My First Mother’s Day Without My Mom (Gail Schlachter Hauser 1943-2015)

Sutter Club, Sacramento, December 2013

Sutter Club, Sacramento, December 2013

I know Mother’s Day is supposed to be about moms, but please indulge me as I describe it from a son’s perspective. As a Jewish son, Mother’s Day has always been a difficult day. After all, Jewish babies start out on day 1 owing a debt for our mother’s sacrifices giving birth to us. After that, it’s a lifetime of catch-up trying to compensate for that guilt, but every day I kept incurring new guilt-inducing moments even as I tackled the accumulated deficit. For every great or successful moment in my life, a few days later we’d be back to “why don’t you call or visit more often?”

Viewed in this light, Mother’s Day was the yearly Super Bowl of Guilt. The official day of reconciliation for all the things I hadn’t done as a son that year. My mom was very clear what “gift” she wanted for Mother’s Day. Flowers? No. A nice meal? No. Chocolates? Well, yes, but that was a trivial token. Every year when I’d ask what she wanted for Mother’s Day, she would say, plainly and firmly, “CALL YOUR MOTHER!” Preferably every day, multiple times a day. My haphazard and episodic phone-calling frequency Did Not Cut It.

Just to make sure the guilt dagger was firmly lodged, my mom would then remind me that I would miss calling her when she was dead. As I instinctively reached for the phone last night, having that involuntary moment of panic that I had somehow forgot to call my mom on Mother’s Day, I grudgingly muttered that she had been right.

When my mom’s book of life closed, so too did my ability to redress my guilt. With each Annual Judgment Day Mother’s Day, I could always over-optimistically promise to myself that I would do a better job as a son next year. Now, with my mom gone, my oeuvre of “work-as-a-son” is irreparably complete. And that leaves me to forevermore ponder the unanswerable question–of course I could have done more for her, but did I do enough for my mom when it counted?

Perhaps that takes too narrow a view. I can no longer tell my mom directly how I appreciated her, but I can honor her memory, and everything she taught me, through my future actions. And knowing that she can no longer directly evaluate my conduct perhaps raises the stakes even higher for me to make the right choices.

We will be celebrating Dr. Gail Schlachter Hauser’s life on May 17 in Los Altos Hills. Click here for details and to RSVP.

Blog Posts About Gail Schlachter Hauser’s Death

* Signs That My Mom Is Still Thinking of Us (Gail Schlachter Hauser, 1943-2015)
* My Mom’s Idea of a “Really Good Day” (Gail Schlachter Hauser, 1943-2015)
* Initial Reflections on Losing a Parent (Gail Schlachter Hauser, 1943-2015)
* My Mom Died: Gail Schlachter Hauser, 1943-2015