Sunday, May 11, 2008

Being A Mother


After 21 years of marriage, my wife wanted me to take another woman out to dinner and a movie. She said, 'I love you, but I know this other woman loves you and would Love to spend some time with you.'

The other woman that my wife wanted me to visit was my Mother, who has been a widow for 19 years, but the demands of my work and my three
children had made it possible to visit her only occasionally.

That night I called to invite her to go out for dinner and a movie. 'What's wrong, are you well,' she asked? My mother is the type of woman
who suspects that a late night call or a surprise invitation is a sign of bad news.

'I thought that it would be pleasant to spend some time with you,' I responded 'just the two of us.' She thought about it for a moment, and
then said, 'I would like that very much.'

That Friday after work, as I drove over to pick her up I was a bit nervous. When I arrived at her house, I noticed that she, too, seemed to be nervous about our date. She waited in the door with her coat on. She had curled her hair and was wearing the dress that she had worn to celebrate her last wedding anniversary. She smiled from a face that was as radiant as an

'I told my friends that I was going to go out with my son, and they were impressed,' she said, as she got into the car. 'They can't wait to hear about our meeting.'

We went to a restaurant that, although not elegant, was very nice and cozy. My mother took my arm as if she were the First Lady.

After we sat down, I had to read the menu. Her eyes could only read large print. Half-way through the entrees, I lifted my eyes and saw Mother sitting there staring at me. A nostalgic smile was on her lips.

'It was I who used to have to read the menu when you were small,' she said. 'Then it's time that you relax and let me return the favor,' I responded. During the dinner, we had an agreeable conversation nothing extraordinary but catching up on recent events of each other's life. We
talked so much that we missed the movie. As we arrived at her house later, she said, 'I'll go out with you again, but only if you let me invite you.' I agreed.

'How was your dinner date?' asked my wife when I got home. 'Very nice, much more so than I could have imagined,' I answered.

A few days later, my mother died of a massive heart attack. It happened so suddenly that I didn't have a chance to do anything for her. Sometime later, I received an envelope with a copy of a restaurant receipt from the same place Mother and I had dined. An attached note said: 'I paid this bill in advance. I wasn't sure that I could be there; but, nevertheless, I paid for two plates - one for you and the other for your wife. You will never know what that night meant for me.

'I love you, son'

At that moment, I understood the importance of saying in time: 'I love YOU' and to give our loved ones the time that they deserve. Nothing in life is more important than your family. Give them the time they deserve, because these things cannot be put off till some 'other' time.

Somebody said it takes about six weeks to get back to normal after you've had a baby... somebody doesn't know that once you're a mother, 'normal' is history.

Somebody said you can't love the second child as much as you love the first ... somebody doesn't have two or more children.

Somebody said the hardest part of being a mother is labor and delivery .... somebody never watched her ' baby' get on the bus for the first day of kindergarten ... or on a plane headed for military 'boot camp.'

Somebody said a Mother can stop worrying after her child gets married ... somebody doesn't know that marriage adds a new son or daughter-in-law to a mother's heartstrings.

Somebody said a mother's job is done when her last child leaves home ... somebody never had grandchildren.

Somebody said your mother knows you love her, so you don't need to tell her ... somebody isn't a mother.

Pass this along to all the GREAT 'mothers' in your life and to everyone who ever had a mother.

This isn't just about being a mother; it's about appreciating the people in your lives while you have them... no matter who that person is!

Watch your thoughts, they become words.
Watch your words, they become actions.
Watch your actions, they become habits.
Watch your habits, they become character.

'Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle'.

Author's note: I didn't write this piece, but I do agree with it. The picture at the top is my daughter Cinzia and my grandson Niccolo. The picture in the middle is of my daughter Marlise and I. Happy mother's day to all of us.


  1. Happy Mother's Day, Isabel... lovely thoughts, nice pictures. Niccolo is adorable. Love, Jeanne

  2. My compliments to Isabel and Cinzias on your handsome children and grandchildren.

    One of the little known facts about Mother's Day - a fact with some sad implications - is that it was an American invention of the 20th century, invented precisely to compensate for the epidemic of dissolutions and estrangements of American families which began in the automobile age. The (very recent and unprecedented) American cult of the nuclear family, exacerbated by suburbia and the increasingly nomadic habits of Americans, weakened the ties of extended families, almost to the point of extinction.

    In many ways I think grandparents are, or should be, even more important than parents. They used to be; the raising of children used to be done more by grandparents than by parents, perhaps especially in moral instruction and passing down old histories and traditions.
    This was partly because the parents usually had their hands full with regular work, but also because of the (ideally anyway) superior wisdom of elders compared with that of 20-40 year old youths.

