This project is to pay tribute to my dad, actor James Whitmore. Too often parents are maligned by their off-spring and many times it’s justified. Not with my family. I was lucky to have two great parents, which is why I’m straying from the father-path today and remind us that my mother was incredible as well.
She bailed me out of jams just like my dad did. Time and time again. She was there.
There could be an argument made, I suppose, that if my parents had not bailed me out as often as they did – they did finally stop. I will get to that later. – I would’ve gotten sober sooner. I would’ve gotten better sooner. I just would’ve been whatever sooner if they’d cut me loose sooner.
The word is “enabler.” Maybe so, but I gotta tell ya, I am so grateful for my parents today. I should’ve told them, especially mom, so much more when they were here. I should’ve thanked them, again and again. I made peace with dad before he passed. I did not with mom. I didn’t make it right with her before she passed, and that’s entirely on me. She showed me nothing but love and patience. I showed her contempt, criticism and scorn in return. I live with that everyday. And I deserve to.
One story: I was sitting in a car being driven by an individual no longer with us. It was early in the morning, like around 3 a.m. We were drunk, of course, and had borrowed the car from a relative of his without their knowledge. We were driving south on Western Avenue just below Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, California. We had our heads out the windows and we were singing “Say hello to Hollywood.”
Of course, the cops came and pulled us over. Arrested me. Let the driver go. Hauled me off to jail once again. This time it was Mother’s Day. Guess who I called to bail me out? That’s right. And she did.
She gathered her things. Pulled together the bail amount and came down to the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail to get me released. There was a slight hiccup. I was in the Army at the time during Vietnam and was supposed to be overseas. Tough to do when your behind bars. I was Absent Without Leave or AWOL as it is commonly known.
Mom spent Mother’s Day, 1973, bailing her son out of jail and not being able to see him because he needed to be turned over to the Army. I was soon to be released back to my mother’s care a few weeks later. Much to her chagrin, I might add.
I was off to Germany and then my dad announced he was going to leave my mother for another woman. They were married for 24 years, I believe, and then it was over. My mother’s allegiance to my father had been repaid with abandonment. Divorce and a family break-up. Something I’m all too familiar with. I will get to that later.
But today it’s a tribute to Nancy Richmond Mygatt, my mom. She was a much better mom than I was a son.
Part Eight: Dad leaves. Divorce shatters a family; but he still has my back.