Mother’s Day: A Hero without a Headline, an Expression of Gratitude

Written by Tony Mussari
and Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2012
Mussari-Loftus Associates
The Face of America Project

All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother. Abraham Lincoln

What is a Mother?

An article titled “The Last Mother’s Day,” caught my attention. Written by Timothy Egan, it was published in the online edition of the New York Times on Thursday, May 10. To celebrate his mother, Egan wrote these words:

When the last of your parents dies, as Christopher Buckley wrote in his memoir, “Losing Mum and Pup,” you are an orphan. But you also lose the true keeper of your memories, your triumphs, and your losses. Your mother is a scrapbook for all your enthusiasms. She is the one who validates and the one who shames, and when she’s gone, you are alone in a terrible way.

Throughout the day, I thought about my mother, and I talked with Kitch about her mom. During our conversation, we discussed the most recent trend in mothering, ”Attachment Moms.”

My mother was definitely not an attachment mom, nor was she a “Helicopter Mom.” She was a “teach your child to be responsible and stand on your own two feet mother.” Her experiences during the Great Depression and World War II had a deep and lasting impact.

My mother was the oldest daughter in a large Italian family. Her parents came to America in search of a better life. Her mother was determined, demanding and resilient. She owned and operated a neighborhood grocery store. All of her children were expected to work in that store. There were no exceptions.

My mother was a pathfinder. She wanted something more. She graduated from high school, and she became a registered nurse, something few women of her age and background did in those days.

After she married and she gave birth to her first child, she gave up nursing to become a full-time mother. What she learned from her mother, she taught by example to my brother, my sister and me.

House Rules

These were some of her rules:

1. Be respectful which meant be polite, say please and thank you, and mean what you say;

2. Be responsible which translated to: don’t be a baby, don’t depend upon others to help you, don’t complain, don’t show off, and learn how to figure things out yourself;

3. Work hard. This was a cardinal rule in our home. My brother had a paper route and so did I. He worked in a neighborhood cigar store and he drove a delivery truck.  My sister worked in a clothing store. I was the youngest, but I pulled my weight by peddling papers, shoveling sidewalks in the winter, and cleaning out basements in the summer. If I wanted to buy something like a baseball glove or an English bicycle, I had to earn money to make the purchase;

4. Get an education. My mother was absolutely inflexible on this rule. We all graduated from high school. My brother and I graduated from college. Ken earned an advanced degree in educational administration. He became an assistant superintendant for personnel. Following in my mother’s footsteps, Mary graduated from the Mercy Hospital School of Nursing. I graduated from college and I earned my Ph.D. I followed in my brother’s footsteps. I became a teacher;

5. Believe in God. My mother loved her God. She found peace and happiness in church. St. Mary’s Church was our second home. There, we learned to love God and obey His rules. To this day, the importance of a spiritual dimension to life and a sense of accountability for all that we do, or fail to do, is central to what we believe and how we behave.

6. Love your country. Patriotism is in our DNA. We got it from our parents. They loved America and the opportunities they had here. They proudly displayed the American flag on holidays. They never missed an opportunity to vote. My mother cherished the blessings of liberty, and she made sure we understood the responsibilities of American citizenship.

What Would You Say?  

During my conversation with Kitch about our mothers, she asked me this question. “If you had an opportunity to speak to your mother one more time, what would you say to her

Without hesitation, I replied: “Thank you mom for all that you did for us, all that you demanded of us, all that you and dad denied yourselves so that we could have a better life. Thank you for making us believe that we could be more, do more, and accomplish more than we thought we could. Thank you for giving us a good home, a good education, a good example and a good life.”

In the quiet of this Mother’s Day morning, I will have a private conversation with my mother much like the ones I have been having with her for 70 years. She knows that for all these years, in things both big and small, I have tried to make her proud of her youngest son.

These conversations always end with these words: “I am forever grateful Mom. I love you, and I hope you are in heaven.

Oliver Wendell Holmes was right: “The real religion of the world comes from women much more than men – from mothers most of all, who carry the key of our souls in their bosoms.”

My mother modeled the Face of America on its best day every day of her life, and I am blessed to be her son.

Happy Mothers’ Day.

Please provide feedback to: