The Mother of All Books


From my early boyhood, I always wanted to be a pro baseball player. When my limitations as a ballplayer became more evident, I thought that being a writer would be just as good (and you didn’t have to try and hit a curveball). I don’t have to search around for why I wanted to be a writer—the answer is as easy as the one for why I’m around: my mother.

Since I was a toddling thing, I saw my mother reading. I saw her reading magazines and newspapers; I saw her reading books. And she wasn’t reading dime-store westerns (though that would have been fine too), but big novels, books that thumped when she set them down on the living room tables. I saw her reading books, enjoying books, getting more books.

My deep thoughts at the time: “Mom likes books. Books are good.”

Reading, Writing (and No Rithmetic)

So, I started reading too. She was right: books are good. The more I read, the more I wanted to write, so I started writing too. Writing is good. (Except when it gives me, as Mark Twain would say, the fantods.)

My mom continued to love reading until about 10 years ago, when her macular degeneration made words on the page a blurry mess. For a while, because she still hankered for that mess, she read with a giant magnifying glass, slowly but steadily, until that became too hard as well. I’ve written a number of books, and she had them all, even those published after she’d stopped reading. She loved books, after all.

She died at her assisted-living home in mid-June, after a stroke in late April. She was a remarkably kind and good person, funny and chatty, and fond of social gatherings and people in general. Even though she was 97, and lived a long and good life, it’s still a shock to have her gone. Whatever part of her I have is the best part of me.

Here’s the obit my sister and I wrote, which gives you a bit of her character:

Eileen Agnes Bentley

Thanks mom, for opening up the world of words, and all of their enchantments, to me. I hold you in my heart forever.

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9 thoughts on “The Mother of All Books

  1. One was more of a booklet (but good info) provided by the hospice service that had been caring for my mom. The other is the 20th anniversary edition of The Grief Recovery Handbook, by John James and Russell Friedman, the founders of the Grief Recovery Institute. I’m only 55 pages in (book is about 220), but it’s been helpful.

  2. I’m saddened by the loss of your mother, Tom, but thank you for this post and the link to the obituary. I loved reading about her life. She was clearly such a special lady.

  3. Tom
    Her loss is widespread as she was truly loved by a great many people. She was the last link to my mom and her loss is doubly felt. The memories are what makes the pain bearable for me. We had great childhoods from loving parents. A two edged sword so to speak, because we miss them and the hole they leave. I can only be thankful for our being part of the glorious OBrien clan descendants.

  4. Cheryl, I very much appreciate your thoughts. My mom was (and is) a great example of human warmth and openness, and has left me with a lot to live up to.

  5. Debbie, it’s heartening to think of how many folks she touched–that helps with the loss. With your mom and Marcella, they made a lively trio and a joyful noise (and fine families, as you say). You could always make her laugh, which was a glory, because she had a wonderful laugh. Thanks for being here.

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