What My Catholic Grandmother Wants You to Know About Mother's Day
Feisty doesn't begin to describe my Nani. She's 80 now, a great-grandma, and if you spend more than 5 minutes with her you will quickly learn that Obama is the Great Prevaricator, Catholicism is the one True Faith, and the women on TV need to stop playing with their hair.
So when I asked her feelings about Mother's Day I was expecting something sassy and religious, but I was not prepared for this stream-of-consciousness rumination on loss, faith, motherhood...and still, she managed to throw in some shade.
"Nani, what do you think about Mother's Day?"
"Well mothers are very important. Very important. It was very hard for me, because my mother died when I was only 11. Now, people can talk about "I'm sad because my dog died, or I'm sad because of this or that, but there is nothing, NOTHING, like the pain of losing your mother. And it doesn't matter what age you are, but nothing can compare, except for losing a child I suppose. That loss never goes away, it always feels lonely. But especially when you are a child, your mother is the most important thing and even when you're older, it is something you just don't get over.
"And my family, well we lived in Delhi and we were very poor, and I had very short, curly hair and everyone wanted to have straight, long hair. So my brothers, they would tease me and bully me, about how curly my hair was, or I had spots on my clothes, because I couldn't wash them. And we we didn't have the bathroom and the water and the combs to put it back, not that I knew how to put it back. But I didn't have a mother who could take care of it for me and so it always looked very messy, very dirty. And that's why it's very important to me to always be clean, always be neat. I like my curly hair now. It's different, not like the women on TV, all with the same hair.
"Mothers are very important, and they're very important to the Church. Jesus had a mother! Of course they're important! (laughs) And women are very important! And if you're a devout Catholic, and not just the "Catholics" who like to say they're Catholics but then don't follow the Catholic teaching, like Nancy Pelosi, you try and practice your faith every day. Every day. Not just one day.
"This lady lived on Flora Street way, way back when. She was divorced, which was not common in those days, and she moved in with her mother to take care of her every day, well she was divorced so where else was she going to go? It was very different back then and people thought, (makes face) "ugh, divorced." Well, her brother and his wife, they used to come over just once or twice a year and take the mother out to lunch, thinking that they were doing a great thing. And everyone could see them, and think they were doing a great thing. But the sister did that every day, and nobody thought she was great. And the brother and his wife, they never thought "Maybe in between birthdays or holidays we should take out the mom so the sister can have a break." That's not right, to me.
"Children think that if they buy the mother a gift or take her out they’re fulfilling their obligations to "honor they father and thy mother" and that it makes their mothers so happy. But the mother, she used to complain about that to me and I would understand. “Yeah we’re coming to your house and picking you up and taking you somewhere that we pick, whether you like it or not.” No. We don't like that, especially when we're old. I’m guilty of that myself because I would do that with my own father and father-in-law.
"And the other thing is I believe, contrary to some people saying cards don't matter, to me it means *a lot* to get a card, especially when you can tell that the person took the time to get the right card and writes in what they feel. Or sometimes people think that they're not good at saying what they feel, and that's okay, we all have different gifts, but they take the time to find the card that says the thing that they would say if they could. That's just as good.
"You know, the one thing I don’t get enough is the "God Bless You" and it’s surprising that people of faith don’t think of saying "God Bless You." That makes me feel so good. "Thank you, thank you! I need all the blessings I can get!" (laughs)
"There’s a lot of wisdom that the older generation has to share, but it always goes in one ear and out the other because you young people don’t know. It’s very simple and basic. Love God and love each other, and if you do that you’ll be right.
"That’s what’s important about going to daily Mass even though I don’t always do that. It doesn’t mean that because you go to daily Mass that you’re automatically going to be loving, it doesn’t work that way. However, if you do go and receive the sacraments then that is what helps you want to do what is right. It is a reminder. But if you leave prayer out of your life, it’s just not gonna work.
"In the end it’s going to be like the Lord says, "Did you feed me when I was hungry? Did you clothe me when I was naked?" My friend Dorothy, she never denied anyone money. She would say, "Well, whoever is asking, they could very well be Christ Himself, and I don’t want to take that chance of turning him away!"
"And then I learn from what Saints say, and Saint Theresa, they call her The Little Flower, she calls us to not think in terms in great things, but think about the little things that you do and do them with love. It's very simple. And that means if you see someone who looks sad, smile at them. They might not smile back, but most of the time they do. It's very simple. It's not always easy, especially if it’s something that you don’t particularly care to do, like say "Good Morning."
"There’s usually this Asian couple at Mass, well when we leave Mass the man always says to me, "Have a nice day, Sister!" (laughs) And I don’t know whether he means Sister in Christ or whether he thinks I’m a retired nun because I’ve been told that before, but I say it back, "Have a nice day!" Taking the time to say "Have a nice day, Sister," that’s very simple.
"And you never really know, you might say that to a person who is feeling really low even if they don't show it. And they might need to hear that. So that's how you should honor mothers on Mother's Day, and even if you just send a card, care about your neighbors, love other people, that's how you honor the Spirit of the Virgin Mary, who was Christ's Mother.
"But for me? Well I don't want anything, but maybe postage stamps because you know I write letters, and the price is going up."