Friday, January 27, 2023

Insight: Laughter worth remembering

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

Through the years, my relationship with my mother was somewhat confusing as she could be highly supportive yet also one of my fiercest critics. I could be on top of the world one minute, but a raised eyebrow or caustic remark from her could bring me crashing back to reality.

Harriett Pierce would have turned 100 on
Jan. 29, 2023. She died at age 95 in 2018.
There’s a lot of ground to explore about my relationship with Harriett Pierce, but since she passed away at age 95 in August 2018, I am focusing on the more positive aspects of the time I spent with her and her quirky sense of humor.

One of her final remaining goals was to make it to her 100th birthday and she fell a bit short. Therefore, in remembrance of her big day on Jan. 29, 2023, here’s a few anecdotes about my mother that make me laugh to this day.

As my mother got older, her vision decreased significantly because of macular degeneration. She could no longer see to drive and surrendered her driver’s license at 84. Although saddled with declining vision, she remained in her own home and would spend her afternoons in her living room listening to Oprah Winfrey on a small 13-inch portable television set.

One day I stopped by her house on my way home from work. I wanted to see if she needed anything from the store or if there was a household chore that she wanted me to do for her. When I told her that, she told me she wanted me to scrub out her bathtub with bleach.

I had just spent the day at work and was still wearing what I normally wore to my job at the newspaper in the 1990s, which was a short-sleeve dress shirt and some nice dress pants. The shirt was an expensive Polo brand from Tommy Hilfiger that I had recently purchased.

Not wanting to get my work clothes dirty, I told her that I was going to go home and change and come right back to do what she wanted. She told me that I didn’t need to do that because my shirt already had a paint blotch on it and wasn’t worth saving.

The “paint blotch” she was referring to happened to be the Polo “Jockey” designer emblem imprinted on my shirt, which from the perspective of her blurred vision, had turned my dress shirt into attire suitable for cleaning her bathtub.

Then there was the time when a family friend was visiting Florida from our hometown in New York state. He had moved to the U.S. from England in the early 1960s and worked with my father as a mechanical engineer at Xerox Corporation.

This friend had brought my mother a book he wrote about his experiences as a child growing up in England during World War II. He had self-published the book, which was about 100 pages filled with stories about his life as a schoolboy in Great Britain.

My mother invited my wife Nancy and I over to dinner with the author and during the meal, she asked me to tell him about my work as a daily newspaper reporter. I shared with him how I had to develop and write typically three or four 750-word articles for each day’s edition as assigned by my editors and that included obtaining interviews with newsmakers and sports stars, researching topics and verifying facts, all within the span of my eight-hour workday.

I mentioned to him some of the important topics that I had covered during my career which included space launches, political campaigns, murders, tragic accidents, deadly fires, airplane crashes, and missing people. I also explained to him what was required to put some of those articles together and the steps I had to take to ensure the story was well-rounded and objective and featured varying viewpoints.

When I finished describing my duties as a daily newspaper reporter to the author, my mother turned to me and said to me that I should pay close attention to what our friend had to say.

“He’s a real writer,” she told everyone. “He’s written a book.”

As I did a slow burn, my wife pinched my arm, sensing my frustration with her remark. Years later, we still laugh about that one.

Her taste in men also was questionable. Once after my father died, she called me up, excited about a dentist who had asked her out for breakfast.

When I didn’t hear back from her later that week, I called and asked her how her date went. She told me she was disappointed.

“He asked me out for breakfast and picked me up and we drove and parked by the river,” she said. “Then he reached into the glove box and pulled out a brown paper bag that had two bagels in it. On the floor by the back seat, he had a thermos with coffee in it and two styrofoam cups. It was his idea of going out for breakfast.”

Trying to figure out my mother has always been a challenge for me, but to pay tribute to her on the occasion of her 100th birthday, I can say she was truly one of a kind. <

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