His latest book is all about MomOctober 13, 2020
By Scott Saalman
It is the easiest thing to write about; it is the hardest thing to write about. That’s what I think now when I write about Mom. The silly; the sad.
On July 7, she was given two months to live, due to stage four colon cancer.
Three months have passed now, but she has not passed.
She is really no worse off than on July 7.
Apparently, she hopes to give me much more to write about.
The first newspaper column I ever wrote was in the mid-1980s for the University of Southern Indiana’s college paper, The Shield. The topic was baldness— unfortunately, my own baldness — unfortunately, I was 21. I still remember the headline: “Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow.”
The second column I wrote was about Mom. The headline: “BINGO: An Addiction in Search of a Cure.” When I read it now, for the most part, it’s cringeworthy. Still, there are salvageable passages.
I wrote, “Bingo is her life. She even has her own yellow plastic box that contains her bingo paraphernalia: an ink blotter used for marking the paper cards, and many little red chips used for marking the cardboard ones. There is also a magnetic type of handle that she waves over the cards like a magic wand, picking the chips up quickly, preparing Mom for her next game...
“It is her sacred box in a sense. She keeps it in her unlocked Thunderbird and is not worried about someone stealing the box. No one would dare steal it, she says, with a glare ... Thus, one day her bingo box was stolen ... Mom was stunned, and I believe that was the day she changed her mind about the death penalty issue. She used to be a forgiving person...
“Recently my father had to borrow mom’s car to drive to work. He asked if he could. She replied, ‘First take out my bingo box in case something happens to you on the way.’ My father was stunned. ‘You mean,’ he said, ‘that you’d still go to bingo even if it came to that or my funeral?’ Mom grinned. ‘Bingo.’”
What I like is how that column demonstrates Mom’s wicked sense of humor, a trait I got from her very early on.
I just self-published my fifth collection of columns. All the stories are specifically about Mom (unfortunately, several detail her war with cancer) or ones in which she makes a cameo on the page. She has done this a lot over the years, popping into my memory while I’m writing about something that initially had no planned link to her.
Usually, the passages she appears in serve as comedic relief. For example, in a column about covertly watching Blake Edwards’ “10” at the Tell City Cinema, I wrote: “My mom made a surprise appearance during the movie after realizing her freshman son had deceived her by sneaking into an R-rated movie just to see Bo Derek change from her bathing suit into her birthday suit. She somehow found me in the dark theater and ordered me to leave with her. Luckily my buddies’ eyes were too glued to Bo Derek’s corn rows (or something like that) to witness my kidnapping. Even now, at 49, I still can’t bring myself to rent ‘10,’ too scared mom will kick in my front door.”
Mom has always held that power over me, sneaking into my columns when least expected. Last spring, when I wrote my first piece bemoaning the pandemic, Mom once again wormed her way in. This time it was a funny passage about her struggles with modern day phone technology. She was a good sport, as always, about how I depicted her iPhone ineptness. She emailed: “Still laughing with tears running down my cheeks! Keep this humor coming. People will need a good laugh every day during this time. Thank God for your Mom. What will you write about when I’m gone?”
Her last sentence, as they say, yanked the rug out from beneath me. I was floored, for it caused me to actually realize just how important Mom had been to my column writing over the past 40 years. Some of my best pieces, the silliest ones and the saddest ones, have involved her.
It was also not lost on me how she had just gifted me a great title for the new book: “What Are You Going To Write About When I’m Gone?”
The “mom” book has been selling well. It has also provided me with my all-time favorite book experience: together, she and I spent an afternoon signing several dozen books. Most readers requested her autograph.
As we bonded signing books, Mom took a break for only one brief nap, then, upon waking, enthusiastically addressed the awaiting stacks of purchased books. Her go-to inscription: “Hope you enjoy. All stories are true. Thank you. Patty Saalman.”
My hope for the book is that it effectively conveys how fortunate I feel to be a son of the greatest mother in the world.
The book costs $15. One dollar from each sale will be donated to Anderson Woods Special Needs Summer Camp, Mom’s favorite cause. If interested in a copy, email me. Mom hopes to sign many more.
You can email Scott at email@example.com.
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