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home : opinions : columns November 20, 2014


5/7/2014 6:00:00 AM
COLUMN: Dear Mother,
Bob Weete, columnist
Bob Weete, columnist
Bob Weete
Essay

Happy Mother's Day. I don't know of any mother who is perfect, but you did your best. And I am whoever I am largely because of your efforts.

Oh, sure, you did the "usual" things for me; carried me for nine months, you went through labor for me; you bathed me, changed my diapers, and fed me. That was actually the easy part.

I guess the more difficult times started when I entered the "terrible two's". Prior to that time, you had done everything for me. Then I wanted to be "independent". I learned about "no". I didn't like it. But "no" usually meant that I was about to do something that might hurt me, or make me sick, so I learned that "no" meant "I love you."

But I remember all the medicinal chicken noodle soup or the milk toast you made when I was sick. And you brought me ice cream when I had the mumps.

I also remember that you were a master at the Singer Sewing machine. You made "original" shirts like no other boy had all the way up through high school. They were "neat" (aka "cool".)

You made me say "please" and "thank you" and "excuse me" if I burped. Important skills, I found out. They show respect and thankfulness. You insisted that I not talk when someone else was talking, encouraging me to listen to others. And "I'm sorry" meant a lot when I had done something I should not have. And along with these, it was clearly stated that mattered more how I said them more than just the ritual of saying them. "From the heart", you said.

Neither you nor Daddy were "church-going", you taught me the "now I lay me down to sleep" prayer. And you dressed me up in my white shirt, white pants, white shoes to go to Sunday school at Christmas and Easter. Then you said, "and don't get dirty".

You were my prime instructor in the "bad" things I should not do. That meant no lying, cheating; I was to be respectful to all, especially adults. I didn't have to say "yes, sir" or "no ma'am", but I was not to answer with a "yeah" or "nope". "Huh?" was particularly heinous.

The sting of Lava soap in my mouth to wash out a lie or bad word still is an ugly memory. And I remember the spanking I got for telling you a funny joke about a bad boy named Johnny. I also learned to be sure you understand what all the words mean before you tell your mother a "joke".

You somehow taught me to realize that anything I do causes consequences, some good and some bad. That was really an important one to learn. You encouraged me to be honest, and to keep my promises. My word needed to be good.

As I got older, I, like most kids my age, had chores to do. You taught me how to wash and dry dishes. By hand. You also tried to teach me to quit arguing with my sister while doing the dishes.

You also taught me in washing clothes, and hanging them on the line properly. Yes, I said "properly". Socks had a certain way, and sheets and towels a certain way or I had to go out and re-hang them. To avoid many wrinkles, of course. I also learned to iron. I don't iron my handkerchiefs anymore, but I did then. Also sheets and pillowcases. Later, I learned to iron my clothes, too. And this was all done, not to make your job easier; it was so that later, when I was on my own, I could do it.

I learned to sew patches in my clothes, and how to darn socks, and how to sew buttons on. That was, I suppose, to prepare for my time in the Marine Corps, when this was a needed skill.

You taught me to care about other people. You helped me do this by reminding me of all the poor children in China who would love to have what I had on my plate, so I became a member of the Clean Plate Club at every meal. Along with this, you admonished me to not let my eyes be bigger than my stomach, so I should take only the amount of food I could eat, and none would be wasted. "Waste not, want not."

You advised me to chew my food twenty-seven times before swallowing. Not much dinner conversation. Everyone was sitting there, counting the number of chews.  She really "dun good" on that one, because at any meal, I am always the last one through. So far, at least, I haven't really had any stomach problems, though.

Unfortunately, when I was around eleven, you succumbed to my dad's urging to "have a little drink" with him. The rest of your life was spent in alcoholism. Even then, you taught me to see the real person under the alcoholism. Compassion.

So, on this Mother's Day, I want to say, "Thank you, Mom" for the many little lessons you taught me that pretty much have stayed with me and sustained me all these years.




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