I didn’t always get along with my mother. We occasionally “had days.” She was strong, a tad on the bossy side, and never afraid to offer her opinion which was often laced with caustic wit. (My kids might be inclined to think the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.)
Mom was usually right, though. One of her favorite caveats was: “You wouldn’t care so much what people think about you if you realized how seldom they do.” It took time — months, even years — to appreciate those words. Ultimately I knew that someone else’s opinion wouldn’t and couldn’t ruin my life.
My brother Ross remembers struggling to write an essay while he was in fourth grade. “Nothing works,” he moaned to Mom. She said, “Just write ‘Dear Grandma’ first, and see what happens.” (That brother has gone on to write several books, he pens a poem a week, and is the editor of our family newspaper, THE HOGAN HERALD.)
Sister Robin recalls Mom telling her, “Nothing is half as bad if the house is clean, the beds are made, and the dishes are out of the sink.” My dear sister will never be crowned Homemaker of the Year. But when she was convalescing from a knee replacement this past winter, she told me over the phone, “I was feeling low one morning, so I got up and spiffed things up around here, and now I feel so much better.”
“It’s better to be rich and healthy than poor and sick,” are words my brother Robert remembers “our sainted Irish mother” telling us. Plus, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor, and believe me, rich is better.”
I asked several friends about advice they’d gotten from their moms. Some were familiar, such as “Respect your father,” “Be kind to others,” and “Always be polite.”
Sometimes their mother’s suggestions fell on deaf ears. One friend emailed that her Mom advised her, “Don’t work too hard.” This particular friend is one of the most task-oriented and industrious woman I know.
Another said her mother told her to “Let the boys beat you at competitive sports, don’t you beat them.” This pal is a grinder on the tennis court and golf course, she never gives up, and she admits it was advice “I DIDN’T follow!”
My friend Daisy told me that shortly after she was married, she and her husband had a big fight “over nothing,” but she left and drove two and a half hours to her parents’ home. Her mom took one look at her, gave her a hug to staunch the tears, and said, “You can stay overnight but this is no longer your home — you need to go back and work things out.” Which, incidentally, she and her husband have been happily doing for the past 43 years.
My Mom has been gone from my life for 22 years. Not a day goes by when I don’t think of her, the advice she gave me, or something funny she said. One of her best: If you have to tell someone who you are, you ain’t.
I miss her and her words of wisdom -- so much.