Warmest regards: Appreciating a mother’s sacrifices
By Pattie Mihalik
Whenever Mother’s Day approaches, I get a bit sad.
With each Mother’s Day observance, it hits me anew: I can no longer honor my mother.
It’s been 10 years since she passed away, yet every now and then I still get an urge to call my mom.
I forget that’s impossible.
If your mother also passed away, perhaps you know what I mean.
We can’t call Mom. Can’t tell her how much we love her. Can’t visit or send her a gift.
Often, the longing and the regret get worse when Mother’s Day nears.
I never just sent my mother a gift because I’ve always been a great believer that presence is the best present.
No matter what it took, I made sure I traveled to see my mom on Mother’s Day.
That doesn’t mean I was a good daughter. In my mind, I could have been better.
I was always grateful for how she always put her children first.
But I didn’t realize how she did without so she could buy her kids what they needed.
She was a single mother supporting two children by working two jobs.
She got up early in the morning to get a ride to her day job in a dress factory. After rushing home and making a home-cooked meal, she left for her waitressing job.
When I was an adolescent and a teenager, I never appreciated her sacrifice. I never thought about how tired she must have been having to work two jobs.
Instead, all I thought about was me. I pitied myself because I always had to baby-sit instead of going with friends.
Do all kids see the world only through their own narrow vision? In many cases, that’s true.
Oh, I knew some kids who were smart enough to elevate their mothers to sainthood while they were still living. I wasn’t one of them.
I did realize my mother was a saint — but that was after she passed away.
I guess that makes me a cliché. There was an old saying going around that told mothers not to fret if their kids didn’t appreciate them. The punch line for mothers is, “When you die, you’ll turn into a saint.”
That’s often true.
The reason for it has to do with reflection and a better understanding that comes with age.
With each passing year I appreciate my mother more because I think of all she did for her family and how she sacrificed all her life.
Oh how I wish could have told her more often of my deep love and appreciation while she was still here.
Instead, my mother had to put up with a self-proclaimed “daddy’s girl.” From the time I was a kid I worshipped my dad.
That continued even after their divorce. I knew Mom was right to leave him. He was the world’s best father but he was a failure as a husband.
His sudden violence for no reason must have been difficult for her. She was so young and had no one to turn to for support.
Even though it ripped me apart when they divorced, I knew she should have left him years before she did. She didn’t deserve that violence.
When Dad remarried and moved away, he stayed in touch with me. But his new family was his priority.
I knew my mom hurt for me. What I didn’t know was I made her hurt more whenever my dad sent me $2 in the mail.
I danced around saying, “Look what my dad sent me.”
She would retort by saying, “I’m the one who supports you. He only sends you a few dollars a year.”
I had no idea what she meant by that, just as I had no idea how she had to scrimp to single-handedly pay the rent, the bills and put food on the table.
I am sorry to say I didn’t realize all that until I was much older and became an adult who knew what it meant to have all those bills to pay.
I just read an article in Consumer Reports that said parents should teach their kids how to handle credit cards before they go off on their own.
My mother had one word of advice on all that: Don’t!
She taught us that paying interest on a past purchase was like money down the drain.
“If you have to pay interest it’s the same as opening your wallet and letting your money run into the sewer,” she said.
She taught us never to buy anything until we had the money. Waiting for those purchases did more than save us money. It also made us more grateful when we did buy something.
When my husband and I got married, we bought our dining room chairs one at a time as we had the money. It took a few years but we felt so good when we finally had the whole set.
To this day my brother and sister are the same way.
The more time that passes, the more of a saint my mother becomes in our minds.
If only I would have told her how I looked up to her.
If your kids are young and don’t seem to appreciate what you do, don’t fret.
Some day they’ll realize all you’ve done for then. Then, you might become a saint.
Contact Pattie Mihalik at firstname.lastname@example.org.