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Instead of the Angels, he focuses on an angel: his mother

She died 39 years ago, and was smart, spoke with no filter and faithfully attended his baseball games despite being sick. He always hears athletes tell of their parents, and he takes a day to remember.

August 14, 2012|T.J. Simers
  • Instead of the Angels, he focuses on an angel: his mother
Instead of the Angels, he focuses on an angel: his mother (Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)

Monday was the 39th anniversary of my mother's death, a shock I know, because I had one.

She never met my kids, and every time I've tried to tell them about her I get the same look as when I ask them to watch a black-and-white movie.

(By the way, we have a baseball beat writer at The Times who never heard of Clint Eastwood or Paul Newman. Can you imagine going through life without ever watching "Cool Hand Luke''?)

My wife probably remembers my mother the most — for not liking her. The truth is, my mother didn't like any of the girls I dated, and almost all of those girls came to dislike me as well. I'd like to think it was my mother.

Now I already know the editors here are going to hate this column because it won't attract national Internet attention. If only I could somehow work Dwight Howard's mother into the headline and, if she's still with us, what she thinks of Kobe.

When Monday began, the plan was to go to Angel Stadium and state the obvious: The Angels are inexcusable underachievers and Angry Arte is still acting like a spoiled brat.

But then I got to thinking about my mother, who is buried a foul ball away from the Little League field where I used to strike out with regularity.

And I realized I don't think about her very often, the grind of daily life you know, and what everyone pretty much says: "I just don't have enough time."

Let me tell you when you spend a lifetime listening to athletes tell their stories, mothers and fathers can be the most incredible people in the world.

I don't know how many times I've told my own kids the same thing, only to get fewer presents than everyone else in the family last Christmas Eve.

Thirty-nine years ago is a long time. I was interviewing retired baseball player Stan Hack, my first interview — and what an appropriate name to begin a journalism career. (Right now, of course, our baseball beat writer is wondering which Clint Eastwood movie Stan was in.)

A waiter tapped me on the shoulder and said management had just gotten a call and my mother had died. Something like that can really play havoc with a deadline.

The hospital had instructions to call me first, since my father hated doctors. So I drove 90 miles to tell him. I remember it going very well. "How goes it, Dad?" I said. "Oh, by the way, Mom died tonight." I've kind of always talked like I write.

I've tried on occasion to remember everything that was said in my last phone conversation with her before she went to the Mayo Clinic for tests. Just as I continue to search for a message left by my father, who took his own life rather than linger a few years more with a brain tumor.

She was buried in the same pink dress that she wore to our wedding, and for some reason that's one of my strongest memories. She looked better at the wedding as I recall, and you have to understand, there is a reason why the Simers humor isn't always invited to parties with the other side of the family.

I like the fact that I can still remember that dress and the day she looked so nice, once mentioning it to John Wooden because he adored his parents so. Then I made fun of him the next chance I got so he didn't think I had gone soft.

Wooden taught me something without knowing it. He dwelt on how his parents lived rather than how their lives came to an end, and as much as we talked I don't think he ever mentioned how his parents died.

He carried a list of precepts in his wallet, passed on from father to son, living them to the very end.

Now I don't know if you have lost a parent, but how often do you think about them? On their birthday, Mother's or Father's Day, Thanksgiving or the day they passed?

It seems to me they should still have a day, even if means one less Angels column.

My mother once said her dream was to drive in the Indy 500. She was driving our family station wagon at the time.

She was smart, had no filter when speaking, and as sick as she could be, somehow she was still sitting in a folding chair at all of my baseball games. Fearful, I guess, I might make contact and she would miss it.

She carried eight babies, four dying at various times during her pregnancies, and how might the world be different if there were eight Simerses rather than just four?

She was a nurse when she wasn't sick herself. She would notice a bruise and immediately pronounce it cancer. We spent most dinners with my mother detailing a gory surgery and my dad leaving the table in disgust.

I saw her once working with folks in a convalescent center, a career side I had never before witnessed, amazed at her charisma and loving ways with her patients.

My youngest daughter chose to go to school and train to work with stroke victims. Grandma there, only she doesn't know it.

My mother died when she was 48, never knowing how "All My Children" ended. Can you imagine missing the final episode of "Big Brother" just because it's supposedly your time?

Now maybe you'll remember someone you lost today, 10 minutes in a Starbucks recalling wonderful moments you've just let slip away.

It's really the only way, I guess, to keep them alive.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimestjsimers

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