Mother's Day could be any day

However crazy-busy life gets, a mother's presence is often evident, and when you least expect it

May 13, 2012|Dan Rodricks

We get busy. We have work to do. We have long days crowded with chores and commitments, and we get caught up in things that seem in the moment so important — a project, a decision, a purchase, a deadline. And this is your life, and it moves faster than you expected it would. Before you know it, you're not a kid anymore; your parents are gone and you're the only adult in the room.

Everyone experiences this differently, and at different times. Some of you might have lost a parent when you were teenagers, or in your 20s, or 30s. Or maybe you're in your 50s now and just getting used to the absence of your mother or father, or a beloved aunt or grandparents — the elders you thought would be around forever. Maybe they've been gone for a while and you no longer think of them each day, and even when you do, you find it hard to remember exactly what they looked like, or sounded like, or smelled like. We get busy, and life gets crowded; there's barely enough room for the living without trying to accommodate the deceased.

Maybe you know some of these feelings. Maybe not. Maybe you believe that thinking about the dead is dwelling on the dead. You find people who invoke the deceased to be a bit too sentimental or nostalgic or wistful — or not busy enough. You'd just as soon talk about current events, the cinema or the sporting news. Everyone experiences this differently, in their own time and their own way. But there's no denying that it happens to anyone with the power of memory.

It'sMother's Day, so all praise and flowers to the mothers among us — our loving and doting, hard-working, all-knowing, all-mighty, mighty mothers. I emphasize "mighty" because it's evident now, as it has been since children were born in caves, that mother is a force that doesn't die when her body does.

And you know that, of course — for better or worse.

Let's be honest: Some of you spend little time with memories of mother because they're too painful to bear — too shattering, or at least disappointing. So for you, Mother's Day is about forgetting the past and the bad, and instead focusing on the present and the good. Your hope is that things work out better for your children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

For others, those of us who have sweeter memories, this day is a reminder of loss and absence, of the busy nature or life and the passage of time and that chilly feeling of being fully and forever on your own.

But I just have to say this, and then I'll be done:

What I've found — as I turn a corner with a shopping cart in the supermarket or as I smell a certain dish cooking — is a mother presence that is almost always evident. I'm sure I sound like a wistful surviving son, or a guy who's indulged the supernatural. But look, I'm just doing my job: reporting on something I'm sure I've seen out there.

So you could be doing anything, really, and when you least expect it or desire it (because you're so damn busy and you don't have time for such thoughts) your mother is standing right there. You could be reaching for a certain brand of flour on a store shelf, or you could open a door and catch the fragrance of a pie, or you could hear a song on a car radio or see a pattern in a dress or jacket — anything could bring her back in an instant.

Your mother and your father might show up in the corner of your eye, flickering in the shadows, as you push through life. You think you're too busy for this, too conscious of the present to have time for the past. But there it is, a flash of her smile here, a wink of his eye — your parents still walking through this life with you, never letting you out of their sight.

Dan Rodricks' column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. He is the host of "Midday" on WYPR, 88.1 FM. His email is

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