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Karen Dalton-Beninato

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Mother's Eye

Posted: 05/17/07 12:25 PM ET

I've been meaning to compile a Mother's Day tribute, and just pulled into my Midwest evacuation location after a productive New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund month back home at Jazzfest.

My mother has always been funny, odd, unpredictable - there aren't enough adjectives. She could kick a football across our half-acre front yard. She can still kick as high as a Rockette for no apparent reason. My husband points out that I do the same thing.

Last month when I was checking mom into an Alzheimer's ward, she thought it was a girls' dorm because my dad's Alzheimer's ward is on the other side of the hallway. "I'm a basket case," she whispered. "Then you're finally going to right place!" I said and it seemed to cheer her up. Before checking into the facility, she asked for a 5 minute head start to make a break for it and run for the woods. The woods wouldn't know what hit them.

Here are four things I'd like to thank Mom for. They've instilled my values, for better or worse.

Trips to the wars.

Johannesburg and Soweto as Apartheid was ending. Jerusalem and Beirut during the Arab Israeli conflict. Rhodesia and Zambezia when they were having the war over Victoria Falls. Now it's Zimbabwe.

Most of my childhood trips involved at least one moment of thinking, 'Now, this ain't right."

Thanks for the disaster evacuation preparation.

The roller rink.

Our small town rink closed in the summer and mom stored the candy and soda in a basement freezer. For the most part, snacks were fish from our pond or whatever the farmers were planting in the side field that year - rolled wheat, soybeans or raw sweet corn. But all summer long, I'd sneak down to the freezer which wasn't grounded and get a jolt of electricity every time I reached in for a Snicker's bar.

Thanks for the diet help.

A pony.

Her name was Pepper, my dad being a doctor and a would-be gentleman farmer with 40 acres and one horse. Not unlike kids who promise to take care of a dog but don't, the winters got longer and colder, and we hated the hike through the snow. A horse can probably tell when you're over it, and Pepper trotted over to the neighbor's field one day and they kept her. She got to hang out with other horses and we all got to wave when we drove by.

Thanks for the practice in letting go.

The Eye Thing.

Mom is unlucky in the kitchen. One time she sliced through her arm cutting frozen meat and drove to the doctor with the knife still in her arm. Another time our pressure cooker blew up and scalded her eye. The eye was red, oozy, crusted over, and Mom called me on the fact that I couldn't look at it. "It's not that bad," I lied while looking down at the tablecloth.

Later that night, I heard rustling at my window. At first I thought it was tree branches outside, but eventually opened the curtain to check. Pressed up against the window was my mother's hideous eye. I screamed jumped back from the curtain to lock my door.

All she said at breakfast the next day was, "Not that bad, huh?"

Thanks for preparing me for life's surprises.

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