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A Letter to Mom

Jodie wrote this letter to her mother two years ago, and followed it up with a three hour phone call. Her mom mailed her a letter back expressing gratitude and forgiveness. Three weeks later, her mother died. To Jodie's surprise, her brother read this letter at their mother's funeral. Afterwards, he said it reflected the feelings of an ever growing population of "overscheduled and misunderstood" relationships among people.

© 1999, by Jodie Lynn

Dear Mom:

Even though we didn't watch a lot of TV, I still had the June Cleaver, "perfect Mom" image burned into my mind. It was Mrs. Simmons, Susan's mom, who was the perfect Mom and whom all the children adored. She was tall and slim; she had dark, well-groomed, shiny black hair; she was beautifully dressed, smelled wonderful, and was the best cookie baker ever. When she smiled, her perfect red lips only enhanced her perfect white teeth. She was always there for every school function, field trip, and activity throughout our elementary school years. In fact, I often would pretend she was my Mom instead of you.

It was rough growing up in our house -- as you well know -- Moms who worked outside the home were taboo in the late 50's. For those who dared to "go against the norm," it was a little more acceptable if they were a nurse or teacher. You were a Registered Nurse, a big accomplishment by standards then and today. It was the hours that were so unbearable.

For some reason you had the 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. shift. We managed to see you just as we were heading out the door to school. As we arrived home, you were sleeping peacefully -- but not to be disturbed. It was very lonely because Dad never even made an attempt to fill your shoes. He had his own world to build and goals to accomplish.

Mother/daughter conversations were something I eagerly longed to have between us, and I'd listen longingly to Mrs. Simmons and Susan talk about "stuff." I remember wishing with all my heart you would surprise me and at least show up for just a couple of school events. More and more I found myself turning to my girlfriend's Moms for the "motherly" support I so longed for and needed. Just when I thought things couldn't get worse -- they did: You got a promotion! You were named Head Nurse and Supervisor of the entire children's ward of the hospital.

How could you be away more than you were now? To make matters worse, in my eyes, you were taking care of other people's children yet had no time for your own. As the years went by, my resentment grew. I remember going to the children's ward with you and all the kids waiting in great anticipation for you to come in and say hello. How odd I thought this was. As we were going into the break room to get a snack, one of the other nurses gave me a hug and said, "Your Mom is dearly loved here by the children, nurses, and even the doctors. Do you know why?" I shook my head no and she said, "Because she treats everyone the same -- with great kindness." I was so mad and confused -- I ran out.

The following week a field trip had been planned by our school class and you had promised to come. The day finally arrived and we waited around for as long as we could -- but you missed your appointment time and we had to leave. You told me later you had gone by a boy's house to see how he was doing and to bring him a basket of fruit. His mother was in jail and his grandmother was taking care of him. The police couldn't find his father and he needed around-the-clock supervision due to a delicate surgery he had a few days earlier. SO WHAT!!!!!!! I wanted to scream.

I was always searching for someone to be my mom and a role model...and you were always looking after other folk's children. Then it happened -- I got married and had children of my own. I swore I'd always be there for them, attend their school functions, be on time for field trips and sporting activities, etc., and I did (and still am). As the years have gone by I've found myself giving much more than receiving.

If a parent can't drive to a soccer game, a baseball practice, field trip, etc., I fill in. I spend time with my own children but am always including the neighborhood kids as well. If someone's mom is sick, cooking meals for their family is no big deal. One day, a friend said to me, "Wow, your own mother must have been an awesome giver. We can always count on you to fill in and you treat everyone with respect and kindness -- that's so unusual. She taught you well."

I was shocked to hear those familiar words. As I saw more and more of your personality reflected in my own daily tasks, I suddenly realized how much I am like you. But the most startling and important discovery was that you had been the role model I had spent my whole life searching and longing for -- and I didn't even know it. You worked long, hard hours for very little pay -- so do I. You filled in whenever necessary -- so do I. You treated everyone with kindness and respect -- and I try to do the same.

So what's the ending to this story -- it's one you've heard over and over: "Actions speak louder than words!" Happy Mother's Day Mom -- and by the way -- thanks!

Hugs and lots of love!

Your daughter who was once blind!

Jodie Lynn is a nationally syndicated columnist of Parent to Parent, and author of Mommy - CEO (Constantly Evaluating Others), Five Golden Rules. She invites you to enter her Mother's Day contest and spread a little cheer. See details at her web site: Parent to Parent

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