Mother’s Day Recap: A glorious experience

  • 15 May 2012

A and J, lifetime skiing buddies

May 13, 2012 was Mother’s Day in the U.S., a day of spiritual origins that has only recently taken on human form.  A time of reflection on what it means to be a mother, what our own mothers are like, and what challenges we face if we are childless or our mothers are no longer around physically or emotionally.

It’s a holiday of mixed emotion, the same as Christmas and Thanksgiving and all those other holidays that remind us of our families–or lack thereof.

Last year’s Mother’s Day found me in Ireland with a dear friend taking an excursion to the quaint town of Kilkenny. As the train whisked us through villages, on its way to its final destination of Waterford, we gazed at the rolling green landscapes, the beauty that is Ireland. And we reminisced about what it meant to be a mother and to have a mother. We toured a castle, browsed through a block-long nursery, stopped by a pub (of course) and visited the abbey. This quick day tour gave us the flavor of a colorful town. Thoughts of family back home disappeared into the background of our sensory experiences.

This year’s Mother’s Day posed different challenges. Finding myself now as a single mom, I wondered how my adult sons were coping, those young men who flew the coop and have made their own nests in various roosts around the country.

Not having heard since Christmas from J, my oldest son, who lives closest to me, I particularly wanted to know how he had been faring for the last five months. Due to finances he no longer had a phone. And he wasn’t into social networks, or even checking e-mail regularly. So I had a wealth of questions swirling around my brain, seen through the lens of my eye as a mother. Does he like his new apartment? His roommate? Is his car in working order? Does he still have a dream of becoming a teacher? Can he afford to visit a dentist?

These questions–and many more–went unanswered until last Sunday. He e-mailed Friday night asking if he could come over on Mother’s Day afternoon for a visit. And maybe we could also have lunch.

“Of  course you can,” I typed as soon as the e-mail entered my Ethernet.

Then I screamed, “Yes!” to no one. Only my stuffed teddy bear might have heard me, but he could have been asleep on my pillow shams.

Before J stopped by, I received a phone call from my younger son A. I hear from A more regularly, but it was still a thrill to listen to his voice, chattering away about what he had been up to. My mother ear detected the excitement in his voice as he spoke about a possible raise in his salary. I puffed up like a peacock. But soon I had to cut him off. The doorbell beckoned.

And there stood my oldest son, J, the one who opened my womb almost 28 years ago. He was holding a dozen red roses. After I whisked him inside and hugged him shamelessly, he brought the flowers to my sink, filled the vase and arrayed the stems to prevent their drying out.

“J, you don’t know how long it’s been since I was given fresh flowers!” I exclaimed. “I think I’m going to cry.”

He just gave me one of his dimpled grins, so pleased that he had made me happy.

Then he sat down in my grandma’s antique rocking chair and we caught up on each other’s lives. Funny how a few minutes can turn into an hour.  My stomach’s growling finally interrupted my curiosity about my son and his “doings”.

“Want to have some lunch?” I asked, filled with hope.

“Oh yes, it’s been a long time since breakfast.”  John started to get up.

“I’m not sure where we should go, since we don’t have reservations.”

“How about IHOP?” J asked. IHOP is one of John’s favorite places to eat. I thought about how it would probably not be too crowded, especially at 2:15 pm.

“Perfect,” I agreed, and we set off to quell the rumblings in our grumbling stomachs.

Sure enough, when we arrived there were no lines and plenty of empty tables. I refrained from fatty fare, despite those urges to indulge. After all, I’m giving a presentation on obesity and edema at a hospital in a few short weeks and must set a good example. I simply ordered a healthful omelet filled with all sorts of veggies, accompanied by a fresh fruit dish. J splurged on a milkshake and banana-strawberry waffles. We both savored our meals and the freshness of our conversation.

After we had sufficiently cleaned our plates, John got up, paid the bill, and we left.

