Her name is Grace. In 2015, she was filled with it for my sake.
Grace is the mother of my best friend, Tim Todd. Because of how deep and long and wide my relationship is with Tim, years ago I took to calling Grace “Mom.”
I’ve known Mom since I was seventeen, when I was hired to work at their drugstore, Todd Pharmacy. I never knew what to make of my new best friend’s mother, mostly because I always thought that she did not have a clue what to make of me.
I wondered what kind of sense of humor she had, if any. She was a school teacher—second and third grade—and I likely had stereotyped her: Doddering biddy who lived to make miserable the lives of young people.
Besides, that voice! She should have been voicing the cartoon character of the meddling old lady neighbor, cackling laugh and all.
One vivid memory from my days at the drugstore stands out. It left me thinking that Mrs. Todd, as I called her in those days, thought little of me. Todd’s was the typical drugstore, carrying a host of items from magazines to makeup to toys to tobacco to jewelry. Its soda fountain was very popular.
I was showing some necklaces to a lady. It was summer, so Mrs. Todd was not in school. I did not notice that she was lurking in the weeds, the sniper waiting to shoot me down. Sensing that my customer needed to look at less expensive items, I lifted one out and said, “Here. This one is cheap.”
After the customer departed, I heard that high-pitched, schoolmarm voice, “Greg, it’s not cheap, it’s inexpensive. If something is cheap, it is not made well. We don’t carry cheap jewelry.”
As I grew up, two things happened. I recognized the lovely personality of Mrs. Todd and she became Mom, and she was able see in me a respectable person—not that Tim and I ever act respectably when we are together.
As I recounted a couple of weeks ago, when I told Tim of my gender dysphoria he received my news without wavering in his love for me. Now, I was living as Gina. Now, I was concerned about Mom.
I have special concern for folks from the generation before me. Sheesh, they didn’t even grow up with television, much less than to have their son’s friend now switch sexes.
Besides, she’s a Christian. She takes her religion seriously. And I had been a minister. What if she could see me as nothing but a sinner? My visits to the Todd home would be smothered. It would not be for me the Todd B & B. When visiting my hometown, I would be able to stay at my son’s, but he and my wonderful daughter-in-law have two young kids and I don’t like to overstay my welcome.
“Have you told Mom, yet?”
“I don’t remember.”
“You don’t remember?! How could you not remember such a thing?!”
“I think I did. Yeah, I think it was a few months ago, when I told Julie.”
“How did she take it?”
“She took it fine.”
“Really? She didn’t freak out?”
“No. It’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”
Last July, I would travel to Montague as Gina for the first time. I would stay at Grace and Tim’s. I was more than a tad pensive.
I arrived and entered as always, opening the outer door, walking through the breeze way, giving a quick knock on the inside door, not waiting for a reply, going in.
Big smiles greeted me.
It was Mom.
All was fine.
Tim, understandably, has struggled switching from calling me Greg. Mostly, he calls me by one of the host of nicknames he’s had for me. Mom, however, has showed the determination of a teacher working to instill math concepts in eight-year-olds. Then, and in three more visits last year, she managed to call me Gina three quarters of the time.
When I visit, there are times that Tim has an event that takes him away. No problem. Mom and I never run out of chatter. Our conversation is always littered with laughter. We enjoy meals together, just the two of us. She loves to spoil me. I love to let her.
I don’t recall if I had told Mom “I love you” before 2015. Because my fondness for her deepened so, I did. Or did she say it first? Regardless, every time I arrive for one of my few-day visits and every time I depart, we express our love. We share a kiss. We mention our desire to see each other again soon.
And she calls me Gina. With grace.