About My Mother

by Jeff Deck | 11/1/00 6:00am

Recently my mother groused about not being mentioned at all in the two and a half years I've been writing columns for The Dartmouth. Though this is untrue -- I can produce a factual fact that I made a reference to my "mommy" in a January '99 piece -- I would still like to devote this particular column to my mother.

My mother grew up in the small town of Park Ridge, New Jersey, which was within spitting distance (note: unproven) of the town where another celebrity, John Travolta, was raised. While attending Penn State University, she met a fellow with the unusual but intriguing name of Ralph Jeremiah Deck. (My father disliked his first name, so he decided to go by a variation of his middle: hence, Jerry Deck is the name that many have grown to love and fear to this day. Well, maybe not fear.) My mother and father became an item soon after, which I am, of course, eternally grateful for, married, and went to live just outside the much maligned but decent city of Cleveland, Ohio. Soon after I was born, they made the important discovery that, in fact, they could not stand each other, and thus a divorce was born.

My mother, like the famed Eliza from Uncle Tom's Cabin, took me, and left the state of Ohio, never to return. At least, I'm pretty sure she hasn't returned any time. We stayed for a short time in Albany with my aunt and uncle, who were raising two tots of their own, and then we moved to New Hampshire, where my mother's parents lived. There, in Manchester, alone but for the help of Grandma and Grandpa, my mother raised me, dealing admirably with a small boy who cooked up his own special brand of mischief and whose best friend was the nightlight by his bed. When I was around seven, my mother married a man named Thomas Mathes, who liked cigarettes and building model planes and working with tools. Unfortunately for us, Tom also liked drinking. He began several years of domestic abuse, with my mother bearing the brunt and the rest passed on to me and Tom's son, Tyler. Tom became a sad, bitter, confused man whose teeth were falling out, and when divorce came we were glad to see him go. I only wish I could have taken a few of those teeth for souvenirs.

Once again, my mother and I were on our own, but things were working out fine. I was doing very well in school thanks to the hard work my mother had taught me to do, and we moved into an apartment on the same street where my two best friends lived. My mother had seen her life take an unexpected and unpleasant direction, with two husbands divorced and a workplace that didn't appreciate or respect her (and still doesn't), but in spite of all that, she remained positive and kept our lives running smoothly, continuing to instill in me the good habits and dedication she'd been helping me to achieve all my life.

By the middle of my senior year, she'd lost both of her parents. However, she is surviving and going through life with the same perseverance she has always shown. My mother is living in a nice little place that she owns, after more than 20 years of renting and roaming. She exercises vigorously and enjoys Pepsi and has a couple of good pals at work that she hangs out with occasionally.

Living on my own for the first time, here in New York for the term, I can finally appreciate the courage of my mother for enduring on her own and showing grace and determination through more than a few hardships. My mother represents everything that is still good and true in this failing world. She brought me up to be a good person, a thorough thinker, and a hard worker, and I would not be attending Dartmouth were it not for her. She is the most important person in my life, and I will always be grateful that I was given her as my mother. Love you, Mom.