Do what Bear Bryant said while you still have time

BY BOB WACHS, Columnist
Posted 4/3/20

In the early days of cellular phones and all the technology that goes — and has gone — with all that, it was AT&T (I think) that produced a television commercial featuring the legendary …

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Do what Bear Bryant said while you still have time

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In the early days of cellular phones and all the technology that goes — and has gone — with all that, it was AT&T (I think) that produced a television commercial featuring the legendary University of Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.

That TV spot showed him, plaid hat and all, clutching a mobile phone of some description and growling into the camera at the end of the spot the words, “Call your mama.”

While that ad may have been created around Mother’s Day, again as I think or remember, it got more air play than just for that season.

How profound was it, at least to me? Pretty profound I’d say, for I remember it to this day. And wish I could take the ol’ ball coach’s (sorry, Steve Spurrier) advice.

All this came home to me a few days ago when I turned the page on my desk calendar from March to April and realized April 6 was still there. It made me realize that, if my mama could do the same, she would be 102.

Lest you think I’m operating under some false illusion or looking back through rose-colored glasses, let me assure you I did not think my mama was Wonder Woman. But she was close to it.

On the other hand, neither was I holder of the title “World’s Most Perfect Little Boy” or even runner-up to the title of “Greatest Son Ever.” Not sure I was even close to it. But she was my mama and I was her little boy, last of three of those creations.

And I miss her. Still.

We had good days — from the time she pushed me in a stroller to uptown Apex, where we lived when I came to be, to the days she didn’t work and stayed at home until I got old enough to stay by myself after school, to the days she managed the school lunchroom and kept a watch on me and my buddies.

Later, she amused herself spoiling my two now 40-somethings who used to be teenagers who lived at my house. Sometimes I would take her along on my newspaper delivery route and buy her a hotdog at the little grill that was the last stop.

That got to be a routine — for both of us, I think. We’d pull up in the parking lot about 5 p.m., and as I hopped out, I would ask her, “Ma, do you like hot dogs?”

“Yeah,” she’d answer.

“Well, Piggly Wiggly (or Food Lion, depending on that week’s market) has ‘em on sale. You ought to get some.”

“Don’t get smart with me. Get me a hot dog.”

Most of the time I thought I was playing her; it probably was the other way around.

She lived her last five years in a care facility. First room you came to when you entered the building. That meant that everyone who came in, whether to see her or someone else, had to go by her room. And since she knew a gazillion people, she always had plenty of company. Also, the enormous amounts of candy she kept in her chest of drawers meant many staff members would take their breaks in her room.

The last time I spoke with her was on a Sunday afternoon. My little family had gone by, as was a longstanding custom. She was sometimes here and sometimes not, kind of painful for me since she had always been pretty sharp, sometimes too much for my good. We visited for some time; then we had to leave. I had been sitting in a chair beside the head of her bed, got up, leaned over, kissed her on the forehead and said, “Mama, I’ve got to go but I’ll see you tomorrow.

To that, with a big smile, she said to me, “OK...and if you see Bob tell him to come see me.”

“I will, Ma. If I see that sorry rascal I’ll tell him to come see you.”

She died the next morning.

I’ve wondered many times since then just how much was she confused and how much was she pulling my string. All I know is I miss her, 17 years after the fact. And if I could call her, I would.

If you can call yours, what are you waiting for?

And when this health crisis is a memory, remember, if you spent hours confined to your home, that’s how it is many days for aged parents who live alone.

So right now, if you can, do what Bear said. Call your mama. And when you can, go see her.


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