Aside from increasing the number of greeting cards that are sold and restaurants that sell out for brunch, what exactly is the reason for Mother’s Day? My mother always said there was no reason to pick one day a year to be nice to your mother, because every day was Mother’s day – she didn’t mean it. She would make us suffer if we didn’t acknowledge her aptitude for parenting. Mostly we acknowledged her ability to create frozen food. She was famous for cooking a meal, freezing it, and defrosting it later that night for dinner. In fact, there was a time when we renamed her Delores Defrost—and we meant that in the nicest possible way.
Parents were different when we were kids. They were not our friends. The closest I ever came to intimate conversation with my mother was when I got my period and my mother whacked me so hard I fell off the toilet. It was not done in any malicious way, so don’t go putting it in the same category as female genital mutilation – geez, where am I going with this? I’m not sure if it was a family or Yiddish custom, but when a girl becomes a woman, the mother is supposed to 'knock' the child out of her. It was not among my favorite family events, but I never thought she meant to hurt me. I never thought of anything beyond that single act of whack. Humiliating and frightening as it was, it didn’t damage me. Of course, if she had done it today she would have been arrested. Actually, when we talked about it recently we decided that maybe if we all turned our mother’s in for the things that would be considered abuse today, they would all be in jail getting three meals a day, a place to sleep, TV and additional activites. It would save all of us the cost of assisted living, aides and nursing care. 'Nevermind', as my ‘mothers’ (I had eight of them) would say, “what was, was.” They would also say “dead’s, dead” And “go... know” which meant; who actually knows, or who can ever tell? But “go...know” was a kind of colorful short hand. Eight mothers you’re thinking. No I wasn’t in foster care. My mother had seven sisters and a sister-in-law, and they were all my mothers. Four lived right around the corner and four lived in Newburgh, N.Y. It didn’t matter where you were in your life, or physically located, one of them would be there to guide you on your way. The guiding wasn’t always welcome but it was relentless – and I mean that in the nicest possible way.
And speaking of ridiculous. I think Obama should just say, “Look. If Hillary wants West Virginia so bad—she can just take it. We’re not going to win it in the general anyway.” What are these people thinking—or maybe that’s the problem—thinking is not in the picture. And speaking of not thinking, do you think Bill Clinton knows how ridiculous he looks when he wags his finger at the public. Does he not get that it takes everyone back to those terrible times when he lied to the American people about “that woman, Monica Lewinsky”. And speaking of Monica Lewinsky, let’s not.
But back to Mothers. A few years ago I got a call from a friend that was a little disturbing; it started as follow: “Iris, all I can say is when I opened my eyes I had my hands around her throat and I was squeezing.” Admittedly, I was a bit taken back by the call. And I said, “are there marks that will identify you by your fingerprints?” We both laughed hysterically. I understood what she felt and how she chose to explain it. (The Mother was untouched and lived happily ever after—until she died peacefully last week.) When we become the caregivers for our parents it is not without any number of frustrations. The task is daunting and sometimes we just don’t know how to deal with it. This phone call was the culmination of many months of horrifying episodes, including paranoia and accusations that my friend was stealing money and jewels from her beloved parent. In fact, my friend had spent a fortune supporting her mother for years. Obviously, choking her parent was not the answer. But if you have ever been a parent you can relate to this situation. There is bound to come a time when you are so frustrated by the behavior of your child that you do understand how it can lead to child abuse. The difference is that crazy people hurt their children when they discipline, and normal parents don’t. Anyway, it was shortly after this that they recognized the dementia and dealt with it. NY Times columnist Tom Friedman said his mother put the ‘mench’ in dementia, and that was certainly the case with this truly lovely lady. Unfortunately, we are a generation and a country unprepared to deal with aging or the old. And both the health care system and are attitudes about illness do nothing to support our reality—our parents are getting old and if we don’t have tons of money, they are not going to be able to do it gracefully. Nor are we. Hopefully, this next generation of leaders will help us to find some solutions.
Hillary appeared with Chelsea over the weekend for a special Mothers’ day push. I was sorry they didn’t just stay home and cuddle. I sometimes do that with my daughter and never did it enough with my son. But it’s a great way to spend some quality time and it can put things in perspective. Hillary may or may not stay in the race or win the nomination. These are things about which no one knows today. Chelsea may or may not be the first child again – even though she is not a child anymore. But the one certainty they have is their love and support for one another. For one day, I wish it had not been a public display, but rather just quality time off the campaign trail hugging and assuring one another that everything would be alright. It appears this might be a smart alternative to a schedule of political events, because what appeared to be a small crack in the inevitability of her candidacy seems to have become a lake. And she’s sitting in a boat in the middle of the water, but everyone else has rowed away.
Barack has moved on. He can’t spend the day with his mother, but can spend the day with the mother of his children. When I looked at the schedule it appeared that it was exactly what he was doing. Talk about smart. There’s nothing that better helps us to set priorities than understanding the value of our families and, of course the passing of a loved one.
I’m not spending the day with my mother, who is across the country, or my children who are in Massachusetts. I miss them all and hope they missed me, but I have been reflecting about times passed, and I pray that whoever is elected to lead this nation has their priorities in a place that helps the rest of us to cope with what is to come. We're Just Sayin...