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Posted: May 8, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Cavanaugh: Mom made the man

Today is Mother's Day, and just like most of you, Molly and I have dispatched flowers and candy to my mother to tell her we were thinking about her and to show our love.

My Mom is 85 this year and in the first stages of dementia.

It's easy to send presents and cards, in a way it's very impersonal. By doing so you never have to reveal your true feelings or emotions.
I am the oldest of four children. Three of us are left. My mother is 20 years older than I am, and she was a beautiful young woman and still is.

I would have to say that my relationship with my mother has at times been love and madness.

My mother was the master of our house. She ruled with discipline and she never spared the rod. If she warned us at 8 a.m. that if we were to misbehave at some function we might be attending that day, when we returned home we would pay the consequences, believe me, no matter what time we returned home we paid the consequences.

As I look back, I don't believe my mother wanted to accept the responsibilities of being in charge all the time, but she had to, as my father worked and went to college and commuted 60 miles a day to support us as I was growing up.

I'm like my father in a lot of ways. He loved to tease and when he was home he couldn't drive a nail straight and had no interest in gardens as such (except growing tomatoes. He enjoyed that).

Honestly, he showed us very little emotion. Or attention.

I believe he was just drained. I don't blame my father for this. I think he did the best he could.

As a result, everything I am or have become is because of my mother.
Sometimes I have resented her for that, but I shouldn't.

My mother always made sure we were dressed as richly as the kids who had more. Sometimes the pant legs might have been rolled up and not sewn because those types of details were not her specialty.

But she could play baseball and softball better than any man I know, and she taught me how to play the game.

She never liked to lose, and she taught me that, too.

We ate a lot of hamburger in those days, and Mom could fix so many different dishes with it that it was always a treat.

She also would buy cans of A&P tuna; I think you could get 30 cans for $1 in those days. It was packed in greasy oil and looked black and sometimes had bones in it. There was many a Friday night that I went to bed early when tuna salad or casserole was served. I still can't eat tuna fish today.

We were never hungry. In fact, I grew up having to always wear clothes for husky boys, which meant I was short and fat.

My mother and I had some major standoffs as I grew up. I inherited my very stubborn ways from her.

One such standoff was when my mother determined that drinking carrot juice would be good for my eyes. I would sit for hours with the carrot juice in front of me, I would never touch it and then I would receive my punishment.

We also had battles over cauliflower and broccoli.

Well, Mom, I still don't drink carrot juice, but you were right on that one as you usually were. My eyes are not so good today.

Because of these battles with my mom, as I grew older I developed a character flaw that probably disappointed my Mom more than anything.

To avoid discipline, I learned to become very good at not always telling her the truth. Some of the things I did to avoid her wrath seem funny now, but I am sure they weren't to her then.

Mom, I am sorry about that because you never taught me to have flaws.

My Mom had great expectations for me. She didn't feel that being in the newspaper business was the best I could do. She thought I should be a lawyer or an accountant and once even a priest, though she gave up on that idea at a very early age.
Mom taught me how to fight bullies. If someone hurt me in any way she was the first one to my defense.

Because of my mother's lecture on smoking when I was 13 I don't smoke. If she had given me the same lecture on sex and booze I probably would be a priest today.

Well, Mom, I know you think that sometimes I don't remember things like you do, and sister Cathy tells me that sometimes after reading my tales you have threatened to write the real story about "Paddy Cavanaugh," I hope not. I might not think it was so funny.

On this Mother's Day, I want you to know I love you.

You left me with so many good things and traditions, but as a habit I have often dwelled on the things I didn't like about our relationship.

I'm working on that.

Because of you I have accomplished more than I ever imagined.

Happy Mother's Day, and I am proud you are my Mom.

Pat Cavanaugh is general manager of The Covington News and The Rockdale News. Reach him at pcavanaugh@covnews.com.

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