Owed to My Mother

Happy Mothers Day! If you are one, you deserve more than a day. That goes for all mothers — ones who gave birth themselves, adopters, steps, grannies and aunts and big sisters who took over to fill a void, “bonus moms” of all kinds.

I once misunderstood something a friend said, talking about appreciation of mothers, and after a moment I realized she meant a poem, an ode. But I was off on my own thought. Ode to my mother! No, owed. To my mother? OK…

My life, for starters.

Something of a dry sense of humor, if I flatter myself. I owe that to her.

Reaching way back, I remember her reading at bedtime, those old stories. She took me into the pages, walking me into the soft golden pictures with her voice and all its many personalities. Sometimes I still go back there, when I think of those stories, or when I read them to my grandchildren.

Anna, about 1944Bacon and eggs before school on dark cold winter mornings, in long-ago days when these were good for you. Fried chicken on Sundays, potatoes and gravy and greens, meals together every night. It wasn’t just eating though; it was a family communion.

I owe to my mother the way I think about life. Attitude. “You decide how you feel. You don’t let things run you.” If the worst thing happens, you get up in the morning and you do what you have to do for the day. It doesn’t change you; you know who you are. You change it.

Confidence, doing things I didn’t think I could. She gave me that. The bicycle I rode for the first time was her old bike, handlebars tall as my shoulders. It was taken down from the rafters and fixed up for me when I was ready. Mom held me up and pushed, running behind. “Don’t let go!” I called out. She didn’t answer. Pedaling hard, I didn’t see her turn me loose. I don’t know that she ever did.

Respect for women. It came in jagged little bits sometimes. When I was older, once after a few beers with my brother in the kitchen, he talked of being afraid to do some fool thing or other and I called him a pussy. Mom stopped me cold. Not just that the word was vulgar and crude, and shouldn’t have been said in her presence. It offended her more than that. “Does that word mean weak? Women are weak? Or afraid? Women don’t have courage?” 

That thing about giving me my life, though, that’s the big one. She didn’t just give it to me and leave me to figure it out. She shaped it and gave it color and form.

“Try it, see if it works.”

“Just look at that sky. Isn’t that beautiful?”

Yes, that’s it, my life. Owed to my mother.


I wrote this essay when I was younger so you may have seen it before. It still rings true to me and brings back warm memories and appreciation. I miss my mom. 

14 thoughts on “Owed to My Mother

  1. Those little remembrances are important, aren’t they? Sometimes we remember these things as bad, but they shaped our lives, and we are grateful to our mothers for their words and encouragements. Thanks, Bruce.

  2. What a beautiful reflection. I think of her deep throated incredibly moving laugh, of how she kept things in perspective and of her love of simple good food, and minutes at the beach. “You can have any bed you want… as long as it’s not mine.” I can hear her say it 60 years later, how I miss aunt Anna!

  3. All good memories, keeping that special mom alive through your stories, she is smiling down on you with lots of love!

  4. Bruce,
    So eloquently written. You have a real talent for expressing yourself in a unique way. I enjoyed this so much. Mothers can never be celebrated too much!

      • Hi again Bruce,
        Thank you so much. I don’t know if Mom enjoys knowing and loving me. It depends on the day with her because of her dementia. But I know that I love her so very much and I believe I am the one that is benefitting the most! I am so happy when I am with her and that says it all. I could sit and hold her hand indefinitely.

  5. It appears that the responses are all deep felt love for moms. It’s gratifying
    to know that people didn’t take their moms for granted, especially because not
    all of us were lucky in the “mom” department.

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