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27 years ago

May 14, 2012
Weirton Daily Times

Twenty-seven years ago I called my mother and wished her a Happy Mother's Day.

After talking to her for a bit, my Aunt Sandy, my mother's sister-in-law, got on the phone and told me to get home and do so quickly.

My mother had cancer and was preparing to die.

I was a 24-year-old sports editor of the Santa Maria Times, my dream job, so to speak.

I had been on the job all of about three months.

But, in that time, I had seen Mark Brunell and Robin Ventura play baseball.

Yes, that Mark Brunell, then a freshman at St. Joseph High School, and that Robin Ventura, then a senior at Righetti High School.

Anyway, I walked into the hospital room and my mother looked terrible because that's what cancer does to you.

My aunt told me it was the best she had looked in a while.

My mother lasted a few more days and, about 4 a.m. with only my sister and I in the hospital room, took her last breath.

She was 46.

Months before that I had a chance to be the sports editor at the Santa Maria Times and was ready to turn down the job because of my mom's health.

"I'm doing fine," she said. "I'll be OK. You take the job."

So, I packed up a rental truck and my Datsun 280ZX and headed 5 hours north to the newspaper where I did my internship as a senior at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

I loved that job for the three months I was there.

My mom and I were really close.

Sis and I lived with her after our parents were divorced because my father was an alcoholic.

My mother went to all of our games.

She laughed with us and disciplined us.

She also laughed at us.

My mom was tough.

She let me have my rope, just enough to play with or hang myself because of my stupidity.

She never allowed excuses. She didn't want to hear them and never cared to listen.

My mother was there to call my bluff, show me the correct path and make sure I called her if I was going to miss curfew.

My mother made sure I was respectful.

My mother never talked to coaches about playing time, or lack thereof.

My mother never talked to coaches about their philosophies.

My mother never talked to coaches about how hard they were working us.

And, if I came home and complained about any of those things, she wanted no part of the conversation.

She told me it was my choice to play and my choice to work hard or not and the more I worked the more I would play.

My mother never talked to teachers about my grades.

They were my grades, not hers.

I miss my mom.

I miss that she missed out on four grandchildren - three great boys and a precious girl.

I knew my mother was a strong woman, but I never really knew how strong until I had multiple conversations with other people about my father and his alcohol problems.

His brother, my uncle, was the same and that's probably why they hated each other.

I don't say hate lightly - they hated one another.

My mother did not miss a football game, basketball game or track meet.

She was always there.


She often sat on the other side during football games because she refused to listen to parents.

For some reason, she thought it was OK to hear that from the other teams parents because she did not know any of those players and didn't take it personally.

One Friday night, I caught a pass, turned up the sideline and went 78 yards for six points.

My mother, on the other side, jumped up and screamed for me.

People looked at her like she was nuts.

"That's my son," she said and nothing else was said.

When I chose to show a basketball official that he was No. 1 toward the end of a game because he whistled me for my fifth personal foul, my mother got home and blistered me and did so rather well.

When my father blistered me years before that, it was always with a belt and those marks eventually went away.

This time, my mother blistered me with her words and they still resonate with me.

Words are powerful weapons.

My mother was mad for what I did.

But, what bothered her was something that was said in the gymnasium as I was leaving the place.

Two men sitting in front of my mom made some sort of comment on how I was raised. They didn't know the lady behind them, who could hear their conversation, was my mother, and the one who did the raising.

"I could handle what you did," she said. "I couldn't handle what they said."

Yep, I still remember the conversation.

My good friend, Dana Geving, read a letter at my mother's funeral that I wrote.

I tried to make it funny because I know my mom loved to laugh.

My boy Dana got through it and will be forever grateful to him for doing that because I know it was not easy.

Since I know how much my mom loved to laugh, it makes it harder knowing she missed a lot of laughs with her three grandsons and granddaughter.

My wife missed commiserating with her mother-in-law while looking at me and asking, "Was he always like this?"

My wife, also a great mother, had no idea the elevator ride she was about to partake in when she said "Yes" and "I do."

We have gone from the basement to the penthouse a number of times with many stops between the destinations.

My wife shakes her head at what I do or what comes out of my mouth and I know wishes she could ask that same question again and again.

My mom had a wonderful heart and that's what I will remember.

She would help me play practical jokes on my friends and had no problem undressing me when I was a moron to those same friends.


(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be reached at

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