Warmest regards: What I wish I could tell Mom
BY PATTIE MIHALIK
If you’re lucky enough to still have a mother, I hope you honor her by showering her with love on Mother’s Day.
So many of us can no longer do that because our mothers are gone. Any chance we had to tell her how much we love her is also gone.
It’s been 15 years since my mother passed away yet I still find myself thinking, “I need to call my mother.”
There is still so much I need to know from her and so much that I need to tell her.
If I could, what I would most want to tell her is that the longer I live, the more I appreciate all she did for me.
Erma Bombeck always had a funny way of expressing homespun truths. I remember reading her book where she told mothers not to fret if their kids didn’t seem to appreciate them because some day they would regard her as a saint.
Erma believed many women reach sainthood status once they pass away but it’s the rare woman whose kids would nominate her for sainthood while she is still living.
When we’re young and foolish it’s all too easy to find fault with Mom, especially during our turbulent teen years.
No matter how much we love her we find ourselves wishing some things would be different.
On a personal note, I spent a few decades of my life longing for my mother to tell me she loved me.
Oh, I know she did because she proved it through each and every stage of my life. I knew I could always count on her to be there for me and to do all in her power to help me with any need I had.
Except the need to hear her say she loved me.
My mother was an extraordinary woman who triumphed over circumstances that would have defeated a weaker woman.
From the time she was 9 years old she was without a home of her own, thanks to a ruthless father with more vices than any man should have.
There were no parents by her side giving her emotional or financial support. So she lived with whatever older sister let her stay with her for a while.
One sister said she could stay with her but she had to earn her own keep. While most kids her age were playing with dolls, at 9 my mother was babysitting and cleaning homes to support herself.
They say whatever doesn’t kill you can make you stronger. Maybe that’s why my mother was unbelievably strong, capable of rising above every circumstance.
I always liked when her sisters told stories about how strong my mother was, both in spirit and in deed.
To this day I am grateful she showed me how to stay strong, regardless of circumstances.
Did I tell her how proud I was of her?
Not really. Instead I felt robbed because she never told me she was proud of me, no matter what I achieved.
When I started working as a newspaper columnist at the tender age of 16, whenever I had a column in the paper I waited for her to mention it. She never did.
See, I wasn’t smart despite my good grades. What I didn’t understand back then was that a kid who was never given praise, affection or affirmation wouldn’t know how to verbalize feelings to her own children.
My husband Andy phrased it this way: One cannot give what one does not have.
My mother had no softness in life and certainly no words of love or praise. She had no role model for how to show the affection I wanted.
While I was always happy that I grew up with a supportive extended family, I realized we would never be the kind of family that verbalized that love. We didn’t show affection through hugs.
All that came later when I had my own family.
It was a plastic blue kangaroo that helped my mother and me learn to be more affectionate.
I saw the blue kangaroo when I was away at a convention and knew I had to buy it for my mother. The kangaroo carried her young one in her pouch, just as my mother carried me throughout life.
On the bottom were the words, “I love you Mom,” words I struggled to voice because “we didn’t have that kind of family.”
After more than a few tears when I gave Mom the kangaroo, we were able to talk about our frozen feelings.
Our hugs were awkward at first. I always initiated them, but after a while hugs and outward affection became a natural, beautiful part of our life.
Even so, there was so much I should have told her while I had the chance.
I should have told her she was my role model and it was her strength that has been and still is my inspiration.
I should have told her how much I valued being raised by a woman who used a lifetime of unselfish deeds instead of mere words to express her love.
Most of all, I should have told her more often how much I loved her.
I did tell her, of course.
But no matter how much one says, “I love you,” it’s never enough.
For every devoted mother, it’s never enough.
Contact Pattie Mihalik at email@example.com.