Posted on 16 February 2019
Visiting Momma Doyle
One day in Cabo Mike says to me, “You should go visit my mom the next time you’re in North County”. I had never met her and thought okay feeling honored that he was asking me. "I just think you guys will really get along," he said. (I think he may have known that someday I would be writing this story). I told him the next time I’m there I’ll email you so you can let her know I’m coming over.
A few months later I emailed Mike that I was going to be in North County. He wrote back telling me, “She’s looking forward to meeting you”. Feeling a bit uncomfortable I drove to her house in Fallbrook and knocked on the door. “Oh hi Larry, Mike’s told me all about you. Come on in.” I instantly felt at home. It was a wooden home with lots of antiques, nicknacks, and artwork. It felt warm and cozy. I was offered some tea and we sat and chatted for a while. She kept asking if I knew some of Mike’s old friends from the ’60s. Some I hadn’t met but had heard lots of stories about. She would tell me stories about dropping Mike off at Malibu on summer mornings and leaving him there for the day, later picking him up after work. She mostly talked about his contest years in the ’60s and could recall the names of all the competitors in all the heats of the day. Her mind was sharp and quick. She could tell you who Mike had beat in any given heat and how he placed in any given contest. She knew the people who ran the contests and most of the regulars who showed up to watch. Her memory for all those details and names was impressive. I wish I would have recorded her that day. She was a walking encyclopedia of ’60 surfing.
What impressed me the most was the love of a mother for her son, her only child. Her love for Mike then and now was evident. She raised Mike on her own and once she knew that Mike really loved surfing she supported him any way she could in his efforts to be at the beach, and with his competing. It seemed to me that there was nothing she wouldn’t do for him when it came to surfing.
She gave me a tour of her house and the property. Inside were more of her paintings. At Mike's house in Cabo, I had seen some of her artwork including a large painting of an older Mexican lady wearing an apron while cooking tortillas in her kitchen. The painting really struck me and captured the essence in still life of a simple Mexican kitchen. Man, I loved that painting. It hung in the room I would stay in. I wanted to buy it from Mike but hesitated. Then one day I showed up and it was gone. Mike had sold it to someone who hadn't hesitated to buy it.
Momma Doyle then gave me the property tour. It was sizable. Outside the house was an area where Mike had cleared heavy brush for croquet, volleyball, and lawn games. A creek divided the lot with a bridge she said Mike had built and rebuilt over the small rivulet that would sometimes flood and wash away the previous bridge. On the other side was the tree house Mike writes about in his book Morning Glass. She had me climb up to have a look. Next to the tree house was a one-bedroom house Mike had built with a garage for shaping boards; the board racks were still there. Inside were some of Mike’s things, most surf related, including photos and a few surf trophies. She said Mike didn’t like keeping things and would throw the trophies in the trash. Giggling she said that she would go out and pull them out of the can and hide them for safekeeping. (This wasn’t the Inglewood house where Mike was raised but a house she had purchased later.)
A couple of hours later we said our goodbyes. I really enjoyed the visit and was glad that Mike had recommended it.
A few years later Mike was inducted into the Surfers’ Hall of Fame in Huntington Beach. He invited Elaine and I to come to the event knowing we would be in the area at the time. At the ceremony, I got to see Momma Doyle again. She, Mike’s aunt, and some other family members were also there. She was gleaming with pride the whole time knowing that Mike was being acknowledged and would gain some permanent recognition for his accomplishments in surfing.
That would be the last time I saw her. Not too long after that, she passed away. I was with Mike on the flight to Cabo when he carried her ashes down to be spread at her favorite beach on the cape.
A few years after my visit to Fallbrook and the induction, Mike and I were on a surf trip in mainland Mexico. Mike was working on a new chapter for the coffee table addition of his Morning Glass book. He would run ideas by me. I had told him he really needed to acknowledge his mother and all the things she had done for him in those early surf years. "Through her support and love she really made you who you are," I had said.
The following winter I arrived early in the morning at Joey Cabell’s home in Aspen. We were going snowboard carving. Mike was staying at Joey’s then having just gotten there from Cabo. The guys were still getting ready when I walked in. On the kitchen table was a copy of Mike’s new book. I went straight to the last chapter. In it, I saw a section on Momma Doyle and just smiled.
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