Today, Wally Funk, 82, became the oldest person to fly in suborbital space. She trained as an astronaut in the 60s when women were not allowed to become astronauts. As I was watching, I couldn’t help but think of Dan and mom one Christmas.
Dan was fascinated with space exploration. He was going to be the first Chaffee in space. When Roger Chaffee was named as one of the crew members for Apollo One, Dan was both thrilled and disappointed. He wrote a letter to Astronaut Chaffee and, to his surprise and delight, Dan received a lovely letter in return.
Excitement turned to horror and grief on January 27, 1967. Dan never again spoke about becoming an astronaut. But that came later, after my story.
My older brother Scott was in the army, stationed in Germany and away from home on Christmas. We were spending Christmas at my grandparents. Santa brought Dan a space helmet — the space capsule was awaiting him at home. Dan was also interested in becoming a newscaster as a fall back career, so as a present to Scott, Dan taped interviewed the first woman in space — Mom.
The only thing I remember from that interview Dan asking if the helmet was a problem. Mom said she didn’t wear a helmet because it mussed her hair. The look on Dan’s face and my mom’s efforts to keep from laughing were front-of-mind today when Wally Funk finally made it to space.
Shopping with mom was always an adventure. She hated shopping from the time she was a little girl, she hated shopping. Her mother would take her to the store to buy a new bonnet and the sales people would oooh and aaah over the chubby baby. Mamie (mom’s mom) would set her up on the counter and mom would sweep all the bonnets onto the floor. She’d fuss as they tried to try things on her. From then on she was a terror at shopping.
On the other hand, she bought the best presents! Long before online shopping, there was mail order and mom rocked those catalogues: Montgomery Ward and Sears Christmas catalogues were the best! At holiday time she would get so many catalogues, the mailbox was overflowing every day. Russ Emenheiser, the postmaster of the local office, would have to put them aside and hand them off when mom went in to collect her mail. If the weather was bad or the number of catalogues was overwhelming, Russ would hand deliver. He and his family lived two doors down.
Several months after mom’s death, I sorted through clothes and some personal items, but I never quite go around to going through the bulk of what was left behind. I moved into the bedroom and that was about it.
It was beginning to feel like a living memorial to mom. Not only is mom not coming back, now that she’s fully in her right mind again, she wouldn’t want to.
There are many things I want to do, but no money for anything major. No pulling up the carpet and laying a wood floor. No kitchen reno. So I’ve come up with ideas of things I can do on my tight budget.
I can paint the linoleum floor in the kitchen, the kitchen cabinets, and eventually get a new counter top and sink. The carpet — there’s nothing I can do but get it cleaned — eventually. Area rugs on top of that.
I saw this cartoon on Facebook. It got me thinking about mom and her misunderstanding of lyrics she’d heard. It started with CCR’s “There’s a Bathroom on the Right” (“There’s a Bad Moon on the Rise”), through Jimmy’s ” ‘Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy” (” ‘Scuse Me While I Kiss The Sky), all the way up to 3DD “F*ck Me Like That” (“If I could Be Like That.”)
She couldn’t understand The Song That Ate The World — a.k.a. “Smooth” — so I was reciting the lyrics as Rob was singing them. She accused me of making them up. I told her if I had made those up, I would be driving a nicer car.
Which leads to the cartoon. I still don’t know why I was talking music to her, but silly me, I was. I said something about Michael Stipe and his classic Muppets appearance. I said that I have always liked Stipe and his music.
Mom: I thought he was that guy you don’t like from the band you don’t like.
Me: You’re thinking of Scott Stapp and Creed. Michael Stipe is from REM.