I miss my mom.
And not just because Sunday is Mother’s Day.
I have a problem with Mother’s Day as a holiday, anyway.
Yes, I know it’s a great day for restaurants and florists and card stores to make some money.
But it’s become a blatantly commercial day and that enables some people (who don’t pay as much attention to their mothers as they should all year long) to play “catch up” and make up for neglect with some flowers or a Mother’s Day meal.
My mom died a number of years ago and I think of her just about every day. I wouldn’t like myself if I didn’t think about her as much as I do.
I called and spoke to her every day from the day when I got married (as a child bridegroom) and left home, until the day she died.
She would end every phone call I made to her over the years with the same two words: “Be careful.”
I owe her a lot. She gave me something that every mother should give a child – unconditional love.
I never felt, for a second, that she could love me any more than she did if I did well at school. Unconditional love has nothing to do with good marks at school.
I never felt for a second that she would love me any more if I were a success or any less if I were a total failure in life.
Success or failure doesn’t enter into the picture when a child receives unconditional love.
My mom was tiny – just 4 feet, 10 inches tall. For the first 40 years of her life she weighed less than a hundred pounds.
My mom never raised her voice but she always got me to hear what she had to say.
She arrived in this country many years ago and really saw America as the land of opportunity. She was an immigrant and she didn’t get to become a citizen until many, many years after she got here.
My mom worked at the age of 14 rolling cigars in a cigar factory. She worked in sweatshops making children’s clothes. She took in “piece work” at home, making dolls’ dresses.
My grandmother and grandfather never learned a word of English and never became citizens. Although times were hard they never took a penny of welfare. They never even considered it.
I think of them when I hear people scream and march and carry on against the latest wave of immigrants. As the son of immigrants I say let’s give them all green cards, register them and allow them to go to work. Someday their work ethic will save this country.
Speaking of work ethic, I’m pretty sure my mom never heard the term “work ethic” and if she did, she wouldn’t understand what it meant. But that never kept her from having one.
One day years ago when I called my mom she said, “Jerry, I’m worried about you.”
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I don’t think you’re working hard enough.”
“I don’t think you’re working hard enough,” she repeated.
“Mom,” I said, “all over America mothers are telling their sons that they are working too hard and you’re telling me you don’t think I’m working hard enough?”
“People are happier when they work hard,” she replied. “I think you’re happier when you are working hard. I want you to be happy.”
“How do you know I’m not working hard?”
“Because when you call me in the morning, sometimes it’s after nine o’clock and you’re still home.”
I then proceeded to tell her that I was an advertising writer and writers don’t have to be sitting at a desk in order to be working hard, and most of the time, for me, thinking is hard work, etc., etc.
“I still think you’d be happier if you work harder,” she replied.
I laughed but the next day I was in my office, sitting at my desk, at 8 a.m.
On the day she died I got to see what an extraordinary effect she had on everyone whose life she touched.
There in the center of her hospital room my first wife Barbara and my current wife Judy were hugging each other in grief and crying uncontrollably at the thought of losing her from their lives.
Quite a lady, my mom. That’s why, for me, every day is Mother’s Day.