizz all over her – there was no telling where those tiny feet would end up some 35 years later.

Would your son become a teacher?   Would he become a missionary?   Would he get into trouble and spend half his life rotting away in jail?

Would your son get married?   Would he have kids someday?  Would he be content to remain single just like the character Paul did in the Bible?

Would your son be healthy?  Would there be complications from birth?  Or heavens forbid, would your son pass away and leave this Earth far too early?

These are the questions that a mother never knows when she decides to have a child, but she swipes her thumbs along the ink pad and presses them firmly to the paper with a lot of uncertainties and no guarantees for her son’s future, other than the guarantee that she will try to love him as best she can.  But even that is something that you can’t predict no matter a mother’s best intentions from the beginning.  So you were left with a lot of questions and worries about your newborn son on that cold, winter day in December.

5 Year Old Hands

Pictured is a photocopy of your son’s hands when I was five.  They’re chubby, little hands smushed against the glass.

There were some answers to be had by the time I was five.  You knew that I was kind and had a tender heart.  I made you many colorful drawings of flowers and birds with the words scribbled in crayon “I love you.”  You knew that I embodied a creative soul and enjoyed making art with crayons, pencils, pens, markers, finger paint and anything that my little, chubby, five year old hands could get a hold of.

You knew that I had an inquisitive mind and enjoyed reading books and looking things up in the Encyclopedia, but I also enjoyed making up my own stories a lot of the times.  You knew that I was a people person, but you also knew that I had a very independent spirit.  Many times I left to go explore the great wide open, wearing nothing but underwear and a pair of Moon Boots as I went trouncing off into the backwoods by myself for the day.

You knew that I was a bundle full of energy, hated taking naps, didn’t mind eating vegetables, and was a real pain in the ass sometimes, to the point that I almost drove you literally insane, with much help from my other siblings, of course.

You had a sense of who I was, but still, there were a lot of questions left unanswered about your son’s future, and the worrying from a mother continued.

35 Year Old Hands

Pictured is a scan of your son’s hands taken just a few days ago at the age of 35.  Those little, chubby hands grew and grew and grew, and they became too big to fit on the glass anymore, so that’s why parts of them are cut off.

A lot of questions about your son have been answered over the years.   Your son got a job working in the film industry through a lot of hard work and a little luck.  I’ve never been married and have no kids.  I’ve been blessed with good health so far.  I prefer a simple life, have no television, coffee maker, toaster oven, and live in a small apartment in Pittsburgh.  I enjoy cutting up, entertaining others, but I can also hold a serious conversation with the best of them.  Your son is happy with his life for the most part.  But still, there are a lot of questions left unanswered for a mother.

When I was born, you knew that there would always be questions and worrying, but you made your thumbprints on the paper anyhow, claiming me as your son.   You were committed from that day forward despite the many uncertainties that life throws at a person, for better or for worse.

I don’t know where my hands and feet will take me the remaining years on this planet.  Somedays I dream big, and somedays I’m content to do absolutely nothing at all.  Somedays I think it would be nice to be married, and somedays I prefer to be left alone.  Somedays I think about moving to a new town, and somedays I want to live in Pittsburgh forever.  These hands and feet seem to have a mind of their own, so there’s no telling where they’ll end up one day.  I wish that I had the answers to ease your worrying mind, but that’s the part of life that I seem to thrive on best.  The unknown.

Really the only answer to any questions that I’ve ever needed was for someone to love me unconditionally and to support me when this curious mind gets him into trouble.  You’ve fielded many angry phone calls from principals, teachers, neighbors, parents, church ladies, police officers, park rangers, and from the college Dean.  I’ve gotten many scoldings and spankings as a child, but afterwards, you took the time to sit me down to explain how things in life are supposed to work, despite my resistance to want to know.

You knew my heart better than those fussy people who liked to point fingers and yell that your son was a problem child, when I was only being a curious boy.  You were patient and committed to your son, despite the many headaches having a curious boy can cause for a mother.

I wanted to leave you with something that my chubby hands created when I was six.  It’s a drawing of a flower that I colored with crayons on white construction paper.  It’s ripped and torn to pieces, but you taped it up, or somebody taped it up, and you saved it after all these years.  It must have been special for you, because when you gave me a box of keepsakes that you kept of mine over the years, including this one, you started crying.

