It's great to have one day a year when mothers get special recognition. But the reality is that mothers ought to be thanked for all they do every day, by each of their offspring and by their spouse. They do lots of physical work behind the scenes that most children, especially boys, take for granted. But they do much more than that- they provide the glue that cements the family together.
My mother passed away one week ago. That's why mothers are on my mind. She lived a long life, of 90 plus years. She was a cat with 15 lives, having suffered from diseases and accidents that would have taken people with lesser constitution out years ago. Finally her time came. It was time to go home. Watching her go was hard, but the relief after she finally went home was satisfying.
Still, this has been a time to reflect on just what my mother meant to me. Through memories and pictures that we sorted through getting ready for her calling, certain memories stood out.
She was the one holding my brother and my hand on Easter morning when I was all of five years old, and dad snapped the picture. It was the '50s, dad was a tenant farmer and we were about to pile into an old Nash Rambler and head to church, but none of that seemed to matter in the expression on mom's face. She was proud of her sons, as was my dad, and it was clear she wanted to provide the foundation we needed to succeed.
That doesn't mean financially, because my parents struggled in farming in those early years. Later they did well and were able to retire comfortably. But that first Christmas after we moved to the dairy farm that would become home base for growing up, our neighbor brought us more Christmas presents than mom and dad could give us. She always told the story in gratitude to the neighbor, not in a bitter tone because they didn't have much then. And my brother and I didn't know any better. One of the gifts was a cowboy fort, and I had more fun with that than I think I would with all the game boys I could get my hands on today. I had to use my imagination. I had to think, not just react like some mind-numbed robot.
Mom taught us to think. She was there to pick me up when some bully smashed my hand with a brick at school. Oh, I wasn't the best at picking friends. Some kid picked a brick from the old school off the playground, and when he was at the top of the teeter-totter, slid it down against my hand, laughing all the while. Imagine if that happened today!
Mom and I spent lots of time together milking cows and feeding calves. She made me feel special because I was old enough and confident enough to milk cows. That trust can carry one a long ways.
Perhaps her biggest accomplishment was keeping me at Purdue. Being shy, believe it or not, the first of our immediate family to go to college, and without anyone older already there to follow, I hated college. I lost 15 pounds the first couple weeks, scaring poor mom to death. But she wouldn't let me quit, not even when I called home and begged to quit later that fall.
Soon I realized I was performing better than I thought. A 70% in chemistry wasn't an F- it might be an A if everyone else scored in the 50s and 60s. Learning those lessons took time.
I don't know where I would have been if I had quit school then, and I would have if it wasn't for my mom, but I certainly wouldn't be writing this blog, and communicating with the best farmers and ag leaders in the world. For that alone, I owe my mom unending gratitude.
I was privileged to tell her I loved her while she still could understand me. We embraced, her in her hospital bed and me bending over. There was a bond there we both could feel. I feel it now, even though she is in a better place and I'm still here. As long as I am here, I'll do my best to make her proud. I'm sure every one of you make your mother proud too. So in return, treat them like it's Mother's Day every day. As Garland Antrim, a Madison County, Ind., farmer says, buy them some flowers!