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A mother’s death can be as devastating and life altering as any event can be. I assume it is the same with all adults who lose their last parent, you suddenly have some itty-bitty sense of the loneliness that an orphan feels. You have lost the crutches you didn’t know you had leaned on for a lifetime, and suddenly must walk on alone.

There were plenty of private tears when Mom passed but there was also an intense pride that was palpable to everyone in the church as the four brothers sat alone, ram rod, shoulder to shoulder, in the first pew facing what remained of her.

I was in my late forties, adjusting my posture to sit straight and proud, when the youngest brother, Johnny, stood up to give the eulogy, a selection mother had requested should she die. Billy, Bobby and I shifted nervously in the pew. Johnny, the youngest, had never given a speech before, and was intensely close to Mother. John wept at her passing as if he had lost the most loyal friend he had ever known and that was so.

We were certain he wouldn’t be able to talk about Mom in front of the crowd and hold it together. But Mommy knew best. He stood up and walked with resolve to the pulpit, turned and faced the crowd . . . then hesitated, just stood there. After an anxious moment, he did a strange thing. He reached into his pocket with his right hand, pulling something out, then crossed his hand over his body, placing it over the bicep of his other arm. The brothers were ready to stand, go up and let him off the hook, but he began to speak, a wonderful eulogy, only pausing a few times. His pauses were a bit lengthy as he seemed to hug himself and then went on warm and touching in a way that was exquisitely personal to the three of us looking up at him.

He concluded his eulogy talking about Colonia Solana, the old neighborhood where we were all raised and learned most everything valuable that we ever would. He told stories about the neighborhood, said there were a lot of other families and a lot of other kids, and then finished with, “But it belonged to us, the Kimball brothers, it was our neighborhood, we knew it, everyone knew it, we owned it.”

When it was over, I told him how wonderful it was, how proud and enormously impressed I was with what he said, and how he had managed to hold it together and get through it.

“I knew I couldn’t do it,” he said. “What are you talking about, you were just terrific,” I argued. He then looked at me strangely, unsure of something, then went on, “I knew I would lose it, so I had this thing.” He reached into his pocket and pulled it out. “Every time I started to lose it,” he said, “I crossed my arms and dug this in.” He had pulled out a long bloody needle.

There were still some people around and I had to quickly excuse myself, I hadn’t yet cried that day. It was so typical of my brothers, an intensely secret, protective, passion that I would only know in childhood through my brothers.

Colonia Solana had been one of the nicest neighborhoods in town, with maybe 100 old well-to-do homes. My mother had sold our home 15 years before and the four of us had never gone back there together, but we did that day with the box of Mom’s ashes. We told outrageous stories of things we remembered and had done at each house as we slowly passed them until we got to our own. As we approached our old house and Billy, Johnny and I were debating a befitting placement for mom’s ashes, Bobby suddenly hopped out of the car with that box of Mom, marched up the driveway to the front door, and started casting her all over the grounds and the memories of what she and we had done at that glorious place.

I doubt she would have approved; her memories could not have been our memories. By rough calculation she had changed almost 5000 diapers, prepared 65,700 meals, swept, vacuumed and scrubbed 8,000 rooms and laundered a pile of clothes, that if neatly folded and stacked (not always the case), would have roughly equaled the cruising altitude of a 747. The number of motherly-sponsored or -ushered events, Sunday masses, birthdays, holidays, PTAs, Cub Scouts, football, baseball, basketball, swimming, school shows, doctors’ visits, teacher conferences, summer camps, picnics, vacations, and at least one enema on yours truly, were more numerous than my memories can reasonably be expected to calculate.

Perhaps she was like your mother if you were of shockingly good fortune.

All that she had done in our teenage years, she did alone. Her husband dead, leaving her with nowhere near the money the house would suggest and four boys with the total accumulated good sense of mice tickling the whiskers of sleeping cats.

The four brothers had been unrelenting in their mischief. It never really occurred to us that she was human. She was tough and although she would often laugh, I never saw her cry but for that one occasion with the pharmacist. As the four of us aged and mellowed, which took a forever, we slowly came to realize that Mom could have had a life, she had wanted things, once had ambitions that had nothing to do with us at all.


As I said, she had knockout good looks and brains. She also had her own radio show, did some television, had chances to work in the theater, even had an offer to kick off her career in Hollywood from some comedian she once wowed named Bob Hope. She dumped on it all for the mountains of laundry, dishes, meals, schools, sicknesses, and endless trouble and trauma brought by four thoughtless jackass children. She did her duty, but it was clear that part of her longed for that other life she could have had. So, on occasion she would dabble with her dream, doing comedic monologues at conventions, or a few bits in movies or commercials if they were filmed in our hometown.

She worked at it when she could, kept her dreams alive and kept herself in shape well into her 70s, doing things I could never do and doubt you could either.

Mom still kicking into her 70s

Richard Kimball — Vote Smart Founder

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