    And now that most American families have been through two or three generations of having relatively little real contact between children and grandparents (no, those occasional holiday visits aren't enough), now look at what a mess we're in. The instruction of elders - meaning grandparents and great-uncles, et al - is indispensable for any real civilisation.

    So on that note, and with my desideratum for the primacy of GRANDmother's Day, an anecdote about my maternal Grandmother. When my paternal Grandmother died in 1973, I was 10, and during the weekend of the funeral my parents very wisely sent me to stay with my OTHER Grandmother, to soften the blow of my loss. (Her death was the first I ever experienced of a family member or friend.) So, during that weekend of what otherwise would have been one of loss for me - the kind of loss for which, at age 10, I was not mature enough to handle - instead, I enjoyed a weekend of gain, of spiritual gifts, at my other Grandmother's house...

    ...she spent the whole weekend telling me old family stories, including stories about our ancestors, and showing me the antiques my (then 8 years dead) Grandfather had collected. And personal stories and histories behind all the antiques. And old photos, and my great-great-grandfather's records from the American Civil War in which he was wounded at Gettysburg
    - he was an immigrant from Darmstadt, and after his third and worst wound in 1864, the Doctor wrote, "Sergeant Yost is unfit for the INVALID CORPS! (HA!) He has been a good and faithful soldier.
    I recommend an honorable discharge with a full pension."

    And at that time, my Mother didn't even know the full story about him - about Sergeant Yost. I would never have heard it if my Grandmother hadn't told me. And why didn't she tell my Mother? Because she, too, used to be a young mother, and just didn't have time to tell such stories to my Mother. That kind of precious spare time is the province of grandparents.

    And she told me little anecdotes about him, like how in 1862, shortly after the Battle of Antietam, he was demoted down to Private for being drunk on duty.
    (Heh, can you blame him? :-)
    Then two weeks later they promoted him back to Sergeant, after the other Sergeant was killed. And he went to America in July 1861, specifically because - as he said -
    he wanted to live in a "real republic" and wanted to fight to save the American one. Whether Lincoln was right to launch that war is, of course, irrelevant to Sergeant Yost's valour and idealism.

    And then the sweetest moment - which I think Isabel will especially appreciate - was when she told me about her Italian grandmother. Did I ever tell you, Isabel? I'm one-sixteenth Italian. George Yost - he of Gettysburg - married three times after the war (even with a crippled leg!) His SECOND wife was my Grandmother's Grandmother - and she had only one child, as she died just after childbirth, very young.
    Her name was Anna Camarata, and she was one of the earliest Italian immigrants to Philadelphia, circa 1870s. Anyway, dear Isabel, I think you'll especially like this bit: After my Grandmother told me about HER Italian Grandmother, she stood with me in front of a mirror - and mind you, she was a great beauty in her youth - and said, "You see we're part Italian. That's why I'm so smart and you're so good lookin. Or maybe it's why YOU're so smart and I'M so good lookin! HAHAHAAA!...." And she pealed out that beautiful, really youthful laugh of hers, even at age 71 the "girl" in her came out at that moment...

    So there ya go. If you trace my maternal line, from mother to mother, my mothers' mothers go back to Italy. And as you know, that would mean a lot to Julius Caesar, who took maternal lines very seriously.

    Therefore, for my Mothers Day comment on Isabel's blog, I'll toast my Italian great-great-grandmother - on my straight maternal line - Anna Camarata, who died shortly after childbirth, but who will never be forgotten.

  3. PS,

    Just for fun, and in the same spirit as my above comment about Italian mothers, here's a clip from the very end of my FAVOURITE episode of the X-files. Oh alright, yes, although I don't like much American TV, yes I did like the X-Files - mostly because of Gillian Anderson. But anyway. This clip is from the very end of the episode titled, "Improbable", which was all about mathematics, probability, gambling, and indeterminacy and free will. In that episode, Burt Reynolds (whom I hope to resemble when I'm his age, around 70 in this clip) played the engimatic role of someone who was IMPLIED to be "God - and his role, his character as "God" was very warm, kind, and life-loving, but he always allowed everyone to make their own choices (and He was disappointed whenever they - meaning we - made stupid choices, and He simply advised them to "choose better!")
    Well, this song is the finale of that episode. The song is sung in Italian, and although I don't know Italian and only know basic Latin, I can make out that it's a good song for Mother's Day. Here ya go:


Isabel Van Fechtmann

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