Monday, October 20, 2008

Potter's Mom

Potter's mom passed away last Thursday.

Potter's my best friend from college. His first name is David, but his freshman year in college, two other guys on his dorm floor were named David (including his best friend), so last names became the standard.

Plus, David was just too common a name for a guy like Potter.

Potter is smart, wickedly funny, and looks kind of like a praying mantis with glasses. Coincidentally, so do I, and when we ran 10k races together on the weekends, we would occasionally get mistaken for brothers.

I never said this to Potter, but I always took that as a huge compliment.

Oh, and when I say we ran 10k races "together," I don't mean "side by side." Potter broke 35:00 in the 10k, while my best time was 39:41. So "together" more accurately means "in the same race."

I met Potter when I was a freshman in college. His dorm room door was open and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer was blasting from his gigantic stereo speakers. I wandered in and started talking. He was the funniest person I'd ever met, and it took about five minutes before he was my best friend.

That spring, we started running together, and that fall, we started driving somewhere on Saturdays to race. For Thanksgiving, I went with him to Dallas to run in the Turkey Trot. He lived in Dallas, so after the race we went to his house, got cleaned up, and had Thanksgiving dinner with his mom.

Potter's mom had a lot in common with my mom. They were both single parents in an era (the 1960s) when divorced women were still scorned by society. I never realized this when I was younger, but everyone faces moments in their life when they choose who they will be. They're not that person, not yet, but because of some crisis in their life, they have to choose to become someone else, and in those moments we define who we are and who we will be. Being a divorced woman with children in the 1960s was one of those moments, and both Potter's mom and my mom chose to be strong and resolute. It would have been easy to fail, much easier than succeeding, but they didn't take the easy way.

Potter's mom lived in a small house, just like we did, and she was a teacher, just like my mom. I don't remember any specifics about the food at Thanksgiving dinner, but I still remember very strongly a sense of well-being from being around her and Potter. It was a warm and happy feeling, even though I'd never been in Potter's house before. Even today, I remember it as one of my favorite Thanksgivings.

Potter's mom had a trembling little chihuahua named Trixie, and after dinner, when we sat down in the living room to watch football, Trixie jumped on her lap and leaned against the left side of her chest. I think she was listening to her heart beat, and as she listened, she stopped trembling. Even as a very smart-assed eighteen year old, that moment was so vivid and powerful that I still remember it like it was yesterday.

Later, we went into the backyard, and Potter showed me that his mom had been building a fountain. Seriously, a freaking concrete fountain. It was completely amazing, and it was even more amazing because it wasn't perfect, and I could tell that someone who originally knew nothing about concrete or fountains had just decided to build one, and did.

As the years went by, and I asked Potter how his mom was doing (always near Thanksgiving), he would always have another story to tell. One year, she started doing pottery, and wound up being very, very good (she made us a beautiful pot as a wedding gift when Gloria and I got married). Another year, she took up birding, and was engrossed by that, too. She was also interested in architecture (Frank Lloyd Wright in particular).

What was so remarkable about all these hobbies is that she started most of them late in life. There's no question that being a single parent makes you give up parts of your life. Big parts. Potter's mom gave up those parts, but later in life, she found some new parts. I had so much respect for how she always managed to be interested in life--she always found something new to learn.

When Potter let me know that his mom had passed away, all these feelings and memories I had about her compacted into a dense, single point. I wanted to write about her, because I wanted you guys to know, in some small way, just how awesome she was.

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