​Scott Simon on a mother's special vision

Our mothers are always with us, no matter how long they've been gone. "Unforgettable" is the title of the book contributor Scott Simon of NPR has written about HIS mother. He shares some thoughts...

Mothers have special vision. They see their children as all ages at once. When they behold their sassy teenagers, mothers still see the teething baby or stumbling toddler they used to be.

But our mothers are grown by the time we meet them. So we can think they were born just to feed, burp, bathe, and hold us through our nightmares.

We miss out on knowing our mothers and fathers when they were young, sassy, flirty, flummoxed, anxious, and maybe -- hard as it is to imagine -- even sort of cool.

Like my mother, Patricia Lyons Simon Newman, who died a couple of summers ago. I was blessed to spend her last days alongside her in a hospital.

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Scott Simon's mother, Patricia Lyons Simon Newman.
Scott Simon

We traded memories about our times together. We laughed a lot and shed some tears -- usually not sadly.

She remembered old friends, and how hard it was to lose them, but also how much fizz and fun they'd put into her life. She remembered her three husbands and dozens of old boyfriends: the good, the bad, and the embarrassing.

She also filled in the last details of stories that, now that I'm grown with children of my own, I was finally strong enough to hear.

How she had to leave my father, a funny, talented man, before his drinking could drown us.

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Flatiron Books

How she wrestled with suicide. Her mother took her life when my mother was in her early 20s and needed her most. She said for years thereafter she hoped to find some note -- tucked into a book, or fallen behind a sofa -- that her mother left to tell her why.

"Suicide puts a fly in your head," she said. "It's always buzzing around."

More than once, the buzzing got to my mother. But she lived every last second to the age of 84.

I saw my mother's wispy hair and wobbly hands. But years fell away as stories rolled on. Once more she became the dishy young daughter of an Irish cop; then, the showgirl who married a comic, but had to leave him; and later, the grandmother of two little girls born in China.

Those are my daughters. I remind them that their grandmother was a funny, tough, fascinating woman, not just some kindly old lady who made them cinnamon toast (though I think my mother was fine with that).

It's a gift, on this day, to try to see our mothers in the same ageless way that they see us.


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