The sweetness continued. I thought he would go back to his apartment at that point. But instead we went back to mine and talked some more over some diluted grape juice from my rather empty refrigerator. Finally I showed him my “new” TV, a castoff from some friends who had been given a flat-screen for Christmas. I gladly relieved them of their cathode-ray TV. He admired it along with my media center.

And then he gobsmacked me.

“Let’s watch an episode of Get Smart, Mom.”

Now this particular activity had been a ritual every Sunday afternoon in our happier household of two years ago. On Sunday afternoons we would all sit down as a family and watch a few episodes, laughing our heads off. Would you believe the episodes we picked to watch on my special day consisted of three parts?  We watched for over an hour. And laugh, we did. I don’t think I could have been happier if someone had transformed my body into a healthy twenty-something shape. These precious moments with my son proved far more therapeutic. This was what memories are made of.

After that, we talked some more. Finally I asked John if he wanted to have dinner, but he declined my invitation; he had to get back.

An odd thing happened after he left. I did not exhibit symptoms of the empty-nest syndrome that I normally experience when the boys take off. Maybe it’s because J lives so close by and I hope to see him at his workplace, if not somewhere else around town. Or maybe I’ve gotten accustomed to the alone feeling of an empty nest and have healed from it. Whatever the reason, I’m grateful.

While my own departed mom has been gone since November 2004, I do not usually pay special tribute to her on this day. She is with me every day: in my smile, in my mannerisms, even in my appearance and behavior at times. I feel her hand on mine–in mine–gently guiding me, leading me to forgiveness, love and an indescribable sense of peace.

Nine years out from my last diagnosis of breast cancer, I still get to enjoy my grown sons. What more could I ask for on a sunny Sunday in May?

What has been your source of strength on the day when mothers are celebrated in your country? If you celebrate the day, what do you do?

Roses from J

j at 4 years old

A colourful building in Kilkenny, Ireland


    Sweet Jan,
    Your blog made me happy and made me smile. What a wonderful day you had! I know how much that meant to you, and I’m so glad. My own stepson is still incommunicado, still angry about his time in Afghanistan, the death of his father and a marriage not doing well. My heart breaks for him, but my only recourse has been to release him to God and pray for him.

    My longtime trainer/friend at the gym, Daniel, is 24 and very dear. He texted me on Mother’s Day a Happy Mother’s Day from “your adopted child who is mentally 11.” I texted back, “Yes, but you are a precocious 11:)” While I don’t have children of my own, and I don’t hear from my stepson, it meant a lot to get Daniel’s message. Last week there was a terrible thunderstorm and Daniel called and cautioned me to be careful on my drive into the city. He’s very thoughtful and I love him, dearly.

    Who knows? I may never hear from my stepson, again, but in the mean time, I delight in all the great Mothers’ Days of friends like you.


  • jhasak

    Brenda, I know how much your stepson has tread on your heart, and how you pray for him as he processes all these emotions. He may come around yet.

    How special that Daniel is in your life! What sweetness that he called you to caution you to be careful in the thunderstorm! How many “real” sons do that for their moms? I admire your attitude regarding future contact with him. We never know what the future will hold. But you are right: we have each other when times are tough–and when times are not. I treasure my blogging friendships more than anything else at this point in my life. What would I do without friends like you?

    Take good care, sweet Brenda, and thanks so much for sharing. xxx

  • Renn

    Jan, what a wonderful day you had! I am so happy for you. Love the “Get Smart” humor! It’s funny how all the “stuff” matters not; just a simple call or visit is what makes the memories anyway!

    Mother’s Day is a bit of an off holiday for me. Like Brenda, I don’t have biological children — but I do have two stepchildren who lost their mother to BC. I heard from one of them on Sunday; he called to say I was the best stepmother around. Well, I nearly cried! I didn’t expect to hear from him; it was a complete surprise and a sweet gesture. It took the sting away from the fact that I didn’t hear from my other stepson (who usually stops by with his wife on Mother’s Day). Like I said, it’s an odd holiday for me. I am fortunate to still have my own mother, and we spent a lovely afternoon with her.

