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Simmons Says - Happy birthday Mom!

My mom surrounded by her kids and grandkids last August.

Today is the real Mother’s Day for me. Sure, I went out in May and got the flowers, bought the card and saw my mom, but so did everybody else if they were able (hopefully). The whole world is giving moms their due in May, but on Aug. 17, I get to make it personalized because today is my mom’s birthday.

Renee Morgan, or Elsie Bouldin is she’s in the need of an alias in a pinch, is turning…. Well, it’s an age that I know and you don’t need to. It’s not one that is regularly celebrated, whether with a big, fancy cake or black balloons, but it’s special to me because it’s her. Everyone before now was special and the many, many more I hope to spend with her will be special too.

My mom is a Superhero. She somehow managed to raise four boys without losing her mind, which is a true testament to her motherly abilities and the first line on her Superhero resume. Along the way, I think she learned to bend time, because I don’t know if I ever recall her missing a big event (or small one) in any of our lives, even if me, Brett, Adam and JT all had something important on the same day, at the same time and going on in different places. She found a way to be there, to be proud and to tell us we were doing a good job.

Along with her teleporting skills, she’s also got super-human strength. Even though I’m a foot taller than her and am at least double her weight, she knows I would never test her because that’s a fight I can’t win. All she has to do is break out one look and all of us get in line, knowing all-too-well that messing with mom is always the wrong choice.

Most of all though, I think she can read minds. She always knew what was going on with us, how to help us when we were down, when to push us when we were being lazy and generally always had the right read on every situation. If she wasn’t so good at doing books or hadn’t decided to take jobs that made sure she could be to her boys in an instant if needed, she may have had a lucrative career as a card shark. She couldn’t have bounced around though --- she wasn’t going to miss a thing while we were growing up.

My mom and I spend every Christmas making a ton of candy, which usually gets given out after I eat half.

As I get older, I take more stock in that because I realize just how difficult that is. I think about just how many times I’m just in my own world and living on my own time as a single guy in his 30s, and am baffled how my mom, at age 20, easily transitioned to not being the most important person in her own life.

Once she had Adam, then me, then Brett, then JT, she was consciously making a choice – time and time again – to bring a child into the world that she’d do right by, even if it meant doing without herself. That’s selflessness on a level that I’m sure parents relate to – and one day I might too – but it’s still impressive none-the-less.

I know I’ve told this story before, but it feels right to bring it up again. You’re reading this story now because of my mom (and not just because it's her birthday). If not for her, I don’t know what I’d be doing – probably working some third-shift job in a different state and arguing sports on some anonymous message board. I definitely wouldn't be the Warren County Sports Authority.

When I was lost coming out of college and didn’t know what was next, my mom gave me direction. She also gave me the belief I could be a writer because she called me when the job opened up at the paper and told me to apply. When I said they’d never take me on, she rebuffed and said, “they’d be stupid to miss out on somebody like you.”

I had never written a sports story before in my life, but my mom – just by knowing my makeup – knew I could do it. For all I know, she also may have showed up after I applied and strong-armed them into hiring me too (I wouldn’t put it past her, honestly).

As I started writing, she routinely lifted me up. She’d call and ask me about stories I was working on, even if it was midnight or 8 a.m. (let’s be real, it’s never 8 a.m. anymore). She would recite lines back to me that she liked, even after I had long forgotten them. And, if some person - who didn’t know they were about to have a bad day - criticized me, she went into full Mother Hen mode. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to text or call her and tell her to calm down or “Let it slide,” if she saw something negative about me (or any of her kids).

(An aside: You know that trend going around TikTok now where parents go up to their young kids and tell them they’re about to go fight an adult and the kid has to come take on the other parents’ kid to make it 2 vs. 2? It was the opposite for us if somebody came after us kids, she was ready to throw down in house slippers and a night gown, no questions asked, if we needed it. She still is too – if you’re thinking about testing one of her kids.)

That blinding belief and unwavering support in my abilities is something she’s had for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid and wanted to be a pitcher, she came outside with a glove and said she’d throw with me everyday (until the heater started knocking her over). Even when somebody else said I wasn’t good enough – like when I was cut from school teams – she would sit me down, explain how life works and encourage me to keep pursuing my goals.

When I didn’t make the basketball team in sixth grade, we got a hoop at the house. She would watch from the kitchen window as I tried to become Tim Duncan. She was also there the next year when my name was on the seventh-grade list, probably hiding back some tears behind a giant smile.

The day after I was cut from the high school baseball team, I came home to a new first basemen’s mitt, fresh baseballs and a pitcher’s pocket to help me throw strikes. She’d send my brothers out to do long toss with me, with them passing the ball back along as I went back further and further. My friends still talk about her being in the outfield for all my little league games, chugging Diet Coke and chastising umpires.

Because I share my mom’s same love for music, there’s songs she sends to me that she thinks I will like and I reciprocate by sending her covers of her favorite old country songs by new artists that I know she’ll hate. Why am I like that? I don’t know – I just blame it on her.

I did throw her a curveball one day though. I was listening to Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats and the song, “Hey Mama,” came on. The very first time I heard it, I could just see my mom at the kitchen table, sitting me down beside a 2-Liter of Diet Coke to hear another life lesson. The lyrics could have come right from her mouth:

She said, ‘Son, let me reason with you. You think you carry such a weight...

Better start acting like this here’s a race.

You ain't gone far enough to say -- At least I tried. You ain't worked hard enough to say -- Well I've done mine. You ain't run far enough to say -- My legs have failed. You ain't gone far enough You ain't worked hard enough You ain't run far enough to say --- It ain't gonna get any better.

I sent the song to her. I may send it again today... And every once in a while when I know that I need the reminder that there’s somebody looking out for me that knows I have another level to reach and I’m going to get there.

Nowadays, the shoe sometimes slides on the other foot. Life happens and sometimes she needs the push. I hope I’m as good as giving back to her the support that she has given to me for 36 years.

What I hope she knows, through everything she’s fought, is that I’m proud of her. I’m proud of her resilience, proud of her for quitting smoking, proud of her staying upbeat when life made it hard and – most of all – I’m proud to say, on my mother’s day, that I love her and she’s always going to be special to me.

I Love You Mom!

Just an assortment of pictures through the years with my mom and her kids. Sorry I look dumb in all of them. She looks perfect.

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