Maybe our mothers are the necessity, not the invention

Friday, May 10, 2013

This Sunday, mothers from Bainbridge to Bismarck will find themselves gleefully on the receiving end of a lovely floral arrangement, an overpriced (and unfortunately often cheesy) Hallmark card or a thoughtful long-distance phone call.

Yes, we'll all go out of our way this Sunday to salute Mom, but shouldn't that be the case each and every day. Isn't every single day really Mother's Day?

Really, I mean that. All day. Every day. For your entire life.

"Behind all your stories is always your mother's story because hers is where yours begins," author Mitch Albom mused in his "For One More Day."

Oh so true. After all, no other person on earth could possibly exert the same influence on your life that your mother has and will continue to have. Don't mothers seem to affect virtually everything we say or do? That's certainly been my experience.

As hard as it is to believe, this will be my fourth Mother's Day without my Mom, who passed away at age 84 a little more than three years ago. And only about umpteen times a week over those intervening years have I caught myself nearly reaching for the phone to call to tell her something. Maybe something personal to share. Or maybe just to hear her voice and let her hear mine across a couple thousand miles.

But since early February 2010, Mom's no longer been there to call. Believe me, though, she will always be there in spirit.

As a kid, growing up in a one-car family with a stay-at-home mother, I was constantly amazed how Mom was so acutely aware of what was going on everywhere in the world around us.

She knew there were people starving in China who would gladly eat the tuna casserole, salmon patties or runny macaroni and cheese I disdained.

If that didn't get me to eat it, there was always, "You have two options for dinner ... take it or leave it." I left it once, and after that I knew there really was only one option.

And despite never going to college, she possessed the scientific savvy to know my face was "going to freeze that way" whenever I conjured up an expression that displeased her.

While multitudes of women over the years have imparted such uninspired motherly wisdom such as "Wait until your father gets home," "Nobody ever said life was fair" or the ever-popular "Because I said so," Mom had her own go-to expression that was as predictable as a rally-killing Cubs' double-play ball.

With my Mother the line was always the same: "Watch out for the little kids!"

I'm telling you, she always tacked it onto every bit of advice.

"Have a good day at school, and watch out for the little kids." "Be home by 11, and watch out for the little kids." "Don't go swimming for 30 minutes after you eat, and watch out for the little kids."

I must have heard that comment a gazillion times growing up, most often whenever I was about to back the car out of our driveway. I mean, it was as if a parade of small children was poised just down the block, ready to tramp past our house at the first sign I was getting behind the wheel.

Strangely, it didn't matter that I was perhaps the youngest person in the neighborhood. So where those little kids were coming from that I needed to watch out for I never knew.

Beyond making light of all that, in reality it was good advice, a motherly warning to keep your eye on the ball and your mind on the task at hand.

When you think about it, I guess that's about as much a statement of love and affection as any "I love you" might be to a teenage son.

After all, I'm pretty sure it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who's credited with the right-on line "Men are what their mothers made them."

And I really do still "watch out for the little kids," although I would vehemently deny it if ever pressed for an answer in front of someone.

That, dear Mother, I do for you. Every day. All day. The rest of my life.

And because I can no longer give my Mother a kiss or a hug, I'm urging you to give your mom a kiss and a hug for me this Mother's Day.

Believe me, I do miss that. And I know some day you will, too.

Mothers are like that, yea they are.