    I hope you see your children again soon. 😉

  • Nancy’s Point

    I enjoyed reading about your Mother’s Day! Aren’t sons great? So sweet of your oldest to stop by and with flowers in hand no less! It’s great to hear you are at peace with your empty nest.

    I spent a few days last week with daughter – finalizing wedding plans. Son #1 came home late Sun and then we took him to the airport yesterday. He’s traveling far from home to visit his on-line girl friend, so his thoughts were pretty focused on that – perfectly fine with me. That’s as it should be. Son #2 didn’t come home since he’s coming home from college for the summer this weekend. He did call though. So it was a quiet Mother’s Day, but nice. I thought of my mom of course, but like you, I miss her every day. The ordinary times and the ordinary things we did. But, she’s always with me still…

    Boy, “listen” to me ramble on… Thanks for sharing and allowing me to do the same, Jan.

  • jhasak

    Yes, Renn, it was a fabulous time. And, as you say, a simple call or visit is all it takes. Not even a card.

    How sweet that your stepson (the one you didn’t expect to do so) shared those heartwarming words with you! We never know what will come up. And I know about the sting, too. My third son, the youngest, whom I didn’t mention here, didn’t call me at all that day or since, and that’s so unlike him. But I slough it off, as all mothers do, justifying it by thinking how busy his life has become. How blessed you are to still have your own mother around so you could visit together.

    Thanks for stopping by and for your well wishes.

  • jhasak

    Sons ARE really great, Nancy. And the lack of the empty nest feeling was an unexpected and pleasant surprise.

    That’s exciting about your daughter getting married. A real milestone in your lives. Like your first son, my youngest is very busy hanging with his girlfriend, with his thoughts mostly focused on that. You’re right: it’s as it should be. I’m glad your second son called. And moms will always be with us, won’t they, guiding us, loving us.

    I’m happy to have you ramble on, any time you want. Thanks very much for stopping by. xx

  • Kathi

    What a fun, lovely, perfect day, Jan! And I love that you watched ‘Get Smart’ together. Perfect silliness shared with a child is a splendid thing; it let’s you both enjoy the child within. xoxo

  • jhasak

    Watching “Get Smart” with its Cone of Silence always gets us giggling. We wonder what will go wrong this time with that stupid Cone. You are right: silliness with a child really is cathartic. We both reverted back to when we were ten. Would you believe, eleven? Thanks for visiting. xoxo

  • Marie Ennis-O’Connor (@JBBC)

    Oh Jan, I am all choked up reading this. My heart is bursting with things I want to write but I can’t seem to put words on them. Can you try to divine all those unspoken words in my heart? I am too overwhelmed to write them xxx

  • Beth L. Gainer


    WOW. I am so moved by this posting! What a wonderful Mother’s Day for you. I am so glad that J showed up with roses; what a nice surprise! I know that there have been so many adjustments to your personal life, but you are doing just fine.

    Thank you for sharing this day with us and letting us into your life.

  • pinkunderbelly

    Jan, you know I’m not one to cry but this post almost did it to me! Wow. So many powerful emotions expressed so tidily. I’m so glad you had a glorious Mother’s Day, and I will remember and learn from your attitude toward your beloved mom, still guiding you, bringing you peace. xo

  • AnneMarie

    Well.. I AM one to cry. Emotionally overwhelmed at the simple beauty in a day that made a “forever memory” ….. Maybe it’s because I spent six years having that strong shoulder thing hurled my way that I felt the need to live up to expectations. Now. Not So Much.

    Jan… this is JUST beautiful. What a special mother’s day and what a special son. It’s so hard to redefine our roles as our kids grow into their own lives and we become “visitors” …. which is not to say there is any less love … it’s just that when the “day to day” isn’t part of “our day” … it takes time to redefine everything.

