The past two weeks have constituted a dizzying series of celebrations. Mother’s Day, as usual, brought out the most wonderful (and well appreciated) expressions of love from my family. And, of course, there was the hyper market exploitation of Mother’s Day throughout our society—the sales, the flowers, the long trips home! But for the first time, I experienced the other side….the sadness of mothers who themselves had been betrayed or abandoned by their own mothers. For the first time, I witnessed several adult women expressing their grief openly, and invited one rejected spirit to share dinner with my family.
Unfortunately, at NCCF, we are accustomed to both the sadness and anger of our youth whose mothers suffer with drug addiction or mental illness, or who have chosen others over their children. For them, Mother’s Day feels like salt in an open wound. Yet, this is not easily resolved, even well into adulthood. On the eve of Mother’s Day, a nursing home administrator commented on how close my mother and I appeared. Her eyes filling with tears, she said, “I never had that—my mother worked a lot and was very demanding with my sisters and me.” I asked her if she was a “Daddy’s girl.” She smiled, and said that her father had provided her only “emotionally safe place.” To this day, this mother of three longs for what her hard working, single parent never gave her.
Last weekend, the family celebrated my nephew’s graduation from Villanova University. Tim Shriver, CEO of the Special Olympics, and Commencement speaker, powerfully addressed the “end of the best, most fun period” of the graduates’ lives. He also acknowledged how 2,000 Villanova students had hosted the largest Special Olympics event in the world, reflecting their generosity and regard for others. Yet, a sober reality confronted us all in that stadium in Pennsylvania as we speculated about the challenging future these young, ambitious graduates now face.
This weekend brought Memorial Day (invented in 1865 by freed African Americans in Charleston, South Carolina to honor deceased Union soldiers) and our best efforts to honor our deceased veterans. It has also become a national Day of Memory. For so many, the flowers and the flags placed carefully at the cemetery rekindles the sense of loss and the search for meaning and closure. My father, a World War II veteran, reminds me how connected we remain to the impact of history and its personal, complex aftermath in all of our lives.
Nevertheless, I am a true “Mommy” and within my four generation family, my role is to continuously remind members of the positive side of life’s inevitable imperfections, and the gains we continue to make because of our family cooperation and commitment. The world has never been so at peace, or as affluent as it is. Technology has advanced our world connections and terrorism is more readily defeated. Children are not now so very confined to the circumstances of their birth, or their differences, and families are better aided by a larger, dynamic community to discover their strengths and their contributions. There is every reason to be positive!