When we were growing up we would play this game called Tickle Tiger with my father. We would all crawl around our rather large living room. Dad would roar and chase us and if he caught us he would tickle us until we were giggling little slugs rolled into tiny balls on the floor.
For my sisters and brothers and me, it was the best game in the world. Dad was a really big guy, over six feet tall and had played football in high school and college. He had an amazing laugh that could make us laugh even before he got close enough to us to tickle us. Dad would play until he had rendered us all senseless.
Sometimes mom would join the game. When that happened dad would chase mom behind the couch, and it would become very quiet. Eventually we would climb up onto the couch to look and we would find them; mom wrapped in dad's arms and they would be kissing.
Once when my younger brother Matt was three and we found them behind the couch he said " Dad you don't 'posed to kiss her you 'posed to tickle her, silly." But I was six and much wiser and I knew that our game of Tickle Tiger was over, and mom had won.
My parents had an amazingly loving relationship. They produced nine children, and were never embarrassed to show affection in front of us. They often sat at the table in the morning over one last cup of coffee before dad had to leave for work holding hands and chatting about nothing in particular.
When I was 12, my dad got sick and a very tense year later died of a brain tumor. My mother suddenly had to become totally chaste, not by her own choosing, but because of a circumstance beyond her control. I had always hoped that she would find love again, but she always maintained that there was only one love for her in this world. For the next 38 years she lived waiting for the day when she and my dad would be united once again.
When my mom died early last fall (just days after her and dad's wedding anniversary) she was reunited with my dad. They are buried together in a military cemetery, which means they share the same burial plot and headstone with dad's information on the front and mom's on the back. When she was buried I could imagine dad's arms outstretched waiting to wrap them around mom in a loving and eternal embrace. They are together forever.
I miss mom every day, but when I think about how they are buried, in that loving embrace, I realize that she is exactly where she has wanted to be for a really, really long time. I know she is happy there. The game is over, mom has won again.
Happy Mother's Day mom.