FOOD GROUP ADVICE by Steve Downing
Now that Mom’s been gone for 617 days, you’d think I would’ve stopped requiring her input long ago. Actually, in a sense, that did happen. Twice. The first time I stopped needing Mom’s advice, I was fifteen-ish. This lasted till I was around 30, when I came to see that Mom really did know a thing or two. Thirty years later, as Mom was pushing 90, she threw in the towel on advice-giving. From her perspective, our lives had gotten so complicated, by way of computers and social networking and the plain old warp-speed pace of everything, she could barely comprehend the big picture, never mind the nuances, of our day-to-day challenges and choices.
I’m thinking here of one especially memorable motherly warning. It had to do with love. I was in college and had been jilted by my girlfriend. I was in bad shape, which I was denying. Trying to hide it. Pathetic. Mom knew.
This was decades before cell phones and PCs, and Mom had grown up in an environment where the long-distance telephone call was regarded as a luxury reserved for reporting death, world wars, water moccasins in the basement. Luckily, she was a great letter writer. She and I wrote back and forth once a week, at least, and to say that I depended on those letters is an understatement.
Mom and the woman who was two-timing me had only met in passing, so this wasn’t selective or personal. Mom wrote: “My dear, you mustn’t let it mean more than it means. If you do, Suzanne will turn your heart into jello and your brain into oatmeal.”
Now you know why I still find myself wondering what Mom would say to me today about a particular decision or opportunity or screw-up. Nobody but a mother fully appreciates what a mess you might make of yourself, without guidance. I’m not saying Mom prevented the jello and oatmeal thing. I’m just saying: she saw it coming.