Most regular old Mormon folk will assure you that we no longer practice polygamy. That isn’t strictly true. You see, I have two moms and not in the currently fashionable manner.
Mom #1, Jil, was married to Dad for time and eternity back when MTV actually showed music videos and mullets were cool. She popped out four of us and then passed away. Fast forward a few years and Dad marries Rachel for time and eternity. Mullets and El Camino’s were out by then but Crocs and flip-phones were big. Anyway, we do practice polygamy on a cosmic scale since there is no “till death do us part” in a Mormon wedding.
Most of my Mom-B.C. (Before cessation) memories took place in the 90’s, when women wore those weird carpet vests and guys wore Jnco jeans with enough fabric to hang on the mast of a modest sailboat.
Anyway, Mom-Numero-Uno excelled at fostering each new interest I had. Any mom willing to read Goosebumps with their kids gets a gold star. When I decided to play the harmonica she went all in, learning it herself enough to teach me, buying books, and actually listening when I wanted to show off what I’d picked up. When I wanted to juggle she bought the circus colored balls and taught herself to juggle so we could have contests. Or maybe she just liked heckling me when I lost.
When other people bring her up they always mention her singing. She sang constantly. She performed whenever she could and opportunities abounded because she was truly talented. Now I know there is a strong tendency for rose- colored hindsight when remembering dead people, but we have recordings to prove it (not recordings of dead people, recordings of mom’s singing). She loved hymns and show tunes (I know, she was a Mormon cliché Mom). I got some 50’s rock and roll CDs from grandma who was one of those people that actually ordered the music compilations from TV infomercials. We danced and sang to Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Buddy Holly.
Mostly I remember how warm and wonderful hugging her was. The ultimate comfort. Her favorite hymn asked, ‘Where can I turn for peace? Where is my solace?’ I guess she couldn’t hug herself and had to ask those questions, but those lyrics sum up her hugging power for me. Even teenage Mitch would go for that under the right angst-filled circumstances.
Mom-A.D. (After Death) is awesome too. There isn’t an ounce of jealousy in Rachel concerning her predecessor and now that I’m married I have a new appreciation for how remarkable that is. She’s picked up a scratched and dented baton that Dad had been carrying alone for too long, and is running a great race. Mom-C.S.W. (Cosmic Sister Wife®) is constantly sacrificing her own sanity to beat some moral sense into me and mine.
Polygamy jokes are fun, but dead mom jokes are better. I never have shied from the low hanging fruit in my efforts to solicit laughter. Occasionally I climb high enough to pick a good one, to say something truly clever, but most of the time I’ll settle for a fecal related jape if that is what’s available. After Prior-Mom died I found that some fruit hung lower than even the norm. Even beneath the fruit that sits bruised and rotting at the tree’s roots (this fruit mostly consists of fart jokes and bad puns). Like six feet under. Enter dead mom jokes.
I don’t know how Past-Tense-Mom would react to these jokes, but Annie (my wife and to some extent mom #3) imagines that whenever I say something I shouldn’t Angel-Mom ramps up the singing volume so the Lord can’t hear what I’m babbling about. If this is true by the time I join her beyond the last door I’m sure she’ll sound like a life-long smoker, having spent her vocal cords on my behalf.
Speaking of doors, some guy who knows Dad and New-Mom came into the office to buy a door, and he asked me how Mom-Number-One died and how old I was when it happened. Not too strange coming from someone more recently acquainted with dad. I was at work and couldn’t mess with the guy. A few wishful responses off the cuff:
- “Mom’s dead? But Dad said she abandoned us?”
- “She was eaten by a wilder beast on my sixth birthday. In a vengeful fit I took up my spear and slew the dreaded beast and ate its heart right there on the dusty savanna and with blood still dripping from my elbows I ripped a few stringy bodaggits free as a gruesome fecal covered memento.”
- “She died the same way you will, but I’m older now!”(this response requires a fork and I’m not in the habit of keeping one on me for these occasions)
- “She drank from the wrong Kool-Aid pitcher at Grandma’s birthday party.”
Instead I told him the truth. I was 14 and I never can remember the name of the blood disease that took her. Don’t particularly care to remember.
Not long after she died, Dad had me put together a picture file of Memory-Mom photos on the computer for the screen saver program to cycle through (in those days apps were just called programs). I found every picture I could and when I was done Dad thanked me, but asked me to remove the funeral pictures.
It isn’t that I don’t care enough about Passè-Mom to file her disease’s name away in the memory banks, but I think the reason I just don’t care is the same reasoning that led Dad to ask me to yank the funeral pictures. It is the same reason that, when we gather as a family and reminisce about Original-Mom, we don’t tell amusing anecdotes of the viewing (actually we do sometimes, one of my little cousins surprised outbursts when he reached in to touch her is worth remembering).
Anyway, the man at work who knows Mom-Take-2 and Dad nodded seriously and as we completed his order he asked, “So were you devastated?”
