Category Archives: grandmothers

>OBSERVATION: The mothers in my life.

>On Mother’s Day, of course I reflect on all the mothers in my life. (I mean the nurturing kind, not the target of street slang.)

Of course, I have a mother (pictured left with my dad on their wedding day). She passed a way some years ago. “Have” was not a grammatical error. I think of her in the present tense. Partly because I exist as both the physical and spiritual embodiment of her. Her advice and admonitions echo in my mind. The guidance she provided still influences my actions, consciously and unconsciously.

After a stint as Rosie the Riveter during the World War II, mine returned to being the perfect stay-at-home mom. Had she been a Catholic, as were the rest of us in the family, I dare say she would have been on her way to sainthood by now.

I was married twice, and three kids meant I was the spouse of two mothers. Along the way I also acquired three teenagers who needed a home and family. Unfortunately, my first wife abandoned me AND the kids. I could readily understand her leaving me, but I never could fathom her leaving the kids behind. For almost 20 years, she has chosen to celebrate Mother’s Day estranged from her kids, who never did a thing to provoke her abandonment. In no small irony, she is now an Episcopal priest. No one said that motherhood was a uniformly perfect institution.

After her departure, Mother’s Day took on new meaning as I took on a new role, Mr. Mom. I learned to be a better cook and to check pockets before throwing jeans into the laundry. I became the only man to attend our school’s PTA meetings, and of course had to bring my “dish” to the meetings. (They always suggested I bring a salad. I am sure they figured I didn’t know how to cook. That changed when I insisted on bringing a main course of chicken breasts cooked in wine sauce with grapes and apricots.)

My role as Mr. Mom ended with a second marriage. To date she has not abandoned me or the young son, Alex, we brought into this world. God knows she has more than enough justification to abandon me, but, unlike my first wife, she would never give up our son – nor even those older children who came along with me as a package deal. Hell, she has not even given me up yet, and I know I would be the first to go. In fact, she has been a remarkably good mother to all the kids as well.

My wife and I were partners in a business with offices adjacent to our apartment in downtown Chicago. Regardless, we employed a woman to take care of our then infant son during the day. At the time we hired her, she only spoke Spanish. She quickly became much more than a nanny. For almost 10 years, she was Alex’s second at-home mother with all the mutual love that implies. That relationship endures to this day as strong as ever.

When Alex made his First Communion, the parents were to ascend to the altar, with the other relatives remaining at the foot of the stairs. The priest later told me that he often faced a child with one parent, but never had he seen a child with three. Thanks to his second mom, Alex is fluent in Spanish. On Mother’s Day, we will pay a visit to her. Alex is hoping she makes his all time favorite soup, and I am keeping my fingers crossed for the best flan in the world. I may have only one wife, but Alex most definitely has two loving and loved mothers.

Our Mother’s Day tour will include a visit to my wife’s mom and dad, happily married for nearly 60 years, and both in very good health at 79 and 81 respectively. My mother-in-law is an extremely energetic woman, with strong opinions. I have been known to be rather opinionated myself. So I have been told. Well, you can imagine the personal chemistry in those early years. I was the lighted match to her gasoline.

Let me just say that there was a period of adjustment. Once I learned to adjust, however, things got better. Actually, we have become so palsy walsy that my wife thinks I now get along better with her mother than she does. She may be right. For the last holiday party, her mother requested we bring MY honey sweet potatoes, MY cucumbers in sour cream, MY guacamole, and MY sausage stuffing. Those days as Mr. Mom were not wasted.

Or course, I had a couple mothers-once-removed – better knows has grandmas. My Polish Grandma was a 270-plus pound love machine. She would cook like the Fifth Army might drop in unexpectedly. Those were the days when you added grease to every dish. Today we skim the fat off the home made chicken soup. Grandma, on the other hand, had a tin of chicken fat, and plopped a serving spoon full into every pot of brewing broth. I was married before I realized that not all chicken soup had those fun to play with yellow fluid disks floating on top.

My Austrian grandma was about the size of my Polish grandma’s upper arm. We lived in the second floor apartment of a two-flat built by my grandfather. Grandma used to come upstairs to use our phone. They never had one. She would speak in English until the story got really interesting. Then she would switch to Austrian, leaving us hanging.

She was a great cook too. Her pies have never been surpassed – same for the strudel. Between her baking sessions, I was happy for my daily bread – a slice of buttered rye. Hmmm! I think I will go have one of those now. It won’t be the same, but old habits (and memories) die hard.

So … Happy Mother’s Day to those of you who are mothers, have a mother or know a mother.

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