Saving $ on Mother’s Day – It’s no Bargain

Mom and Aaron

Mom and Aaron

Yes – not wanting to disappoint my readers, that title is the blackest of humor. This is my second Mother’s Day where I no longer have to spend any money on a gift and I wish we could all still purchase her a gift. My Mom died* a little over a year and a half ago after a battle with cancer that reached back thirty years. Mom died on, of all days, my 43rd birthday. The death of a parent or very close friend or relative has to be experienced in order to understand how it affects you – it is truly a different experience for each griever. Even with the personal experience, it is still not possible to understand or completely come to terms with.

Saying that I am still sad over this 19 months later is both an understatement and inaccurate. I do not like that Mom is gone and life will never be the same – these constants do not change over time. I try my best to accept death as a stage of life – it is not a pleasant stage, but rather a necessary part of the cycle. Saying one’s sad over the loss of a parent is obvious and superfluous. But constant sadness thinking that the survivors got a bum deal is not how I choose to feel and move forward. We each get our life – Mom’s was a good 15 years too short, but I find it hard to be sad when she valiantly fought breast cancer three times, inevitably losing the final battle. The people that get a bum deal are children with diseases or whose parents die when they are very young, and people that know nothing but starvation, poverty and war.

For thirty years, outside of three instances, Mom lived a disease-free life and thrived in her marriage, family, and career. As hard as I try to forget the final months, and especially the final weeks, and to only remember the good times of my 43 years with Mom is difficult – but that is my ultimate goal. Opposed to being distraught, I often find myself at times forgetting that Mom is not longer among the living. A number of times I find myself thinking, “I should give Mom a call.” No longer can I call for the details of a recipe, or to find out how old a great uncle is, and other assorted family history. These questions can no longer be answered and Mom’s voice can no longer be heard. When people are alive there is something of a permanence that makes it hard to imagine they may one day no longer be with us.

I like to talk about my Mom – all of the good and not so good things that make us human. People are quick to apologize or offer condolences if they say something that requires me to answer “my mother is dead.” It is OK – really. The sympathy and concern is appreciated and understood. Everyone is going to die and it is far better to remember the lives of the dead than to forget. Keep the memory alive. We should talk about people in real terms and not sanitize memories that make it look like everyone who ever lived was perfect – that is not human, attainable, or desirable. Save the nonsense for movie stars and politicians to whom it is necessary to spin every angle to make them appear perfect.

How other family members cope is not always easy to read. I like that when my sister, father and I are reminiscing, Mom is not a taboo subject.  We share memories and remember things my Mom did with and for all of us. I have seen some families where the pain is so deep that it is easier to not mention the deceased. To me, that is when you truly lose the loved one; sure, Mom is gone, but she lives in the memories of her loving husband, her two children, five grandchildren and countless friends, coworkers and relatives. To forget or suppress is to further the anguish.

So who was my Mom? She was Terry – not Teresa! She came from a divorced home at a time when this was rare and embarrassing – she did not like to talk about that part of her life, and at times tried to erase it from her memory. She was raised by her aunts until her dad remarried when she was around 7 years old. There was alcoholism in her home – not the drunken, violent type that caused his first marriage to end, which forced Mom to be estranged from her birth mother and infant brother, but rather the type of drinking that could make a daughter not want to bring a friend home because she never knew what to expect. This home featured a father who rarely worked steadily and spent too much time at the racetrack in hopes of hitting it big. In case you could not guess – it never happened. Somewhere the seeds of “how a family should be” were implanted deep in my Mom’s being. As an adult she would not live in the type of family or home that she was raised in. Mom clearly knew where she was from and where she was headed.

Like all adult children, I am prone, at least to myself, to criticize my parents. Dad and I had, at times, a strained relationship in my teen years. This is nothing out of the ordinary; teenagers and their parents are supposed to be strained – part of the push and pull that spurs children into adulthood. I was a typical wise-ass, know-it-all punk who was looking to get a rise out of his parents and anyone else that was forced to listen. I often wondered why Mom did not intercede more on my behalf at that time (here is a guess: because she was smart.) Mom saw her role as the peacemaker, whose ultimate responsibility was to keep the family unit together. I may have not realized it at that time, but I now know just how much she cared for all of us. Her navigating us through troubled times has made me an adult who counts his father as one of his best friends and kept our family close and together through the ordeal of her sickness and death.

The love, warmth, feeling and emotions that we experience are meaningless if we all knew we would be alive forever. Death is what forces us to try and live in the moment and make the best of our lives. This is personal and communal. Be nice. Get along. Care about others. These are things that my parents and specifically my mother tried to instill in me, and that I try to pass on to my children and incorporate into my home life. I would like to think she did a great job.

To my Mom, my wife Gail, who is a terrific mother, and all of the mothers of the world – Happy Mother’s Day.

Thanks again for all of the support, comments, subscriptions and readership – it is truly humbling that so many are reading and getting something out of my writing. If there are any horrible errors or typos in this piece I take the blame – editor/wife-in-chief Gail has been given Mother’s Day weekend off.


* Yes – she died – she did not pass on and she is not late – death is difficult enough to come to terms and in my mind the situation is not helped and feelings do not grow with euphemisms or assumptions about the unknown.

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22 Responses to “Saving $ on Mother’s Day – It’s no Bargain”

  1. karen Says:

    Very nicely done Mike. Your mom would have been impressed.

    • Sue- your cousin Says:

      Wow Michael..how I stumbled onto this I don’t know..I don’t get on facebook very often but your story really really moved me. I wish I could put my feelings into words as you did.

