Tomorrow is my birthday, so this picture of Mama and me was taken almost sixty-five years ago. The picture says a lot. She shows already and still a maternal solicitude and I, I am determined and beginning to look out of the frame.

Several years later she was carrying me along a path at a rustic mountain resort. I’d broken my leg and was in a full body-cast around the injured leg and my torso, so I must have been somewhat cumbersome. There we were, no one else around, and she turns her ankle and falls, taking me down with her. But I didn’t cry out. She held me vertical and I didn’t know anything had happened I should have been afraid of. Grizzly bear love is how I think of it.

The years to come were not always easy for us or between us. She has been gone since 1989, when she lay in her final hospital bed and I breathed into her heart, “Daddy loves you, I love you.” As she left, she paused a moment at the threshold and looked over her shoulder. That night I know she and my father went dancing. He had been impatient all afternoon for her to get there.

Last night these words murmured themselves to me. I am pleased that they are more fond than is sometimes my wont. They are for her.

GRIZZLY MAMA LOVE

baby baby don’t you cry
mama’s going to get you a bye-and-bye

if that bye-and-bye don’t come
mama’s going to get you a big shotgun

if that big shotgun don’t shoot
mama’s going to get you a high-heel boot

if that high-heel boot don’t kick
mama’s going to get you a candle wick

if that candle wick don’t light
mama’s going to love you right all right


Thanks be to God.

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