Surprised silence from me.
And here is my list of responses that would have been better than “I suppose so…”:
- “No, we were glad that wench croaked.”
- “No. My bruises finally began to fade.”
- “WAS I? You’re use of the past tense is insensitive, sir. We still hold nightly candlelight vigils for her. You think this is dirt under my fingernails?! Look at them! Look at them! That is lamb blood from her alter!”
Ok, that last one was a bit dramatic, and while I might have gone for that in my high school days my responses tend to the sarcastic and calm any more.
I’m not sure what kind of reaction that dude was after. I like to think he is just one of those socially inept but well-meaning people. Mostly I like to give him the benefit of the doubt because it makes me feel less ashamed of such a tame reply as the one I gave him.
Of course we were devastated. I’ll tell you, dear internet strangers and friends, since you didn’t have the bad taste to ask at my workplace. We lived in Montana when it happened. She was in the U of U hospital getting poked and prodded while physicians tried to come up with a diagnosis.
When Dad called his cousin who was watching us kids and asked her to drive us to Utah it never entered my mind that something was wrong. Maybe I was too self-involved to make such an obvious deduction. Eight hours later we arrived at the hospital, where I memorized an amusing bumper sticker that offered proof of blonde people’s mental deficiency. I thought Non-Blonde-Mom would like to hear it.
We got to the appropriate floor and Dad pulled all four of us into a room to tell us the news. A coma had been sustained long enough to give us a chance to say goodbye. I still shudder to imagine what kind of hell Dad went through in the previous eight hours as he waited for his kids to show up, how the weight of it stacked atop him moment by moment for him to shoulder as he led us into that little room. I don’t remember how he told us any more than I remember exactly what the damned bumper sticker said. We hugged as a family then, seeking comfort and not finding it. She was the one with the comforting hugs, the one with the solace.
We went into the dark hospital room one by one. It’s a surreal memory. I sang to her. I didn’t sing her favorite hymn, I sang mine. But she wasn’t the one who needed solace, I was. I’ll keep the title of that hymn to myself. I said goodbye and stood there feeling like I should do or say something more, but there wasn’t anything more to be said or done.
There was a viewing. There was a funeral. There were jokes and I found a measure of solace in making my friends and family laugh, even in that dark place. Or maybe I’m the only one who laughed. I still don’t pay enough attention to notice if anyone’s laughing but me.
Dead mom jokes are one of my favorite ice-breakers with new people. A dead mom joke doesn’t just break the ice, it demolishes the ice, the social atmosphere, and the comfort of my unwitting victims. It puts me in a sick kind of control.
Was I devastated? Sure. But more importantly, as the last paragraph proves, I was psychologically corrupted.
Here’s the uncomfortable truth: It sucks Beta-Mom ditched us for the greener grass on the other side of mortality’s fence, but if I was given a choice to erase the past and bring her back I would have to decline.
We have Mom 2.0 now and we love her and love our ongoing campaign of debauchery where she is concerned. I don’t know what paths our lives would have taken if Original-Mom had lived. Would I have met Annie at the bowling alley and fallen for her while Don Henley sang over the crackling ancient speaker system at Bonwood Lanes? It is hard to imagine. I kind of like the three kiddos we’ve created together. I like who I have become as a result of all of it. Even the callous sick and twisted elements.
Annie has dedicated herself to reversing my penchant for sociopathy, and has been marginally successful at reintroducing some emotion back into the mix, so some damage is being mitigated by her ongoing efforts. Oh, and Annie’s hugs are strait up lit.
Now-a-day’s people are more accepting when I tell them I have two moms (hashtag equality). Less so when I assert that Dad is a practicing polygamist (I leave out the fact that his polygamy is an eternal arrangement). And even less so when I tell them a dead mom joke. (You know what? You deal with life’s crap your way, and I’ll deal my way. Without Mom. Because she’s dead.)
Some favorite D.M.J.’s (off the cuff again because I shoot from the hip on these and don’t write them down or remember them):
- Response to Yo Mamma jokes: “Let me try! My momma’s so dead her autopsy is old news.”
- Or: “My momma’s so dead she can’t stand on a scale, you monster.”
- When someone asks if I kiss my mom with this mouth:
- If they know she’s dead and forgot: (I look them in the eye, serious expression) “Yes.”
- Someone new: “Sometimes, but her ashes get stuck to my moist lips and after washing so much of her down the drain I can’t pucker up enough to reach what’s left at the bottom of the urn.”
- When someone finds out Mom-The-Sequel is a sequel and assuming divorce ask where the mom-of-yore is: “Down Under.”
So yeah, these are old wounds. The scabs have fallen off and healed over without scarring too much. I find my comfort these days in Annie’s hugs, my peace in the guitar and music, and my solace in the written word.
Post Script: Feel free to post your favorite dead mom jokes in the comments below.