Richard Swerdlow: Call Your Mother

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 (Richard Swerdlow)

Sunday is Mother’s Day and Richard Swerdlow will be celebrating with a Mom who isn’t here.

Mother's Day is coming up. Like a lot of people, I plan to visit my mother that day, and bring her some flowers. She isn't too far away - these days, I visit Mom in a cemetery in Sacramento.

Mom died a few years ago. And even though it's been a while, and I'm in my sixties and Mom was 90 years old, it still shocks me to say it. I probably think about Mom every day for some reason, ranging from "Mom would have really liked this movie", to almost pulling out my phone to call her to ask about some obscure relative, or how to cook something, or if she remembered that funny incident from my childhood or what was the name of the street we lived on when I was eight?

So, these days, when I hear younger people complain about annoying, intrusive parents, I want to remind them of something. Appreciate your parents while they‘re still around. Life goes by so fast, and they'll be gone sooner than you think.

However strange it sounds, I never thought my parents would actually die. But now that I don't have a mother to take to brunch on this special day, I think about those Mother's Days when I was so caught up with my busy life I could barely manage to squeeze in a call on Mother's Day, let alone a visit. So, if I could have one more Mother's Day visit with Mom, I'd tell her some things over brunch.

I'd tell her she was a great Mom, despite a few bad moments, but then, what parent is perfect? I'd tell her I remember her and she'd be proud of me. I try very hard to be a good man, as she raised me to be. I'd tell her my three brothers and I often reminisce about her, and usually end up laughing so hard, our sides hurt. I'd tell her sorry about that stuff I said when I was a teenager. I'd tell her she did a good job, because being a Mom must be the hardest job there is.

A psychiatrist friend once told me feeling anger, mixed with love, is the normal, healthy, well-adjusted way to feel about your parents. A lot of people would be relieved to know that, so sharing that wise advice is my Mother's Day gift to all of you.

And my mother would also share some wise advice. "Call your mother," she would say, if she were here. "And don't take that tone with me! I'm not asking, I'm telling."

With a Perspective, I'm Richard Swerdlow.

Richard Swerdlow teaches in the San Francisco Unified School District.

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