Let’s cel­e­brate all kinds of moth­ers this month

Re­mem­ber­ing the beau­ti­ful, re­gal, poised — and vig­i­lant — moms of our lives

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - DAVE DAVIS Dave Davis, MD, lives in Dun­das, Ont., and Fort My­ers Beach, Fla. He’s a hus­band, fa­ther, and grand­fa­ther and a re­tired physi­cian, writer and speaker. You can fol­low him, if you have noth­ing bet­ter to do, @drauthor24 or write him at dr­dav­e­davi

It was one of these back split houses built about half a cen­tury ago, de­signed by clever if mis­chievous ar­chi­tects for grow­ing fam­i­lies: the liv­ing room, kitchen, and din­ing room up­stairs, maybe with a bed­room or two, and the fam­ily room and a cou­ple of ex­tra bed­rooms down­stairs.

In the days when I made house calls, “Mrs. N,” her daugh­ter and son-in-law and their three (or four, maybe. I for­get) chil­dren lived in one of them. At the top of the stairs, in a lit­tle al­cove sort of, sat one of those tele­phone desks, a small chair with an at­tached side desk hold­ing the phone. (It was the days, boys and girls, when we had land lines. Phones ac­tu­ally con­nected to the wall and the world by a cord. Imagine.)

There were many rea­sons for the house call: Mrs. N had con­ges­tive heart fail­ure, was pretty much un­able to make reg­u­lar vis­its to the of­fice; her home was con­ve­niently lo­cated about half­way be­tween my house and the hos­pi­tal; and (this is a con­fes­sion, kids) she made the best espresso in the city. Move over Star­bucks. Mrs. N, no mat­ter how sick she was, was al­ways in the lit­tle al­cove, sit­ting be­side the phone, as though the prime min­is­ter was about to call, maybe the Queen. We’ll re­turn to Her Majesty in a mo­ment.

From this van­tage point, a perch in any other lan­guage, she could view the fam­ily’s com­ings and go­ings through both the front and back-kitchen doors of the house, could mon­i­tor the phone. She could keep watch. Noth­ing would es­cape her at­ten­tion, some of it un­wanted but none of it, in her view, un­nec­es­sary. She was, in other words, vig­i­lant. Her vig­i­lance in­cluded watch­ing the clock, mak­ing sure ev­ery­one was dressed prop­erly be­fore they went out the door, guar­an­tee­ing no food was ever left un­touched. It also ex­tended to tooth brush­ing. Ev­ery one of those three or four kids had to have their teeth in­spected be­fore leav­ing for school. “You brush the teeth?” she’d ask each one of them. They’d say, “I brushed, Nona, I did!” No mat­ter; she’d bend close, check their breath, then give them a lit­tle tap on the head. Her heart may have been faulty, but her nose worked per­fectly. The tap, a tad more force­ful than the word tap might im­ply, was one part “OK, I be­lieve you this time but you’re still on pro­ba­tion,” one part, “You’re OK. Go!” and one part, “I love you.”

Vig­i­lant. It’s not a word you think of when you think of moth­er­ing — maybe guard­ing the Tomb of the Un­known Sol­dier, or peace­keep­ing, but not moth­er­ing. Ever look up (or bet­ter yet, make up) a Wor­dle? They’re like word clouds, con­tain­ing words that rep­re­sent a con­cept. Those close to the con­cept or used more to de­scribe it are large; those that rep­re­sent the con­cept a bit less are smaller. Take “Canada” for ex­am­ple. Big­ger words would maybe be north, hockey, snow — things peo­ple more of­ten use to de­scribe Canada. Smaller ones might be beaver, flag, loonie. Twenty-fours, maybe. If the Wor­dle is about moth­ers, like the one you can see here, the “kind” sort of pops out as the most rep­re­sen­ta­tive. You can see for your­self what the oth­ers are — gen­er­ous, un­selfish, you get the pic­ture. Want to have fun one night with the fam­ily? Make up a Wor­dle around Trump. Or LRT, maybe. Take your pick. Fun, like I said. The prob­lem with Wordling “mother” though is that there are so many kinds of moth­ers. My own mother, now long gone, fit the Wor­dle bill per­fectly with the ad­di­tion of beau­ti­ful, re­gal and poised. My mother-in­law, also eas­ily fit­ting the ba­sic re­quire­ments if you will, would need to have easy-to-gig­gle, warm, hug­gable. Oh, and lov­able. I am a lucky man: I miss them both equally. And then are non-tra­di­tional moth­ers, those who don’t ap­pear in Nor­man Rock­well paint­ings.

Adop­tive moth­ers, for ex­am­ple, who I know for a fact get a spe­cial place in heaven. Moth­ers whose hearts have been sculpted by the loss of a baby or grown child. Grand­moth­ers who oc­cupy the role of mother. Fos­ter moth­ers. There are moth­ers of coun­tries, even con­ti­nents — Golda Meir, the mother of Is­rael for ex­am­ple. And iron­i­cally enough, An­gela Merkel, the mother of Ger­many, and some would ar­gue, of Europe. Queen El­iz­a­beth, among her many ti­tles, might be con­sid­ered Mother of the Com­mon­wealth.

Mrs. N, like my own mother and moth­erin-law, like Golda for that mat­ter, are long gone, now re­tired to their rest, to their kitchen in the sky, or for Mrs. N, her watch­ful al­cove.

Heaven would be a good place for her: she could watch us all. In fact, I’m pretty sure she does.

Let’s cel­e­brate them all — kind, un­selfish, gen­er­ous, lov­ing, even flawed — this month/ week. Let’s hold them in our hearts like they’ve held us. Let’s be vig­i­lant about re­mem­ber­ing them.

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