Reflections on my Mother’s 90th birthday

Friday, April 7, 2017
Nationally syndicated columnist Danny Tyree’s mother Margie Adams Tyree and his son Gideon celebrate her 90th birthday today.
Photo by Danny Tyree

Tyrades! by Danny Tyree

Most of you will receive this Tribune in your mailbox on the very day of the 90th birthday of my mother, Margie Adams Tyree.

The approach of that milestone makes me realize that in the nearly 57 years our lives have overlapped, my mother and I have never really TALKED.

Sure, in the quarter-century since I moved out and got married, we’ve conversed either in person or on the phone every day; but our family dynamic has never encouraged the sort of mushy intimacy that some families take for granted.

Conversations tend to be geared toward superficial discussions of the weather, Dr. Phil’s guests or the things we kid each other about, such as the fact that until just a few years ago, she thought a “strip mall” was a place where women get dollar bills stuffed into their panties after performing a pole dance.

I have attentively listened to her stories about growing up as part of a hard-working sharecropping family during “hard times” (the Great Depression), about receiving her first rare treat of a Coke (“the bottle was as long as your arm and the Coke turned my nose upside down”), about meeting future husband Lewis Tyree at a “community club” volleyball game in the Possum Trot community, about working as a veterinary assistant for Dr. James M. Jones, Sr. for two decades, about attending the funerals of umpteen relatives buried in New Hope Cemetery and elsewhere. But I have refrained from taking on the therapist’s role of prodding, “And how did that make you FEEL?”

I’ve never really given my mother credit for her influence on my life. I definitely got my love of reading from my father, but she gave me my compulsion to be an unapologetic collector. (She has “grabgutted” at countless auctions, antique shops and yard sales over the years, and I helped her as much as I could in her 25 years as an exhibitor at the Nashville Fairgrounds Flea Market.) She gave me my soft-heartedness toward rescue pets (although I’ve never replicated her act of trying to resuscitate a DROWNED WASP). My anxieties that I’m not writing enough sympathy cards have roots in the way she still apologizes for not getting out to NHC Merihil nursing home more often to visit “the old folks.”

Neither my mother nor I have ever uttered the words, “I’m proud of you”; but she prominently displays graduation photos of me and my brother and asks people she meets if they read my column in the Tribune. And I am proud of HER for being the first member of her family to graduate from high school (Cornersville, Class of 1946), marrying a good man like my father, handling widowhood these past 17 years and managing her money so wisely her entire life. I’m proud of her for being able to maintain her independence (living in the same house for 46 years and driving, shopping, mowing, and bill paying for herself). I’m proud of her for being the first person at Hardin Chapel Church of Christ every Sunday morning.

We don’t trumpet things we do for one another. She saw me through all the childhood illnesses and injuries. She never pried into my romantic disappointments, but she provided meals and a roof. I slept (?) in a catastrophically uncomfortable hospital chair after she had her mastectomy. Actions speak louder than words.

We don’t verbalize regrets or shattered dreams, unless it’s her lamenting, “I wish I had bought TWO cans of Folgers coffee when it was on sale.” But I do regret the times I sassed her as a teen, and the occasion I sneaked off to Sharp’s Drive-In Market while she was busy talking to Aunt Marie Humphrey.

Discussions of mortality? I nag her about eating more and hydrating properly. She jokes about planning to outlive all the auctioneers who would love to handle her estate auction. She off-handedly mentioned where all her important documents are stored; but in general, we tend to whistle past the graveyard quite nicely.

And that works for us. I blinked, and the 70-year milestone turned to 80 years and now 90. So I’m just going to prop my eyelids wide open and enjoy every day I can with this strong, special woman.

Happy birthday, Mom. I love you.

©2017 Danny Tyree. Danny welcomes email responses at tyreetyrades@aol.com and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.” Danny’s weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate.