Charles E. Richardson

‘She was my mother, not my friend’

This is the day we set aside to honor mothers. Without a doubt, I may look like my father, but I’m my mother’s son. She’s been gone since 2002, but I thank God for her everyday. I loved my father, don’t get me wrong, but if not for my mother, you would not be reading this column. It took all of my mother’s wit to overcome what my nephew and I have come to call, the “Richardson Trait.”

The “Richardson Trait” leans toward self-destructive behavior. Richardson men — and women — have a tendency to let certain body parts do our thinking for us, usually to our detriment. My mother, knowing the “Trait,” rode me like Trigger. She was my mother, not my friend. She did not want me follow in my father’s footsteps, or others in my family that exhibited the “Trait,” though heaven knows I tried.

My mother was also a fighter. She fought for me. She cared when I didn’t.

How did she do it? What shield of protection did she cast over me? She kept God front and center. As many who are close to me know, my mother brought me up as a Jehovah’s Witness. Before you start pulling down the blinds and pretending you’re not home when the knock on the door comes, yes, for many years, that could’ve been me knocking.

While I’m no longer a practicing witness, but I can’t deny the impact they had on my young life and the course they set. I’ve been speaking in front of people since the age of four and reading and writing since that time, too. The foundation for what I do now, and how I’ve been able to make a living at it, I must give due credit. My mother gave me a gift she did not give my two older brothers.

My mother was also a fighter. She fought for me. She cared when I didn’t. When she thought I was treated unfairly, even by the leadership she believed in, she didn’t hesitate to go over their heads. I didn’t realize all the moving parts at the time. I do now.

Isn’t that what mothers do? They believe in their children, most times to their own ruin. They can’t just walk away even when their children are accused of the most heinous crimes. Even when they know their child is guilty, they stand by them.

We sit and marvel at a mother’s capacity to love. I know I do. There were times when I was the most unlovable child. I see a bit of the young me in the grocery store every now and then, wanting this and that, not understanding that my mom didn’t have this and that kind of money.

I used to wonder why she, for a time, caught the bus to work and when she did had a car, it was constantly breaking down. I learned how to fix a flat tire when I was five of six years old from a California Highway Patrolman.

My mother gave me a spirit of independence. I knew early on that if I wanted something I was going to have to work to get it, and to get to work, I was going to have to walk to get there. I don’t remember a time when my mother gave me a ride anywhere but to the congregation, never a ride to work. I knew not to ask. My first vehicle had two wheels, a Honda 160 motorcycle, that I’m sure scared the devil out of her. I survived even though I probably shouldn’t have a time or two.

I tell my grandchildren about walking five miles each way, at night, to take a water safety course and they think I grew up in the Dark Ages. Though times have changed, children today would be a lot smarter earlier if they didn’t have everything handed to them. Eventually, the real world intrudes on their “world owes me something” attitude and the spoiling stops. By that time, several life lessons have been missed and life-altering mistakes made.

On this Mother’s Day, my wish is for the mothers of today to remember lessons taught by the mothers and grandmothers of yesteryear. The lessons they taught — filled with hard work, honesty and love — never get old and out of style.