I’m not a mother, so I can only guess as to what the crying fit was all about.  I just figured it’s because it must be difficult for a mother to come to the realization that her son is no longer made up of tiny feet and little smushed up hands on the photocopier glass.  A mother sits around at night when the house is empty, and wishes that she could still hold her son tight in her arms and kiss those tiny feet goodnight.  But time marches on, so maybe that’s what spurred on the tears that day – seeing your son all grown up in the kitchen that day.  I don’t know.  I didn’t think to ask you that either, because it made me uncomfortable to see you crying, and my feet just wanted to get going.

Mothers Day Card 1Mothers Day Card 2

Your small and humble son would just like to say thanks for always being there for me and loving me like only a mother can love her child.  I know that I’m handful.  I know that I’ve left you with more questions than probably most sons, but I guess my answer to all your questions would be this.  Even though I’ve grown to be a young man and those tiny feet are now a size 11, my heart is still the same as your tender five year old who enjoyed making you drawings of flowers and birds.  It doesn’t matter where my hands and feet take me, as long as my tender heart is leading the way.  So try not to worry.  Try to put all the questions to rest.

Next time I see you, we’ll drink some Franzia boxed wine, and have a good laugh remembering all the old stories of how I almost drove you to the loony bin.  You deserve a medal, but a crumpled up flower will have to do.

Happy Mother’s Day.  I’m sorry that I forgot to wish you that last year.  I know that it hurt your feelings.  It was just a bad year for all of us in the family, so that’s why this year I wanted to make it up to you as best I can.  With a crumpled up flower from 1983.  Some lousy son I am.  HA!  Guess you’re stuck with me, hands and feet and all.

I love you,

Christopher Paul

Excerpt From The Next Great American Classic – Chapter One: Here Lies A Great Man

I woke up this morning from a strange dream at 3:28 AM.  I reluctantly rolled out of my comfy bed and fumbled for my laptop and a pair of glasses sitting on top of the nightstand.  I began writing down the dream while it was still fresh in my memory, thinking that this morning when I woke up, the dream would be of some great revelation.  Not so much.  I would have been better off to have just gone back to bed and forgotten the strange dream in its entirety.

The dream went like this:  I was a 14 or 16 year old boy in the civil war era.  Another boy of similar age – the enemy – was throwing javelins at me from about fifty yards away.  The javelins had a sharp arrow at the end of them.  They were nothing to mess around with.

The boy was aiming for my head, and my waist.  I dodged the first couple javelin throws, then he finally landed one.  The javelin spear chucked me right through the gut.  I thought I was a goner, but just as I yanked the javelin out from my stomach, I was rescued by a man riding along on a horse.  I thought, surely, this is the part of the dream where the man magically morphs into Kate Upton, takes me back to her secret lair to patch me up, and declares her undying love to me.  Not hardly.

The dream continued.  I was riding on the back of horse with the man, holding my intestines from spilling out all over the place, when the man circled back around to kill the boy.  I don’t normally condone violence, but in my opinion, the little shit kinda’ had it coming to him.  Thankfully I woke up from the dream before the slaughter of the boy occurred.

Needless to say, the dream put me in somber mood this morning, so I thought I would share a more somber piece of writing.  This is the first chapter from an untitled novel that I had started writing a few months back.  I have about 20 of these unfinished novels and screenplays to my credit (or discredit?).  I’ll read something, like a Mark Twain, or a J.D. Salinger, and think to myself, “Hey, I can do that.”   But it’s never quite as simple as sitting down at a computer to begin to write, so eventually I give up.

One of these days I’ll complete The Next Great American Classic.  It won’t be today, but rather than keep all of my works hidden, I decided to share a few excerpts from time to time.  Maybe it will give me the inspiration to pick one of them back up and finish writing.


Untitled Next Great American Classic
Chapter One:  Here Lies A Great Man

I went to see my grandfather today.  Well, I didn’t see him, see him.  He’s dead.  Buried right underneath the oak tree that sits alone on top the hill out in the country.  It used to be his favorite hiding spot, that tree.  What exactly he was hiding from, no one will ever know.  About the only words he ever muttered to us was, “I told you not to come.”

My mom really tried for years and years.  She would load up the car with us kids – me, my brother, and my sister – and she would drive the six hours every summer to visit him at his farmhouse just outside Hamilton, New Jersey.  But most the time, PopPop would be no wheres to be found, or we’d see a tiny speck of a man on top the hill, sitting by his lonesome underneath the oak tree.  So instead of visiting him, we visited with the horses in the barn, or we visited with the ducks in the swimming pond.  It didn’t make no difference to me.  I’d rather talk to a duck than a jackass anyways, but it was hard on my mom.  She would cry the whole car ride home and claim it was from her allergies acting up.

