John's Notebook: Homework for Mother's Day

Mother's Day is a welcome event in partisan times. Nearly everyone agrees that we should show mothers gratitude.

For those of us who have lost our mothers there is a little melancholy in the day, though, but that melancholy can be put to good use: a lesson I learned from my mother, and that I recommend.

When she died, Mom left me her letters and journals. Windows into things I would have been too young to understand when she was alive, or too busy, or too much of a know-it-all.

What these papers show is her grit. She was a journalist, who for a decade or so, was told that because she was a woman, she couldn't be on television with the men. She got there eventually, but she also later got fired. In her journals she is scared. There were times the bills couldn't be paid.  At one point she typed a letter to her children on carbon paper from the office. It was to be read in case she died. She was on the road all the time working and worried something might happen to her.

Nothing happened, but that letter--and all her letters-- are a lesson, a gift and a guide. They make sense now that I am old enough to understand them, and see myself in her blemishes too: the pride and selfishness that trips up all of us from time to time.

So as a tribute to Mom I write letters to my kids on Mothers Day.

Letters like the one she left me, to be opened when I'm gone and they're older and the contents make more sense. If I am around when they're my age, maybe we'll open these letters and read them together --if I'm brave enough-- and we'll all thank Mom.

Back in a moment.