Sunday, May 1, 2011

Celebrate Mothers

Human nature is such that for most of us, our memories of the past are largely good ones. Our minds block out bad memories, and they can almost be forgotten if we don’t dwell on them. Don’t!

Present events, however, run smack into our face, and we can’t quickly forget them. The good of today is equally present with the bad. But while both are present, I think most of us focus unduly on the bad, and not give the good its fair share of our attention --- or celebration. So it is with much happiness and thanks to God that I celebrate here the events of this weekend.

My three nieces flew into town on Thursday from Arizona and Idaho, to celebrate their grandma’s birthday (which was really last Monday, but she didn’t know that, and this weekend was more convenient for everyone’s travel plans.)

The girls arrived at mom’s house at about 5:30, and when they walked in through the front door mom was clearly shocked. She turned and looked to me for help, but I just smiled. The girls one by one hugged mom, and then the fog slowly began lifting from her mind: “I know you,” she said, “and you,” and then she paused. “But I don’t know you,” she said to Annie, the one she speaks of most often. Annie’s new shorter haircut didn’t register with mom until we wrote her name on the white board to read. The mom stared and more mist cleared. “You’re Annie!” she spoke through the smile of recognition. “You’re a nurse!” And there were more hugs and big smiles on the girls’ faces, and a few tears of happiness.

The girls had picked up dinner on their way from the airport --- White Castle hamburgers, “gut bombs,” their annual dose when they come to visit. I dutifully ate my share and quite frankly, enjoyed them. Then it was time to catch up on many things, recall some memories, and just be happy. I think the excitement wore mom out, because at 8:30 she yawned and said she wanted to go to bed. And then the girls and I headed to my house.

I had dutifully stocked the house with all sorts of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and an excess of many of the munchies I knew they enjoyed. But no one was too anxious to party at first, with the burgers still heavy on our stomachs. But I started the evening off right, and I think I checked off something which might have been on my “bucket list”, if I had one. We opened the bottle of Dom Perignon champagne I bought for the occasion. I was confident none of us had ever spent so much money on a bottle of wine, but for this occasion it didn’t seem an extravagance to me. I don’t remember all of the toasts we made before drinking it, but it didn’t matter. All the thoughts we were feeling did not have to be said aloud. We know we are blessed, in so many ways. And we are thankful.

Dom Perignon and White Castle hamburgers: a unique celebration which fits with the “class” of our family.

We played pinochle late into the night and sampled every wine, whiskey, and liquor bottle in my cabinet, but my internal alarm clock woke me up in time for early morning mass. Unfortunately, as I turned on the downstairs bathroom light and squinted at the bloodshot eyes in the mirror, something else in my throbbing head hit the “snooze” button, and I crashed back down on the family room couch.

I finally woke up at 8AM, but the girls slept until about 11 (well, to be kind, it was 8AM in their normal time zone). I went to mom’s at noon, my Friday routine, and they went out shopping, picking up presents, and the cake, and then that afternoon we celebrated mom’s 93rd birthday. Well, the afternoon actually started as a re-celebration of the girls coming, as mom was again surprised at their arrival. (That’s sometimes a good thing about dementia: each new day is a surprise). Mom was surprised at their visit each day.

Mom loved the flowers, the socks, and the T-shirt she received ---- all in purple, of course. She glanced at the cards, as we explained who they were from, and said “nice” to the DVD’s of dog movies and cartoons. I’m not sure she understood the large wall picture hanger the girls bought, but she recognized most of the people in the pictures they placed in it.

She ate some of her birthday cake, which surprised me, since she hasn’t been too fond of pound cake of late. We ate the chocolate side of the cake with ice cream, and mom ate some of the yellow side of the cake. (Mom won’t touch chocolate cake, and if I try to serve some to her she will point at it and ask: “What’s wrong with this?” Or sometimes: “This is all burnt!”)

The caregiver who comes in on Saturday nights so I can attend mass, also came by on Friday evening, so I could take the girls out to dinner. But not surprisingly, they preferred to eat take out: Mexican food was on the menu for the night. We have simple tastes. We washed it down with margaritas this time, and watched the movie I Am David together. As typical of our family, the girls were all crying at the happy ending, but I had seen the movie perhaps a dozen times before --- and so I began crying about two-thirds the way through, in anticipation of the ending.

We played cards again, changing partners after each three game set. Florence had won with her first two partners, including me, and now spoke confidently of a sweep. In the last game of the set, she and her partner Ann were ahead by a score of 70 – 6, but Rose and I ended up winning. I think Florence and Ann threw the game to their uncle.

I love those girls.

Saturday I was at mom’s at 9AM, my usual schedule, and the caregiver went home. The girls packed and then came to spend the afternoon with grammy, and look at some old pictures on my computer. Mom struggled to stay awake, and after the girls gave their goodbye hugs and kisses at 2:30, she said: “Good. That’s enough.” And as the door closed behind them she said: “I’m ready for bed now,” and I put her to bed for her nap.