The car ride home was something awful.  There was static coming in and out of the oldie’s station and mom’s sniffling.  The combination of the two sounds was about the worst goddamned sound any person could ever imagine.  Sniff, static, sniff, static, doo wop, doo wop, sniff, static.  I couldn’t wait to be out of that car.

PopPop was a bitter cuss of a man to put it mildly.  He didn’t like us kids.  He didn’t like my mom.  He didn’t like no one really, so when he died, no one in the family knew nothing about it.  It was the most baffling thing how someone could close themselves off to the world like that.  Mom drove down by herself one weekend to make a final attempt to “make amends” as she put it, when the phone rang:

“He’s dead!  He’s dead! I can’t believe it, he’s dead!”
“Slow down, mom.  Who’s dead?”, I asked.
“PopPop.  No one’s here and the house is all boarded up.  I couldn’t get inside, so I drove down to the neighbors, and they said he died over a year ago.  That no good, rotten, coward of a man didn’t even say goodbye to his own daughter!”

Death, what a sorry sack of shit that is.  Everyone has this idea that they can live forever, which ain’t but a lie.  You live to be 60 or 70 years if you’re lucky, and 80 years max.  PopPop, that stubborn mule, he made it to be 84.  He tried to cheat death as best he could, thought it wouldn’t find him if he just disappeared off the face of the earth during his final years, but death don’t pay no mind to cheaters.  Death will always have the final say.  Sometimes it will come to you as a whisper in the night, or sometimes it will roll you over with a 180 horse powered John Deere tractor while you’re out cutting hay, which is exactly what it done to PopPop.  Squashed him like a bug on a windshield, and that’s just the way death can be sometimes.

I don’t know why I drove down to his farm to go see him, except sometimes you just have to see things with your own eyes.  I wanted to see that cheater with a pile of dirt heaped on top of him, and I wanted to spit on his grave.  Once for my mother, once for me, and once for every sniffle, static and doo wop I ever had to hear on that car ride home.  By my accounts, that was about one million hawks of spit he had coming to him, but nobody has that much saliva to give another person no matter how much they done you wrong, so I decided it would be best to save my spit.

It took me a little bit of searching, but I found his gravesite.  There it was. Just a tiny speck on top of that hill, right underneath the oak tree where I last seen him.  It was  peaceful.  It wasn’t cluttered with all the other tombstones, and giant statues of crosses, and those stupid, fake flowers that everyone is so fond on leaving behind for a bunch of stiffs.  I had to hand it to PopPop for that one.  He had a nice view, a cool breeze, and some shade for when the sun got too hot.  Some good it did him now, but he got what he was after.  He got to be left alone once and for all.

The marker didn’t have no name, no birth date, or no nothing, really.  The only thing it said was “Here lies a good man.” I’d like to know who he paid to carve out that big, old lie.  I would’ve had a few other choice words if it were left up to me. It was probably best that it wasn’t.

I sat down next to his grave for nearly an hour.  The summer breeze got me to thinking.  I thought, ain’t it a shame how you can live your entire life only to be summed up by a few, lousy words carved on a slab of stone.  It’s really a crying shame the way the whole thing gets played out, so I decided that when I get squashed, I’m gonna leave behind more than just a few words.  I’m gonna leave behind a whole damn book.  There will be plenty of funny stories, adventures, and good times, but I won’t spare the bad parts, neither.  There will be stories of sadness, and heart break, and ain’t that the way life goes, really?  Ups and downs, highs and lows.  Some good men and some a little rotten, too, but at the end of it all, we all have the same measly reward waiting for us when we die.  Just a cheap vase of plastic flowers at the foot of our grave, and a few, measly words for people to remember us by.

At least I’ll have the decency to say goodbye.  That will be the last word in the book:  goodbye.  Then I’ll sign my name, Samuel Wynmore, and I suppose now that I think about it a little more, it wouldn’t hurt to end it with “Here lies a great man.” A helluva lot better man than his deadbeat grandfather, that’s for sure.

Guess I better get to writing.  I know just where I outta start.  Where every great man’s life begins and ends. With girls and booze.