Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

My mother, the swinger

Mom & Kev copy

It was a little over a year ago, when I last headed back to St. Louis to help my mom through cataract surgery, that she confessed to me one of her few bucket-list items to cross off before she shuffles along to whatever’s next.

“You know what I’d really like to do before I go?” she asked.

“Tell me.”

Looking a little sheepish, she tittered a bit, then said, “I hope I get a chance to swing on a swing set one more time.”

We happened to be in a park with a swing set at the time. I looked over at it and said, “Why not now? There’s your chariot right over there.”

The park was a little crowded, though, and she didn’t like the idea of a bunch of people watching a then 81-year-old woman wobble back and forth on a kiddie machine. She demurred.

“Well,” I said. “It’s a pretty simple Make-A-Wish thing. I bet we can get you on a swing set one of these days.”

Calendar pages fly by, as more than one of my characters like to say (my wife too).

Last week I was back in St. Louis for Mom’s 83rd birthday, and aside from dependence on her portable oxygen concentrator she’s still as energetic and witty and fun as ever. My sister, Judy, took us to the zoo on Mom’s birthday—it’s all happenin’ at the zoo, you know—then we joined Judy’s husband and my brother, Steve, and his wife at Texas Roadhouse for the birthday dinner. Mom put away a five-ounce filet, while I vowed never to set foot in a Texas Roadhouse again if I could avoid it. We headed back to Mom’s place for some Baskin Robbins ice cream cake. Mom blew out a few candles, with Judy’s help.

The next day we took a trolley tour of St. Louis (starting at Union Station, above). The bell captain at the Union Station Hotel was just a little younger than me and happened to live in the area where I went to high school. Lived close to my old girlfriend, as a matter of fact, and we talked about how much things had changed out that way. I imagine my old girlfriend has changed too. I know I have (above). Randy fixed a tour snafu for us, saving the day for Mom. We all had big smiles as we piled onto the trolley. The driver was a true-blue St. Louis boy, who said things like “warsh” for wash and “the-A-ter” for theater. He declared all the sights on the tour, which passed through many of my old stomping grounds, “kind of a cool thing.”

Over the weekend, I made a pot of chili for Mom so she could have leftovers for a few days. The recipe calls for, among other things, beer, tequila, and chocolate, and I was happy to see her go through her bowl lickety-split and pronounce it the best chili she’d ever had. (Naturally—it was made with love, right?)

On our last full day together, we got the idea to drive over to the park where we had scattered my brother’s ashes twelve years ago. She hadn’t been there in a couple of years. Used to go every day, but as her emphysema worsened she had to cut back. I carried her oxygen concentrator as we walked the trail to a spot that looked like the spot in the shallow creek where we’d left Joe. We sat on a bench and talked about him. In the vein of “you’re not really dead until the last person who remembers you is dead,” we walked back feeling wistful but happy, remembering good things about him.

As we emerged from the sparse woods, Mom said, “You know what I’d like to do now?”

“Tell me,” I said.

“Nobody’s here. I think I want to swing on the swing set.”

We made a beeline for the empty swings, and before I could give her a hand, Mom swept off her oxygen tube, handed me the machine, and dashed to one of the U-shaped seats. In a few seconds she was pumping away like it was 1942 and she was seven years old, shouting all the while, “This is so much fun!”

I wished for a split second that I had a phone with me so I could record the moment. But in the next split second I knew that it was better to watch this happen in front of me with no filter, no distraction. It would stay more real that way.

Mom finally came to a stop and dismounted a little unsteadily. I helped her to a bench so she could catch her breath, but on every exhale, she said again and again, “That was so much fun!”

So she got to scratch this one off her bucket list. And she gave me a memory I’ll pull up every time I think of her for the rest of my days.


21 comments on “My mother, the swinger

  1. John W. Howell
    October 10, 2018

    Thanks for sharing this terrific visit, Kevin. You did pick up some lifelong memories.

    • Kevin Brennan
      October 10, 2018

      Thanks, John! It’s a real treat when you know you’re going to remember something as it’s happening.

  2. luannemart
    October 10, 2018


  3. Priscilla Bettis
    October 10, 2018

    Your mom sounds like a blast. We should all add octogenarian swing set ride to our bucket lists.

    • Kevin Brennan
      October 10, 2018

      Yeah! Who needs skydiving when there are swings in every park? 😉

  4. kingmidget
    October 10, 2018

    It’s a great reminder that the most simple of things are the ones that can bring real joy. Glad your mom got to do that and that you were there with her to share in the moment.

    • Kevin Brennan
      October 10, 2018

      These days, the simpler the better as far as I’m concerned …

  5. Phillip McCollum
    October 10, 2018

    What a fantastic trip, Kevin. It’s so great that your mom got a chance to cross that one off and will hopefully have many more years to cross off the rest. And I need that chili recipe…

    • Kevin Brennan
      October 10, 2018

      It was a super-special moment, that’s for sure. And I can scan the recipe for you if you want. 🥄

  6. MacNutt
    October 10, 2018

    Loved this.

    As Frost said, “One can do worse than to be a swinger of birches”–or swings, for that matter.

    • Kevin Brennan
      October 10, 2018

      And as Duke Ellington said, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing [set].”

      Funny, you popped in just a few hours after Luanne!

  7. Luanne
    October 10, 2018

    What a great story. And your mom is so cute.

    • Kevin Brennan
      October 10, 2018

      Awww! She is a doll, and fun to be around too. Thanks, Luanne!

  8. Audrey Driscoll
    October 10, 2018

    Sounds like everyone had fun, and good memories were made!

    • Kevin Brennan
      October 11, 2018

      Yes indeed. We all had a great time, but–at least for me–no more Texas Roadhouse! 😝

  9. merrildsmith
    October 11, 2018

    What a sweet memory to have. Your mom sounds like she’s lots of fun.

    • Kevin Brennan
      October 11, 2018

      Thanks, Merril. Yep, Mom is a delight. Sharp as a tack too.

  10. Adrienne Morris
    October 11, 2018

    What a great picture–in words and photo! So glad you didn’t have the phone with you when your mother was swinging. before we go … such a bittersweet thought.

    • Kevin Brennan
      October 11, 2018

      Thanks, Adrienne! Yes, I hate to think of what the experience would be like if I’d viewed it on a screen. You can’t beat the real deal!

  11. 1WriteWay
    October 13, 2018

    What a great story, and a great photo of the two of you! I’m glad you didn’t have a way to record her swing. Your memory and experience of it will always best any photo or video.

Chime in

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on October 10, 2018 by in Publishing.
%d bloggers like this: