Opinion | Biff America: A mother’s mirror of love
Wayne Stanley was a misshapen man, with monkey-like posture and pointed teeth. He was small, unattractive and lived with his mother. Despite those less-than-appealing characteristics, Wayne had a strutting confidence normally found in a movie stars or guys with man buns.
For me, loading coffee bags onto trucks was a well-paying summer job, for Wayne it was a career. After working a Colorado winter I would return to the east coast to fill in at a “union shop” when those with seniority were on vacation.
Being the low man on the totem pole, I was forced to work the dirtiest jobs with Wayne. The regulars would jokingly call me “Wayne’s assistant” — he took the title literally. Though the job simply consisted of teams of two men moving 100 pound coffee bags off of wooden pallets onto waiting trucks, I would be instructed endlessly on technique.
“Watch how I do it,” he’d say. “In a few years, you’ll be as strong as me.” At the time, I was about twenty years younger and maybe 30 pounds heavier than my mentor. Though I was content to keep a pace that was fast enough not to get behind, or fired, Wayne was not. He kept a mental count of the bags we unloaded and at our lunch break, he would brag about our tally. No one else bothered to keep count.
He would maintain a furious pace, trying to surpass his imagined competition, all the while regaling me with stories of his fast car, the home he bought for his mother, and women who wanted him as a husband. Wayne would say, “I ain’t never getting’ married, I want to play the field.”
I wondered if Wayne’s confidence was authentic or simply the over-compensation of an insecure man. For me that question was answered when I finally agreed to go his house for dinner. It was there that I met his mother.
“Ma Stanley” was a jolly, huge woman, with ample arms and a mustache.
Wayne and his mother had one thing in common; they both loved to talk about Wayne. She told me with agonizing detail, of every task, chore and home improvement her son had done around the place. She spoke of the fine pork chops we’d be having that night because the butcher’s wife had a crush on her boy. Watching a mother dote on her son was actually very touching, not nearly as annoying as watching a son dote on himself.
The meal was accompanied by Morgan David wine. The wine had a twist-off cap; Mrs. Stanley claimed weakness and asked her son to remove the lid. He was about to do so when the phone rang. We waited while Wayne talked. Mrs. Stanley issued a sigh of impatience, grabbed the bottle and ripped the cap off like it was held on by gravity.
The dinner was well cooked and pleasant. We cracked another bottle of wine, which Wayne opened with slightly more effort than it took his mother. We talked about work, the Boston Red Sox, and of course, Wayne. Though Mrs. Stanley was a poor, uneducated woman, she provided her son the tools for wellbeing — a belief his own worth. How we appear to the world matters little when compared to how we see ourselves.
I have friends, well into middle-age, who are still trying to live up to their family’s expectations. Parents are in a unique position to empower or impugn a child’s self-image. We seem to place more credence in their opinion than we do on societies or even our own.
Maybe Wayne’s mum knew that her son was lacking some tools for contentment and decided to try to make up for those shortcomings. Perhaps she was determined to give him the adoration she never received. Or maybe with the blind love of a mother, she honestly thought her kid was a stud. Whatever the case, she gave her man-child what society would not, a love of himself. Though Wayne was not always pleasant to be around, he was harmless and happy. His conceit didn’t hurt anyone and allowed him the luxury of illusion. I believe that Wayne Stanley was a happy man. I believe that he was an example of the truth that if you are truly loved, perhaps by only one person, that is sometimes enough.
Jeffrey Bergeron’s column “Biff America” publishes Mondays in the Summit Daily News. Bergeron has worked in TV and radio for more than 30 years, and his column can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He is the author of “Mind, Body, Soul.” Bergeron arrived in Breckenridge when there was plenty of parking and no stop lights. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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