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As Mother's Day rolls around once again, I find myself reflecting this year on the different obligations we feel towards those mothers in our lives, at different times and passages in our lives.
As this is the second Mother's Day since my own mother died, I can't help but remember her with the fondest recollections, avoiding the sad, last and declining years of her life when a stroke took away her sparkle and delightful personality.
Call me sentimental, but I can't help but offer items of tribute to my mother, and just a few of the better memories, as they serve to remind and help me to be a better person whenever I think of them.
My mother used to say about friends that if you want perfect friends you won't have any. This would come up when I'd be disappointed in the behavior of a friend, and I can still hear her words today when I feel let down by a friend. But my reaction is tempered by remembering her words and the friendships she held onto for decades, by not carrying a grudge.
My mother also suffered the loss of two of her three children, something that as a parent myself, I can't imagine. I became the only child, yet instead of being over-protective, she and my father (who passed away four years ago) encouraged me to explore the world - "go and see, do and experience" were their words - versus keeping me locked up out of fear that something might happen to me.
Contrast this attitude with the almost lock-down parenting approach of so many parents today. They allowed me to go to a ski camp when I was 12, go away to college when I was 16 and to explore Europe without an itinerary of any kind when I was 18.
The freedoms and support that they provided gave me the opportunity to see and experience the world, and I'm forever grateful to both of them for everything they gave me.
My mother always had a smile on her face, always had a kind word to say and was always interested in people. I still marvel at the fact that I'd bring home a long-time friend or girlfriend and, within minutes it seemed, my mother would find out something about them that I never knew.
People opened up to my mother because they could feel her goodness, her care and her concern for them. Ultimately, I picked up her technique and have become a pretty good interrogator myself, getting people to reveal things to me that they then would express surprise at doing.
Thank you, Mom, as it is a terrific skill and one that brings me closer to people from the beginning.
After surviving breast cancer, she became a volunteer at a hospital, encouraging other cancer victims to get on with their lives. She formed a support group that was called "the boob girls" and each year a celebratory lunch would be held in honor of surviving another year post-mastectomy. That was the kind of woman that my mother was.
She is a great reminder in not allowing life's bumps-in-the-road to define you or allow them to make you constantly unhappy.
Unfortunately, I didn't marry a woman like my mother and ended up in an unsuccessful marriage. That isn't unique, but what was different about our separation and divorce is that my ex-wife, the mother of my two boys, pretty much abandoned them completely. It was a shock to all of us when I found myself raising two sons virtually alone.
But in the first years after she left, I still felt compelled to teach them to remember their mother on her birthday and Mother's Day with at least a card; whether it was homemade or store-bought.
As her communication occurred less and less, and even occasionally was hostile and irrational, I began realizing they had learned the lesson of respect toward their mother enough and now should be allowed to choose for themselves whether to remember her on future Mother's Days. Keep in mind that we have no phone number for her, only a post office box that may or may not be accurate.
When I was blessed to meet and marry my new bride, it gave the boys and I a wonderful chance to start again. We could do those little and special things for her that they had no heart for with their biological mother and could no longer do for my mother, their late grandmother.
So, we plant little surprises in the house for my wife, make something special for her, or take her out, and each boy buys or makes cards and gifts. It's a loving Mother's Day, the way it's supposed to be, but I still can't help but miss my own mother a great deal.
Her wisdom in this often-confusing world we live in would be a blessing to still have. But luck and some hard work (dating was and is hard work) gave me the good fortune of finding my wife and having a loving mother in the lives of all three of us boys.
- Bruce Sallan is a former television executive and producer (Google him if you want to know his credits) who has been a full-time dad to his two boys for more than 10 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.