I was going to visit my mother on Sunday and bring her a jonquil and a ballpoint pen for Mother's Day, but that's all off thanks to my brother, who is awaiting trial for mail fraud. His lawyers have asked me not to discuss his case, and so I won't, except to say that he's guilty, the little stinker, and richly deserves what's coming to him, but of course you can't tell Mother that.
She turns 94 this week and still lives in her own home, drives her own car and only recently gave up playing senior women's hockey. She was tough, let me tell you, and as she slowed down, she resorted more and more to high-sticking and tripping. As she says, "Old age is not for the timid. I didn't get to be 94 by baking lots of sugar cookies."
I went shopping for a Mother's Day gift at a clothing store but, as it turned out, it was a men's store. So as long as I was there, I bought myself a few nice suits.
And anyway, Mom said, "No gifts for me until Larry gets out of the pokey." I said, "Mom, Larry was selling Powerball Bibles with the winning number hidden in Scripture. He was selling stock options to evangelicals with the promise that the Lord would come again in 2008. It didn't happen. He's going to spend 10 to 15 years making license plates." She said, "So he misread prophecy. He's not the first." I said, "Ma, he misread it to the tune of $16 million in profit to himself that is sitting in a bank in the Bahamas."
She said, "You can't believe everything you read in the papers." I said, "Ma, he's been a liar and a cheat since he was a kid. Remember for your birthday he used to give you those little certificates that said 'Good for one hug' and 'Good for doing dishes' -- Ma, you never collected on those. It was a scam." She said, "I kept them. I loved the way he made the little certificate curlicues with his green crayon."
There were four of us, Larry, me, my other brother who works in a small dim office and does something he can't explain, and my sister the singer-songwriter. She recently had her lower lip pierced and a large wooden disc implanted in it which she says gives her more resonance.
The other day, Mom said, "Notice anything different about me?" Which of course made me nervous. A man wants to come up with the right answer to this question. You don't want to say, "You got a haircut," if the correct answer is that her leg was amputated. I checked her out: snow-white hair, hockey jersey, jeans, high heels. I said, "Only thing different about you, Mom, is that you're looking younger than ever." And she said, "Nope. I'm carrying a concealed weapon."
My mom, packing a pistol. She said, "I am not going to let your brother rot in jail because of a big misunderstanding." I told her to read the indictment -- Larry is a creep -- but she stood up for him, as she has all these years despite his lies and despicable dirty deeds, and then on Tuesday she got the drop on three U.S. marshals and freed Larry at gunpoint and drove him to a grass landing strip south of Minneapolis and they took off in a small jet and made it to Venezuela, and there they are today, my little mom and her son the felon. She is learning Spanish and working as a cleaning lady and he is at the beach, plotting how to get his fingers on that Bahamian treasure.
And here I am, the loyal son, the one who has looked after her all these years, the one who had made his mark in the world as a syndicated newspaper columnist. Why does she devote her life to a cheater and ignore the son who has done everything in his power to make her proud?
Frankly, I think that mothers have a masochistic streak that makes them love the bad eggs more. They want to be hurt. Sick, but there it is. I wish I could be meaner to my mother, but it's too late. I wouldn't know how. I pass this on for what it's worth. Go out and steal a car, she can't do enough for you. Be a credit to the family, you're ignored. Happy Mother's Day.
(Garrison Keillor is the author of the Lake Wobegon novel, "Liberty," published by Viking.)
© 2009 by Garrison Keillor. All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.