Inner City Diary
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When Mother's Day is less than a Hallmark moment
May 12, 2002
She gripped the steering wheel tightly. At age 16, I sat in the car next to my mom as she cried silent tears of frustration. I can’t remember what it was that I did, but I remember that it hurt her deeply. My teen years had turned into a blur of stupid acts and painful lies. My parents always wanted the best for me. But my stupidity and broken promises to “straighten out” were taking their toll.

My mom spoke quietly as she looked straight ahead, “Maybe some day you’ll have kids who are to you like you are to us.” I kept looking down. She paused and then started crying more. “I’m sorry. Actually, I pray you’ll never have to go through things like this.”

It was one of the first times I sensed the depths of my mom’s pain at watching helplessly while I seemed determined to screw up my future. My heart was getting hard. At times I was able to write off her tears as guilt trips, and attribute her talks to intrusions on my liberties. But there was something about that ride in the car that broke through my shell of defiance. For a fraction of a second, I sensed the pain and fears of a loving parent. I’ll never forget it.

Now, Virginia and I have three teenage boys of our own, and they’re all doing pretty good. I guess my mom’s prayer was answered. Today we’ll probably join the crowds at restaurants and each of her boys – including me – will find a way to say thanks for the many ways Virginia keeps our family together and healthy. Mother’s Day is a good time for our family.

But not everyone has a great time on Mother’s Day.

Several months ago, a West End mom stopped by my office. She came to pick up a cheque for her son who was working on one of our housing projects. She looked like she was having a rough day, so I asked, “How’s it going?” She said “Okay,” and tried to make a quick move for the door so I wouldn’t see her cry.

I followed her, probing for what was wrong. She asked, “Is there any way that a mom can have her son committed?” Her son, in his forties, is still living at home. The tears flowed freely as she continued. “His drinking is getting worse. He’s drinking himself to death and I feel like I’m just stuck watching. I don’t know how much longer I can take this. It’s like I’m going down with him.”

It’s tough to know what to say at times like that. Part of me wanted to go over, “pipe” the guy and drop off his unconscious body at a treatment center where he could sober up and decide to live a better life. But the reality is, that treatment centers are all voluntary. In the end, a person can walk out the door at any time.

Is it too much to wish that she would get a little good news this Mother’s Day?

On Mother’s Day I think about the single parents in the neighbourhood. They may be single moms, but they’re doing double duty. Often with kids who are too young or oblivious to appreciate the complexity of the task. These moms deserve support and respect without condescension. And don’t forget the dads who are single-parenting their kids. Is it wrong for single parents to celebrate twice – Mother’s Day and Father’s Day?

And we haven’t even begun to talk about the grandmas and aunties – biological and otherwise. There are many who find ways to nurture children, and some who fulfill the role of mom in the lives of kids. Thank God for them!

During our Mother’s Day “sharing time” at church, there’s always someone who says, “I miss my mom. I wish I would have said more or done better when she was still alive.” There’s usually a mom who nurtures memories of children with whom she longs to be reunited. Today, some kids will pray to endure their mom’s latest hangover, or mourn her latest choice of abusive boyfriend. And there’s always a child wondering if they’ll ever be able to get along with their mom again.

A few years after starting this church, my mom and dad drove up to Winnipeg for a visit. During the sermon, I looked over at my mom and noticed tears in her eyes. I kept preaching, but wondered if she was upset at something I said. Anticipating my silent question, she smiled through the tears to let me know she was okay. Later she explained that the tears reflected a measure of gratitude too deep for words. Things could have been different.

It’s Mother’s Day. Make it a good one for someone!
Copyright 2002
Rev. Harry Lehotsky
Rev. Harry Lehotsky is Director of New Life Ministries, a community ministry in the inner-city of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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514 Maryland Street
Winnipeg, Mb R3G 1M5
(204) 775-4929