It’s October 5th, 2023 and it was 99 years ago today that my maternal grandparents had their one and only child – a girl, who eventually grew up and became my mother. My grandfather was in the legal profession in Chicago and for a variety of reasons, Mom was the only child they had.
I’m sure in their own way, they spoiled Mom. She had horses, rode in wonderful cars, went to private schools, attended Northwestern University and had some of the most famous classmates you could imagine. McLean Stevenson, Paul Lynde, Charlton Heston, Patricia Neal, Cloris Leachman and others were all in the drama school with Mom. But rather than be in front of the camera, Mom’s love was the lighting and staging of productions.
She met Dad at Northwestern after he came back from Greece, having served in WWII. Although he had attended a junior college, he then went to serve in the Army and his education didn’t continue until he returned to Northwestern in the Chicago area.
They were married in 1948 and I, their firstborn, entered the world five years later. Eventually Doug and Ken came along, completing our nuclear family. Mom devoted herself to raising the three of us while Dad worked downtown in the Tribune Tower. In fact, I used to go down with him on Saturdays and I remember Marina Towers being built.
Mom had grown up with privilege in her life. Grandpa even bought a farm in southeastern Michigan and kept a stable of horses for Mom to ride on the weekends.
As was the custom of the day, we dressed up to go see the dentist, Dr. Stordock, in the Pittsfield Building. Or when we flew on a jet… And it was always a treat to go to Marshall Field’s and have lunch when we went downtown. I even remember Marie – the server at MF&Co. who took care of us for more than 15 years. We were frequent visitors to the Walnut Room and the candy counters at Field’s. And, oh, the licorice and the Frango Mints.
Mom taught us to dress the part and even when I attended Boy Scout camp, we went to Abercrombie and Fitch to get me outfitted. Every Sunday we had dinner with my maternal grandparents and it was there that I learned some of the most important life lessons, including the social graces. I sat next to Grandpa, on his left, and was expected to listen and learn. I still have the chair that I sat in those early years before I was old enough to sit in a regular dining room seat.
Mom served everywhere. She was President of the Sutherland School PTA, was a den mother for my brother, Doug, when he was a Cub Scout and was active in the church. We learned about giving and taking care of those less fortunate. Of course, I had piano and swimming lessons, day camps and just about every other thing a young boy could want. I was also exposed to the arts – including plays and even a series of operas when I was in 8th grade.
As I age, I realize how important those things were to my development as a youngster. Dad was mostly concerned with earning enough money to support us, but Mom was the one who had grown up with a broader exposure to the finer things and was determined to pass those teachings on to us.
Looking back on it, I had a pretty good childhood. I wasn’t very popular in school but I loved sitting at my grandfather’s knee and learning about nature, God’s rhythm of the seasons and some ingrained lessons that have never left me. Chief among them was his assertion that you have to take care of your mother – you only get one to a lifetime. And Grandpa has lost his own Mom when he was a young boy.
After Grandpa, and eventually Grandma, passed away, Mom dealt with Dad’s cancer diagnosis. Although Dad lived four more years, Mom found herself a widow at 54 years of age. She continued to dedicate herself to her kids and never remarried. The sun rose and set on her children. Now that I’m 70, I realize how young she was when Dad died.
And then, Mom’s geriatric MS caught up with her and she finally passed way at the age of 73, several weeks before her 74th birthday. Her final years were complicated by the ravages of her disease. She moved closer to Doug, needed help at her home and depended on him far more than he has ever let on.
Now, even our youngest brother, Ken, has passed away. That means that Doug and I are all that are left. I would never had dreamt this outcome when I was a youngster eating chicken pot pie in the Walnut Room.
The older I get the more I miss my parents. It’s not to say that life was always good, but I think that I have tended to forget the more challenging parts of growing up in our family. And as Mom was a believer, I have no doubt that some day I will see her again.
Our verse for tonight is from the Proverbs. Solomon, the author of this book, tells us, in Proverbs 31:26-28, “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.”
My encouragement this evening is that God created mothers to be the spirit in our families – the balance to our fathers. My prayer is that mothers will continue to positively influence their children and raise them in the ways of the Lord. Thankfully, our children are doing just that. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…