      I miss my mom everyday and I love talking about her so it was very heartwarming to hear you say that too.
      Parents do the best they can – they don’t come with instruction manuals. But why is it we seem to appreciate what people mean to us once they are gone. My mom and I butt heads often — but what I would give to even have that pleasure one more time or just to call her on the phone…one more chance for her to get under my skin.

      thanks cousin. Love always Sue and Jeff

  2. Anita Says:

    I too have felt the pain of loss.. losing my husband at a very young age and my daughter at the tender age of two losing her father. Although it seemed that I would never make it through the pain of losing him, it was the beautiful memories I had of him that got me through it. Mike, your mother still lives, perhaps not here, but surely in your hearts. I’m sure she is looking down on you with great pride!

  3. Kevin Says:

    Mike, the title here is ironic. Mom’s always prefer that their children make them something rather than buy them something. You have have made a beautiful gift for your mother (and father) here.

  4. sapblatt Says:

    My Mom loved getting cash to buy plants with at a local farm – probably did that for over thirty years…thanks for reading and commenting…

  5. Vicki Says:

    Wow…my dad died ten years ago may 2nd. there is not a day that i don’t think of him…..your commentary was thoughtful, well-written and gave me pause to think of my mom who i see often, in a different light. thanks

    • sapblatt Says:

      Vicki – thanks so much for reading and commenting – sorry to hear about your Dad – the thoughts and memories are there forever. Take care, Mike

  6. Lee Ann Says:

    After wiping tears from my eyes I want to Thank You for posting such a great tribute to your Mom. I have nice memories of her, a Lady that was soft spoken, smart and very kind. You & Laura were lucky to have such strong family support in all you two decided to achieve in life. Enjoy Mother’s Day with your wife.

    Lee Ann

  7. Annie Says:

    Thats awesome Mike.
    Humorous,touching and thought provoking..
    Thank You x

  8. sapblatt Says:

    Thanks Annie!

  9. Sheila Van Riper Says:

    I am so sorry about your mom. My father died on my 28th birthday, so I know what it is like to have a reminder of the death of a parent on your every birthday. You have written a beautiful tribute to your mother. She becomes a real person as you write about her, not just an abstraction in a blog. My mother died of breast cancer as well. Mother’s and Father’s days are always sad and empty for me. Yeah, you save money, but I’d rather buy a nice present every year. It reminds me of Mitch Alblom’s book, “For One More Day.” If we could just be with them, for one more day. God bless you, and I hope you have a nice day tomorrow – maybe you can just hang out with some friends and their mothers, perhaps; whatever, try to be with someone and remember how you loved each other.

  10. JoDee Says:

    Mike, wow, your mother and wife was/are blessed. Truly cried while reading, my parents both are older mom at 80 and dad at 85 and everyday I thank God they are still with us, their only granddaughter has a great grandchild on the way and I pray everyday we can have more time, with them and the new grand baby (boy). Love, acceptance and getting along with others is what motherhood is all about, too bad society today is lacking, you mom did a great job!

  11. sapblatt Says:

    Sheila and JoDee – Thank you so much for reading and commenting

  12. Elaine Says:

    sweetly felt and expressed, you keep your mom alive in your memories.

    Some folks start to leave us before their physical presence does. Although I’m grateful to see her every day, Alzheimer’s is slowly taking my mom away.

  13. Caroline Says:

    Mike as I have my own Mom here with me in the end stages of her battle with cancer I find your writing resonates beyond belief. Truly beautiful. I try to find all the little ments to celebrate during our time here together. We still kid each other as we always have. I try to get all the geneology straight. We eat ice cre sundaes together. You have given mr a great comfort when we have discussed this phase of life. I value so strongly the input from one who has walked this path I on. I so delighted to have gained ypur friendship and Gail’s as well. Your boys are very lucky indeed to have such a loving legacy. Thanks for writing. Please keep going. I am always interested to hear your views.

  14. sapblatt Says:

    Caroline –

    Thank you for writing and reading – sorry to hear you are going thru the end stages – please keep in touch and feel free to write or call. – take care, M

  15. Jan Collins Says:

    That was very nice and a lovely lovely tribute to “Terry” Your a good son….and it’s a shame she can’t see it….but then again, maybe she can…I know when my son put me under his hero’s on his myspace page, and talked about how hard I worked to make life seem not as precarious as it really was for us…well, I don’t know if anyone could say anything that would compliment me more.
    I’ve still got my mother, saw her yesterday and I was glad, so glad….that she’s still with us.
    It was really nice learning about your mother…I’ve always said, as a parent you have two choices when your own childhood was tough…you can repeat the cycle or you can be bound and determined to change it…sounds like Terry did a great job of changing it for your benefit.
    Thanks Mike

  16. Jacey Carberry-Scott Says:

    Dear Michael,
    Thank you for sharing your story. My mom died of cancer 7 months ago…after a long, difficult “fight.” My parents had been married 59 years (married at 19) and my dad has given up on life. The “circle of life” seems terribly flawed. Look around and see the miserable 80 and 90-something year-olds who hate their lives. My mom had a tremendeous love of life. It still seems so unfair!
    The deaths of our mothers change us forever. We are no longer young and hopeful. No matter how long our loved ones live….it is never long enough. Wishing you all the best, Jacey

  17. Sheila Says:

    Thank you for sharing this with me. It is only in raising my two sons that I realize the depth of what my own parents experienced raising my brother and me. Those experiences are captured in small moments in my memory. It is those moments in my own childhood and now my parenthood that make my life meaningful. I remember your mom fondly, from St. Joe’s especially. She must have been so proud of the man you’ve become.

  18. sapblatt Says:

    Sheila – thank you for reading and commenting – hope you are well. Take care, Mike

  19. Johnny Pedini Says:

    Hey Mike,

    That was excellent! Eloquent, personal and poignant. A fitting tribute to your mother on Mother’s Day.

    Johnny P.

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