    I send you buckets of love. This made my day!!!


  • Catherine

    The image of your son at the door with roses nearly brought tears to MY eyes. How absolutely sweet of him. It’s nice to know that even when they’re out living their life, the love still continues.

  • Philippa (Feisty Blue Gecko)

    This is such a beautiful post, and humbling in the way you brig out the important things in life. And the bonus “gobsmacked” too :) Thanks for such a heart warming post. Philippa xox

  • jhasak

    Oh, Marie, I’m endeavoring to divine all those unspoken words written in your heart. Not all are fathomable, but I get a real sense of your thoughts and emotions. I thought of you many times on that day. I pray your grief is transforming for you and leads you to a path of peace. xx

  • jhasak

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this post, Beth. Slowly I’m adjusting to the changes in my personal life, moving on to a better place. Having offline and online friends like you makes the “road less traveled” more palatable, less pock-marked. xx

  • jhasak

    Nancy, you are so precious to me. I hope and pray that you will envision your mom as guiding and leading you, cheering you on. Isn’t it wonderful to be a mom? My heart bleeds for those who can’t have children. Friendships become critical for them. Thank you for yours, which I treasure. xxx

  • jhasak

    Cry to your heart’s content, AnneMarie! Good for you that you don’t feel much need anymore to shoulder burdens, to live up to another’s expectations.

    I love how you call us mothers “visitors” as our maternal roles transition to a new plane, a new state of consciousness that transforms our whole being.

    Thank you for your buckets of love. I can feel them pouring over me.


  • jhasak

    Isn’t it wonderful, Catherine, to witness that continuing love? Whether it’s a relative or friend, or even an acquaintance, any expression of love can brighten lives–and maybe even lift some depression. Thanks for your beautiful comment. xx

  • jhasak

    Our attitude toward the “things” thrown our way is so important, isn’t it? My son A told me he liked the fact that I didn’t place any expectations on my adult children. I didn’t mope if they didn’t send cards, I didn’t give them guilt trips if they didn’t call me. They struggle with daily challenges in their own lives, and I know they love me no matter what. That’s all that matters in the end. Thanks for stopping by, P. It means so much to me. xx

  • Stacey

    Jan, I love this post. I love it because your happiness from being with your son shines through. You describe the perfect day and I love it for the mention of your mother. I don’t really think of my mother on Mother’s Day either, as you say, she’s with me every day. I’m glad you had such a wonderful time and it sounds as if your son was very happy to spend time with his mom…and very lucky to have you.

  • jhasak

    It was indeed a happy, happy day. We talked about our wishes and our dreams…everything under the sun, and everything about my son. The day shone in an extra special way because I didn’t know if he still cared, and of course he did. I was able to give him some mementos that I found in my storage unit, including his seventh-grade poetry book. And I’m glad you feel the same about your mother, that she is with you every day. I didn’t want anyone to think I had slighted her on her special day. Thanks for visiting, Stacey. It’s always good to hear from you. xx

  • Lois Hjelmstad

    Thank you,Jan for a wonderful post. It has been amazing to me, over the years, that no matter what has happened or not happened, in the end it all has come back to love. There have been many ups and downs in my mothering, but now in my 80s, I am surrounded by four loving children.

    We take what we get when we get it, stay steady in the giving of our love, and live our own precious lives as fully as we can.

  • jhasak

    Love forms the perfect circle, with a boomerang effect. (My sons are from the Baby Boomerang generation.) It so warms my heart, Lois, that in your eighties you enjoy those four adoring and precious children. I cherish the wisdom of your advice, born from a wealth of experience. We do what we can with what we are given. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. xx

  • Terri

    What a wonderful post! Thank you for sharing your day with us. I’m sending you and all of the other mothers loads of love from Peru. xo

  • jhasak

    Thank YOU for your lovely comment, Terri. I’m honored that you are sending love to me and the rest of us mothers all the way from that beautiful country. I appreciate all you do to help others. xx