Once upon a time, I had the most wonderful mother in the world. Those of you reading this probably think I am wrong because you had the most wonderful mother in the world.
There is a wonderful magic about mothers. There are so many different kinds, yet every mother is the most wonderful mother in the world. She is with you from the moment you are born, and no matter how you try, you will never lose her love. You will belong to each other forever. It is a mother who makes life possible when you are a baby. She feeds you, changes your diapers, teaches you to walk, and later she is the one who reads you stories and, finally, takes you to school on the first day. If there is one thing in life that everyone has, it is a mother.
I believe all of us have run into some difficult people from time to time, but even they had mothers. I recall, back in 1950, when America was fighting in Korea, my brother, Jim, and I joined the Marine Corps and were at boot camp. It was quite different in those days. The drill instructors could actually physically hit you, and they did, and they called you names you could never repeat.
One Sunday afternoon, when Sgt. Smith was teaching us to spit-shine our shoes, he said, “My mother doesn’t like me to spit-shine shoes.” All of us looked at each other, because we never thought a man so tough and so cruel would have a mother. But, even Sgt. Smith had a mother.
All of us have special memories of life when a mother was the center of our world. My dad was sick most of his life, and so I remember my mother taking care of my brother, Jim, and me, but most of all my often-bedridden father.
I was in high school when he died. It was then my mother had a very serious sit-down
talk with my brother and me. My mother’s name was Myrtle, but everyone called her Myrt. After the funeral, my mother told us she would be our best friend for the rest of our lives, and she wanted us, her sons, to call her Myrt. It was a strange request, but coming from Myrt, it made all the sense in the world. As it turned out, no two boys ever had a better friend or a better mother.
She was so proud of our every accomplishment and worked so hard to make me a better student. What none of us knew at the time was I suffered dyslexia. I couldn’t read, and no matter how I tried to read, I could never keep up with the other children in class.
She not only was my mother and my best friend, but my greatest cheerleader, telling Jim and I we could do anything if we set our heart to it and with enough hard work.
During the Depression, when my dad was so sick and people didn’t get paid if they didn’t work, Myrt would sell doughnuts to the many gift shops. Those doughnuts were made by my grandmother, who, by the way, lived with us and was such a burden on my mother for 22 years.
My dad always said my grandmother made the heaviest doughnuts. He would say jokingly, “Don’t ever drop one. They are so heavy they could go through the floor to the basement.”
But we didn’t have money. In the 1930s, there was no welfare, no food stamps. If you
were broke, you went hungry, or your neighbors would help you, or, in Myrt’s case, you sold doughnuts to the many gift shops in downtown Norwich.
My mother worked with every charitable organization you could think of. She was an important member of St. Mary’s Parish and labored with Catholic Charities. She was a Girl Scout leader and a volunteer for so many charities.
She taught us from a very young age you have to give back to the community. It was, after all, the community, the state, and, as she would say, “This wonderful nation of ours,” that makes it all possible. If there was anyone in my life who taught me public service is required of everyone, it was my mother.
During the war, she worked with the Office of Price Administration. Finally, she worked for the state of Connecticut Office of Policy and Management. Her office was at the Norwich State Hospital, which was then a vibrant mental institution, but many state offices also were housed in the main building of the hospital
When Jim and I joined the Marine Corps together, she lived a lonely life, but not for long. One hot, July summer afternoon, in Massachusetts, while taking an elderly relative for a ride, she passed out at the wheel. The accident took the life of her dear uncle, Henry. She broke both legs, her hip, and her spine was badly injured. Unable to walk, she became a victim and had to be waited on.
My brother, Jim, was in Korea. Gen. Silverthorn, of the United States Marine Corps, transferred me from Parris Island to the Submarine Base. My aunt, Doris Dugas, a nurse, would take care of Myrt all day long, and I was able to spend nights at home and report back to the base in the morning
It was at that base I met the second mother in my life. One morning, a car stopped in traffic in front of Adm. Fife’s car, and a young lady, exiting the two-door car, was thanking the driver for a ride. As commander of the guard, I grabbed her by the arm and ordered the car to move. I saluted the admiral as he passed, and a year later I married that girl, whose name was Peggy Culotta.
Too Good for Him
We have three wonderful children, and my mother so loved Peggy that before she died she told her, “When you married Bill, I thought there was no girl good enough for him.
But now, knowing you as I do, I think you are too good for him.” She meant me no ill, but Peggy will never forget, and Myrt made us agree when we got married no matter how sick she or Peggy’s mother ever became, that we would never allow her to live permanently with us. She said, “There is no house in the world big enough for two women.”
Her mother-in-law had lived with her for some 22 years, and while she was a wonderful grandmother to Jim and me, Myrt had the patience of Job to allow her mother-in-law to live so many years with her and my dad.
First a Guest
My grandmother had first become a guest, because her apartment had caught fire, and my mother invited my grandmother to stay until she found another apartment — and it took nearly 22 years.
There are no qualities about all mothers that are unique unto your very own. They suffer at birth, and spend sleepless nights with every crying child. They care for you during the school years, and they part with you when you marry. They feel your every pain and enjoy your every success. I think my mother said it best: “I want to be your best friend.”
For most people reading this column, you have friends that come and go, but, after all, isn’t your mother your best friend?
Today is her day. We should celebrate mothers every day, but certainly on Mother’s Day. While the gifts are wonderful and well appreciated, the greatest gift you can give your mother this day is to tell her you love her for all of the many reasons that every mother is loved — for her care, for her love, for her undying friendship.
I know my dear mother, now gone these many years, would want me to wish in this column, all mothers everywhere a Happy Mother’s Day.