Updating this it has been 30 years since I have been able to celebrate Mother’s Day with my Mom, Susan Lynn Pennington Goff. And with recent additions to my life, I find myself missing her now more than ever …
In the years we were together, she instilled in me a lot of Love.
Love of Baseball. Love of Reading. Love of Music.
And a Faith that could move mountains.
Mom was a sports fan, especially baseball. Growing up in the West Virginia/Ohio area Mom and Dad liked the Indians, but once they moved west, it was all about the Dodgers.
Dad would often receive free tickets from salesmen at work, but it was Mom and I that would use them and take in ball games in L.A. and Anaheim. We would pick up a program, grab a hot dog and head to our seats. She taught me how to keep score, how to pay attention to all the little things, like where the fielders were playing and how the pitchers and batters adjusted to what the other was doing. I often wonder how she would have done at Fantasy Baseball.
One year, the Arlington High School choir had a fundraiser where they auctioned off baseball bats that were autographed by Dodgers players. As my eyes opened wide and a smile crept across my face, I am sure my parents cringed at the thought of how much it was going to cost them to get one. As the bigger names (Garvey, Guerrero, etc.) started going for big money, my Mom didn’t give up, and I came home with the bat of light-hitting shortstop Bill Russell. I don’t know what they paid, but it didn’t matter as I became the biggest Bill Russell fan on the planet. The bat still hangs in my bedroom.
But more than a fan of professional baseball, she was a big fan of Little League baseball. I played Little League for six years, and I do not ever remember playing a game when she wasn’t there. Rain or shine, sickness or health, she would be there in her lawn chair, with her homemade crocheted afghan in my team colors.
After Little League, I moved on to Pony League. My Mom was hospitalized that season at Riverside Community. But the Pony League happened to play its games down in the ravine across from the hospital. My Mom was on the fifth floor, and they moved her to the other wing, which had a view of the field. On game days she could watch with a pair of binoculars.
That was her last Baseball season, and as it turns out my last year of playing organized ball. It just was’t the same without her.
Another thing I got from my Mom is a love of the written word. Mom loved to read, and loved how words could be sewn together to tell a story and bring about an emotional response. The school year was always filled with reading of course, but summertime was as well. We would take weekly trips to the Arlington Library, exchanging one book for another, usually it was more than one book. From short stories and biographies to Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew (Mom’s favorite) to Choose Your Own Adventures, the summers were filled with reading.
Mom wanted to be a journalist, because she loved spreading the news and telling people something they might not have known. That is something I clearly got from her, as I am 18 years into a career in sports journalism. Which is something I wish she was around to see.
Mom had a bumper sticker on her station wagon that read, “There are only two kinds of music, Country and Western.”
Mom was a country girl, and we were raised on the likes of Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn and the Oak Ridge Boys. Which is probably where my Sister gets her love of Country music.
To this day you could throw in a CD of Kenny Rogers greatest hits, and I could probably sing a long with all of them. My parents’ song was “Through the Years,” but one of her favorites was “Coward of the County.”
One of her favorite groups was the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, with hit songs like “Fishin’ in the Dark,” and “Mr. Bojangles.” One year we had season passes for the San Diego Wild Animal Park, which included a Summer concert series. I still remember sitting on the hillside at the amphitheater to watch Nitty Gritty.
But as much as she was a country girl, she also grew up in the 60s, and that meant California beach music. She loved the groovy tunes of the Beach Boys like “Good Vibrations,” “California Girls,” and “God Only Knows.” I still have her Good Vibrations album on vinyl. And of course there was Jan and Dean (another act in the Summer Concert series in San Diego) with hits like “Little Old Lady from Pasadena,” and “Dead Man’s Curve.”
Our trips to the ballpark and trips to the library and concerts were only surpassed by trips to Church. Despite her on again, off again battles with cancer, her attitude never changed and Faith never faded. One of her favorite things was the story of the “Footprints in the Sand.”
“One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the LORD. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand: one belonging to him, and the other to the LORD. When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life. This really bothered him and he questioned the LORD about it: “LORD, you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.” The LORD replied: “My son, my precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
She found comfort in this, and it kept her positive during times that called for anything but. It is in that Faith that I find the strength to stay positive and keep moving, keep striving for the best no matter the obstacles in the way. And to find the strength to keep living out that Faith, no matter who we lose along the way.