It was a wonderful weekend for our family. The girls’ visit, mom’s birthday and continued good health (or relatively good at any rate), and I even received some good news from a few people working on my book project, and a wonderful note from an old friend.

It was a weekend when all seemed well with the world. We all need those times once in a while, and I am thankful for the blessing of this one. I think, perhaps, that we have them more often than we might imagine, but just fail to recognize them. There is so much to celebrate in our lives, if we take the time to think about them. Don’t ever waste time being anxious about the bad times, my friends. Don’t waste your precious, precious time. Remember the words from the Bucket List movie: Life is short, don’t worry about failings. Celebrate blessings.

God is good. He has risen, indeed!

P.S. I usually write words like those above in front of the Blessed Sacrament. But I felt compelled to write those on early Saturday evening, even as the girls were still in the air, on their way home. Shortly after finishing, I put mom to bed for the night; she was very tired --- and so was I. So I napped a couple of hours, waiting for the caregiver to return so I could go to my Saturday midnight adoration time.

When I woke, waiting the few minutes for her arrival, I turned on the television, and there was the movie: The Bucket List. (I like how God does those things, making me think the “random thought” about that movie earlier in the evening, and then putting it in front of me again, to make sure I paid attention to what He wanted me to know.)

In the few minutes I watched, Jack Nicholson was telling of the things he did, out of love, for his daughter. He did things to protect her from her abusive husband that led him to leave town, and then his daughter to say to him: “You are dead to me. You’ll never see me or your grandchildren again.” Nicholson sadly said how much that hurt him, but that he’d do it all again, for her. And he wondered aloud what God thought about that.

These thoughts echoed in my mind as I drove to church, and I suddenly had thoughts of my sister, the mother of my nieces, and I wondered what she thought about this weekend --- but only for a second, because I am positive how proud she is in heaven, of her girls and her seven grandchildren that they are raising, deeply concerned that she be proud of them, because they never forget her. And then I realized that this is the real story of this weekend: a mother’s love, leading a family of love.

Sis and I re-discovered our heavenly mother, Mary’s love, when we went together to Medjugorje so many years ago, and we knew then that Mary watched over us. Now I care for my mom, and her grandkids faithfully raise the grandkids of their own mother, who watches and, I’m sure, prays for us all. And then as I drove through the night, I even had thoughts of my grandmother, who so many years ago had those great family holidays at her home. Four generations of very loving mothers; these were very good memories.

Oh, I know that I am only remembering the good things. There were bad also, but this weekend I choose to celebrate all those mothers’ never-ending love. It far outweighs and makes light of any problems that may have happened along the way. Mothers do that.

I just changed the title I had written on this paper from “So Much to Celebrate” to “Celebrate Mothers.” That’s what, I think, God wanted me to see and say. And now as the clock passes midnight in the chapel; it is Divine Mercy Sunday. Sis’ beloved Pope John Paul II will be beautified in Rome today, and I’m sure sis is celebrating that also.

And next comes Mother’s Day.

Easter Sunday, Divine Mercy Sunday, and Mother’s Day: it’s the right sequence of priority, I think, but all are so important. I’m glad God showed me all these things tonight, and alone here in the chapel, I shall now kneel and tell Him so.

God is so good to us, and there is so much to celebrate in our lives. Don’t let those things pass you by.


  1. Tom this is such a lovely and sentimental post! Happy birthday to your dear mother!

    My son John was confirmed Saturday night. We had spent the day working hard at spiffing up our house for Sunday's party and when we all arrived home from the Confirmation it was 10:30 at night and we were all so hungry! All the food in the house was for the party, so my husband and son, dressed in their best suits, went to McDonalds for some burgers. I guess our tastes are similar to yours!

    I also enjoyed your most recent post on Osama bin Laden. My first reaction at the news of his death was "good" but now I feel the fingers of fear beginning to clutch at me wondering who will take his place and will he be worse? Your post gives me peace as you always strive to do. Thank you so very much and God bless your mother and nieces and sister in heaven.

  2. It's funny you mention it, Anne. I can recall dozens of times after a late evening event when a designated "go-fer" from the family took a list of everyone's orders and made a McDonald's run.

    After I wrote this post on the events of this past weekend, I did say a rosary in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I was alone in the chapel for my midnight hour, and so I said the prayers aloud, and using my meditations on the Glorious Mysteries (you can see it elsewhere here), I read those aloud too. It was as if Jesus were holding my hand, and we were speaking our thoughts together of the events of those mysteries. I've read about saints who levitated during prayer; I didn't, but I would not have been surprised. That too was a wonderful part of this past weekend.