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Johnny Carson's Monologue

An Ode to Mom

By C. Rommial ButlerPublished 3 years ago 3 min read
Mom, before my arrival... yes, it was the 70s.

My mom passed away from cancer in 2013. I think of her everyday. Memories come unbidden, often bittersweet. The bad ones not associated with the cancer involve me being a callous, angst-ridden teenager, causing the poor, dear woman so much anxiety; but even those aren't bad, because when I look back, I can see how genuinely she loved me. She put up with me. She tried to get through to me. She never gave up on me.

Mom and Dad divorced when I was five years old. I still don't quite know why she left my dad, and I suppose it isn't important now, but I can say that they never fought in front of me. They always did everything in their means to do what was best for me and let me know I was loved.

Their means were not much, though. By the time I was in fourth grade, they both had to work nights. I would walk home from school and let myself in with a key. I did my homework, made meals for myself, watched TV, played Nintendo. Sometimes friends would stop by or I would lock up the house again and roam the neighborhood in search of a pickup game of basketball. Sometimes I just liked to take a walk.

My mom worked at a restaurant, and she would often close. She would tell me to be in bed no later than ten, but of course, I never was. The primary reason for this was Johnny Carson, the longtime host of The Tonight Show, which didn't come on until 11:30. I didn't much care about the guests—well, okay, if it was Robin Williams—but loved to stay up and watch Johnny's opening monologue. At nine or ten years old I didn't get all of the jokes, but his delivery was impeccable and sometimes I'd laugh, not even knowing why.

Mom usually pulled up during The Tonight Show, so I would have to watch for the headlights of her car out of the windows by the front door. If Johnny finished his monologue before she pulled up, I would turn off the TV—again, if no Robin Williams—and go to bed; but if she pulled up in the middle of it, I'd lay down and pretend I fell asleep on the couch watching TV.

Of course, I know now that this ruse never really fooled Mom. At the time I didn't realize how obvious it was when someone wasn't really sleeping, but having since had three children of my own, I can spot a faker. The difference is in the way we breathe. Nevertheless, Mom played along. She would walk in the door and see me lying on the couch with the TV on. I recall at times hearing her sigh. I'm sure she rolled her eyes and remarked to herself about how I never listened.

She would turn off the television, and away would go Johnny's voice. She'd walk up to the couch. I could feel her looking down at me, and though my eyes were closed, I know the look on her face because I have seen it many times. It was the wide-eyed regard which loving parents bestow upon their children, an open face and a smile that aches a little at the passage of time, the slipping away of tender moments. We catch those moments within that gaze, and we hold them forever in our hearts.

She would leave to get the blanket off my bed. This was also part of the game, as I did understand at the time that if I laid down on the couch with a blanket it would indicate that I had not fallen asleep by accident. She would cover me up, kiss me on the forehead and make her own way to bed, only to have to get up in too few hours to rouse me for my morning walk to school.

I would drift off to sleep with the smug belief I had gotten away with it again, a smile on my face, feeling loved. Now, as I remember, I have tears in my eyes, and I feel even more loved, even though she is no longer here. Our game may have ended, but that memory is there, stored in my heart like a precious jewel locked away in a safe. No one can wrest it from me. It is mine to keep.

If we find ourselves in an idle moment, recalling some happy memory that causes us pain because the person we shared it with is no longer with us to reminisce, it only makes sense to shed those tears—not only because we are sorrowed by their absence, but also because we are thankful to have experienced that joy.

My own son, sleeping with a pumpkin and a squash.


About the Creator

C. Rommial Butler

C. Rommial Butler is a writer, musician and philosopher from Indianapolis, IN. His works can be found online through multiple streaming services and booksellers.

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Comments (2)

  • Jay Kantorabout a year ago

    CR - I never learn anything by just listening to myself - You have a terrific literary gift; a skill, if you will! I'm so sorry for your loss, but, so glad you've had the courage to write it. Although we have different slants on writing; I'd so love to see more of this side of you. I'm just a silly story teller; just for fun. If you've read my "POLYESTER" you'll see what a show-off I was; yes, in 'Mom's' Generation. I pick topics like all of us and, go with them. But, I'm so impressed with your talent; with all due respect that other goop doesn't become you! As you might say to your gorgeous son, 'don't fill up on the cheap stuff when you have such brilliance on your plate.' * Coincidence that just popped out of my head from your story: The Mug on Johnny Carson's Desk, with a snap-shot of him on it, in the Burbank studios, was Mfg. in one of my Dad's factories ~ I Sh*T-Not. BTW: I do have a 'Kvetch' for you: Would love to get VM to setup a 'Senior' Link. If you haven't done so already, please go to Vocal Creators Chat (5/2/3) and read my Schtick & scroll down to Judey's. Lotta lonely people out there that don't need awards or accolades, that will be inspired to write their own memories as well; we all have them. If you think it's a nice idea please give it a Shout-Out to some Seniors; it would be a kind thing to do. Ok, I'm a nag...thank you for this; it took a lot heart! Jay Kantor, Chatsworth, California 'Senior' Vocal Author - Vocal Author Community -

  • Ashley McGee2 years ago

    Your mom sounded like a sweet lady. My husband has similar memories of his mother, like watching the Price Is Right when Bob Barker still had black hair. His mother died when he was five.

C. Rommial ButlerWritten by C. Rommial Butler

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