Friday Firesmith – Moms

One of the weird things about working construction is you run into the same people over and over. There’s a guy on the dirt crew I’ve worked with, off and on, since 1995, I’ve known him from three different companies, and he’s like a fixture of some sort. He was once a superintendent, in charge of everything, but at seventy-four, he’s let go of most of what he once was to operate a piece of machinery.
Then there are the new people, who have never met me before, and they have no idea how I know everyone on the crew so well.
I’m careful never to tell anyone what to do, unless I’m their supervisor, and I’m not. I make gentle suggestions when I feel the need, but if I can talk to a foreman first I will.
“Stand to the driver’s side,” I tell a man, “he sees you better, and you don’t put yourself between the bed of the truck and the ditch.” He’s guiding a truck back to the dumpsite, and he smiles, and says, “Yes sir”. He knows I’m right, instinctively. Driver’s side means he has an escape route if something goes wrong. And he’s polite about it.
“I know better,” he tells me after the last truck in the series leaves. “Thanks.”
“It’s okay,” I say, and it is. There’s no need to bring management in,
Then we talk, man to man, worker to worker, about the project, about the bridge, and it’s clear he’s new, but he’s out for more than guiding trucks back. He asks me how I know everyone, and especially the old-timers. He’s pushing fifty, been working here less than a year, wants to move up because he’s his mom’s primary caretaker.
It’s time to talk Moms with someone, and I never really knew I needed to do this.
He’s worried something will happen to him, and no one will be able to take care of his mom the way he does. He’s proud of what he does, he feels an obligation, certainly, but at the same time, this is his thing, it’s his, no one else’s, and this is the one thing in life he has to do right, no matter what happens, he can’t screw this up. The words come out in a rush, and for the first time in a while, both of us have someone living the same life, the same fears, the same dreams and goals, and we trade mom stories.
Like new parents would, we show one another photos, and his foreman ignores what we’re doing. He knows me, knows this man, and this is his way of helping us both. Trucks come and go, but I listen to the story of the peaches she picked off the tree this summer, and he hears about Bud, and suddenly we stop and realize we’ve been talking nonstop for an hour.
In this time of plague, and politics, and uncertainty, there’s something primal, something basic and incredibly human about this connection. We cannot fail or waver. If Mom calls we answer the phone. We cook, we listen, and we do whatever has to be done, and there is no one else, but that one person it all falls back on.
“People ask me how I do it,” he says at the end, “but I ask them how can they not do it?”
That’s everything in this conversation. We shake hands, hard, like there isn’t a plague, and his foreman nods at me. We part ways, perhaps for a very long time, maybe next week, but now, when we work together, we’ll share stories, Mom stuff, doctor’s appointments, art classes, dog tales, and gardening.
I found a kindred spirit, on a construction site, in the time of plague and politics, and I refocus on the things that matter more.
Take Care,

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

14 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – Moms”

  1. It seems every friend I’ve ever had, whether a casual friend I’ll wave or say hello to on the street, right up the we-have-a-key-to-each-others-house friend, there’s always one thread that is strongest. It’s often the thread that brought us together in the first place, and with the casual friend may be the only thread, whereas the close friend it was just the beginning.

    For years I heard the clichés about apologizing, expressing love or appreciation, and seeking information from someone before it’s too late. Being younger and dumber than I am now I just brushed it off as clichés, ho hum.
    My mother died six years ago at the ripe old age of 95. I’m amazed how many things I’ve thought of in those six years that I wished I had asked her, but didn’t think to in the previous 70 years.
    Talk to Mom if you can, but sometimes just talking about Mom will trigger questions to ask her if you can.

  2. My mother died just after Christmas in 1996. My dad called 911 and the ambulance rushed her to the hospital 28 miles away. I got a call after she was admitted and dropped everything to be there. They had her on life-support and said as soon as they removed it she would be gone, but they wanted to leave it until I got there. I never got to tell my mother goodbye.

  3. I still have my mom, thankfully. Don’t think for one second that I take that for granted. I talk to her on the phone every day, at least one time and sometimes more. I know at least once a week we will get together. Even if it’s just going to the store, or running some sort of errand together, or me going over to her place. It is a must. When the pandemic started I didn’t see my mother for about 8 or 9 weeks, maybe more. It was excruciating for us both.
    I know her living in a different house is not the same as being her caretaker. I respect what you do, Mike and even admire you for it. I hope that I’ll be able to do that one day. She deserves the best.

  4. My Mam had to say goodbye to her youngest brother who had his funeral today. But he was in the UK. He didnt die of Covid. I connected the laptop for the Zoom funeral but it was not the same. I promised her that next year I will bring her over to UK to see his grave. I will make this happen if its the last thing I do.

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