Mother's Day is always a mixed blessing for me. My mother died just four days after Mother's Day in 1987. She left us way too early. When she died my mother was 59 and had battled breast and other cancer for 14 years.
I was just 39 years old, my brother was 36, and my sister was only 26 when she died. I still miss her tremendously. It was more than a year before I quit having the urge to call her on the phone, only to remember she was gone.
In the intervening years, I have tried to continue to honor the other major female influences in my life on Mother's Day. My wife, of course, but also my Aunt Judi, my mother's younger sister, who in many ways was always a second mother to me. My stepmother, Janet, who at a relatively young age took on two boys who were already half grown. I was also blessed with great mothers-in-law during my life.
Years before, my grandmother Ethel (from my father's side), was a tremendous influence on my life. We often stayed overnight in her beautiful hillside home in the Hollywood Hills. Grandma Smith was the gentlest, kindest person I remember in my life. Excellent behind a sewing machine, she devoted many years to making hospital gowns and clothes for children at The Children's Hospital in Los Angeles. She left us in 1969. But her example of kindness and service was one I could never forget. She was a tremendous cook and hostess and the times I spent in her care were some of the fondest of my life.
My cousin Cynthia (another great mother) and I were recalling how we used to slide on our stocking feet down her long tiled hallway at the Dundee Avenue home. Sometimes we would run around the house in circles, often flying off the stairs into the spacious living room without ever a rebuke from Grandma. She was so patient. Might have had something to do with raising three boys. She taught me a love of words through crossword puzzles and Scrabble and she sent me many times to look up words in a large (and I do mean large) dictionary that sat on a wooden pedestal in her living room.
My grandmother Ardath (from my mother's side) was more aloof, but no less loving.
Aunt Judi, Janet, the grandmothers and the mothers-in-law all contributed in large ways to the man I am now. So you can partially blame them. Not really, the faults I have, and they are legion, are the result of my own failings.
One day, long after my mother died, I was standing in a grocery store line in Davison, Michigan and a man in front of me had two pretty full grocery carts. As he checked in the items from one cart and paying for them and then repeating the process with the second he complained to the clerk, "It is really hard shopping for both my family and my mother."
His comment, an innocent and understandable gripe, caught me up short. I piped up. "You know, sir, there is only one thing worse than having to shop for your mother?" He looked at me with a funny look and I continued. "That would be when you don't have her to shop for anymore." He shook his head affirmatively and went on about his check out.
Today, Joan and her sister will attend the Mother's Day tea at the Buffalo-area nursing home where their mother is now living. I cannot go because each resident can only have two guests because of space limitations, but I know Joan's mother will appreciate the visit.
Yesterday, Joan received an extremely thoughtful gift from her daughter, my stepdaughter, and a note that made her cry, in a good way. It wasn't the gift that made her cry, but the wonderful sentiments in the note.
Parents know that none of what we do is for recognition. What we do, even when we fail, is done out of love for our children with no expectation for some reward. But, the acknowledgment and appreciation of what we have done by our children may be the greatest rewards we receive on earth.
Tomorrow, if you are blessed to still have your mother with you reach out and let her know just how much she has meant to you. If she is gone, remember those women in your life who have helped nurture and love you.