I've Got Just the Thing for That!
If you've read any of the stories on this blog, or better yet, actually knew Carol Versandi for real, then you know just how unique a person she was.
Truly one-of-a-kind, and I mean that in the best possible way.
There really was nobody else like her and I doubt there ever will be again. At least that I will ever meet.
I know that's easy for a son to say about his mother, but in this case, it's just a statement of fact.
I can think of a lot of adjectives to describe her.
I can use all the well worn clichés like "loving", "caring" and "warm"…all of which she was.
But that would be like calling the Grand Canyon, "big".
Sure it's big….but more then that, it's imposing and profound.
It's beauty is both staggering and overwhelming.
It leaves you feeling small yet totally in awe.
That was my mother.
That was her character and her spirit.
That is who she was and there isn't a single person that knew her that would ever disagree.
She was small in stature.
Massive in presence.
You never forgot meeting her.
And that to me, is truly an amazing gift to leave behind.
However, I would be remiss if I didn't point out at least some of what made her such a memorable person.
There's no other way to put this, so I'll just say it.
My mom was quirky.
Not in a bizarre, off-the-wall kind of way.
Just in that, she had a unique way of looking at things that attributed to her, somewhat comical approach to life.
For example, my mom loved "Home Remedies".
I don't know what shows she was watching, what books she was reading or what websites she was perusing, but once or twice a week, I would get a phone call, completely out of the blue that usually went like this…
Me: (answering my phone) Hi Mom
Mom: How'd you know it was me?
Me: Caller ID. It's on every phone made in the last 20 years.
Mom: I have that on my phone?
Mom: Even this phone?
Me: So, what's up?
Mom: Mikey, I need you to do me a favor. Not now, but next time you're in your backyard (she would say this as if going to my backyard was a like 4 day hike up a mountain that required extensive planning) can you collect all the acorns on the ground, wrap them in wet paper towels and put them into a brown paper bag?
Me: Oh Lord…I know I shouldn't ask why, but why?
Mom: I was watching Oprah and..
Me: (interrupting) We've talked about this…you need to stop watching Oprah
Mom: I was watching Oprah and there was this man who said he makes his own cold medicine out of steamed acorns.
Me: What? I…huh…and you…what?
Mom: This man was showing people how to make cold medicine out of steamed acorns and I want to try it.
Me: Do you have a cold?
Mom: (acting offended) NO I DO NOT HAVE A COLD! I NEVER GET COLDS! WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU SAW ME WITH A COLD?
Me: So why do you want to make your own acorn juice cold formula?
Mom: Just in case.
Mom: Also, worms. I need worms.
Me: No and before you say anything else, let me just add, no.
Mom: But I need them to keep the mosquitos away.
Me: I know I'm going to regret this, but how the hell do worms keep mosquitos away?
Mom: Martha Stewart said that if you put worms in a metal bucket and squeeze lemon juice over them and leave it outside your door, it…
Me: (again interrupting) No.
Mom: But it keeps the mosquitos away. And you know how sweet I am. The mosquitos love me
Me: If you take a bucket, fill it with worms and cover them in lemon juice, all you're going to have is lemon-scented worms. And I will not allow myself to be the son of the crazy woman who keeps a bucket of lemon scented worms on her door step.
If you have a mosquito problem, I will take you to Home Depot and let you pick out any mosquito repellent you want. No bucket. No lemons. No worms.
Mom: You suck.
There is no part of that conversation that I made up.
Here's another example…
One time when my mom was over my house for lunch, she asked me if she could "borrow" a bottle of Vodka.
An odd request considering my mom did not drink at all. She's had the same bottle of Blackberry Manischewitz for the past 40 years.
That's not an exaggeration. 40 year old Manischewitz and it's not even half empty. If it wasn't cheap Jewish rotgut, it might actually be worth something.
Also, we both knew she had no intention of ever replacing this bottle of vodka, so I don't know why she would refer to it as "borrowing".
But she asked if she could borrow some vodka and I, of course, made the mistake of asking why.
"I have a lot of poison ivy in the backyard and I can't remember if vodka kills the actual plant or if it cures the rash you get from it".
There was so much nonsense in her statement that it actually took me a few minutes to collect my thoughts and respond.
I started out by saying "Ok mom, let's dissect what you just said logically. You want me to give you a bottle of vodka.."
"Good Vodka", she interjected. "Not the cheap stuff. The cheap stuff doesn't work".
"Right", I continued.
"So you want me to give you a bottle of good Vodka so that you can either, kill the poison ivy in your backyard or heal the rash that you're going to get when you pull it out. Do I have this correct".
"Yes", she said. "Just give me the vodka. Lets not make a big production out of this", she replied.
"Here's a thought", I said. "Why don't you just stay away from the poison ivy altogether? That way, you don't get a rash and I'm not out an expensive bottle of vodka"?
"What did I just say about making a production"?, she asked. "What are you going to do with that vodka anyway? Drink it?"
"Uh, yea", I said. "That's pretty much why I bought it in the first place".
This little back and forth exchange went on for a while (God, I miss the times we would banter like this) until I told her that next time I come over I would bring a bottle of vodka with me.
We both knew I was lying. I had no intention of spending money on a bottle of expensive alcohol just so that she could dump it on the ground like she was paying respect to one of her dead homies.
However, what I didn't know was that she had no intention of leaving my house without the vodka she had requested.
So while I was in the living room, she quietly opened up my basement door (we keep all our liquor on a shelf that runs along the basement steps) and like a ninja, snatched not one, but two unopened bottles of Absolut Citron Vodka.
She shoved them into her pocketbook, looked at the imaginary watch she had on her wrist and said something to the effect of "Wow, look at the time. I've got to get going. Thanks for lunch" and she clanked away, two bottles richer.
I could go on and on about her little idiosyncratic home recipes or cures. She literally had hundreds of them. I kept telling her she should write her own book.
It's amazing to me how little I thought about her strange requests at the time and how much I cherish them now.
You have no idea what I would give for one last odd, out-of-left-field phone call.
I would give anything for my phone to ring.
Anything to see her name on my Caller I.D.
Anything to answer it. To be able to say "Hey mom".
To hear her voice one more time.
You need acorns for a cold remedy?
Vodka to get rid of poison ivy?
WD 40 to catch hermit crabs?
Camel hair to treat a sunburn?
Of course mom.
Anything for you.
I would do anything for you.