Thinking of other people’s moms

the godparent connection

Mrs BWhen I was growing up in Binghamton back in the 1960s, I often appreciated the grace of other people’s moms.

One of my favorites is the woman to the left in the picture. Of all of my classmates’ moms, Mrs. B was probably my favorite. I don’t remember the particular event, or even if I were there, although that looks like my 6th-grade teacher Mr. Peca in the window.

The thing is that she was always hosting events such as this. And her family owned a cottage on a lake and she hosted a motley crew of us down there.

When I was 19, she told me that I could call her by her first name. No way I was going to do that. She’s still around and I still wouldn’t.

Another mom I was fond of was Mrs. Lia. I wrote about her when she died in 2020. Coincidentally, she and Mrs. B. lived fairly close together on the same street.

Mrs. Hamlin, first name Marcheta, who died in 2015, I wrote about here. Besides her being the organist at my church, she and her sister Pat Jones were quite possibly the only black moms I knew from my K-9 school, Daniel Dickinson. And they lived a block or so from the school.

In fact, my parents were Pat’s son Walter’s godparents. I inherited my newspaper route and my library page job from Walter. And the Whitfields, the parents of Marcheta Hamlin and Pat Jones, were my godparents.

But I was in the Hamlin house much more often, spending a year trying, and failing, to learn piano. Incidentally, Mr. and Mrs. Hamlin are buried in Spring Forest Cemetery, about as close to their home as my grandmother Gertrude Williams is from her home to her plot in that cemetery.


Since my mom died in 2011, it’s been especially nice having a smart and good mother-in-law. We get along well much of the time and agree on most topics, especially theology. Much of the recent Saturday conversations on Zoom involve the family finally planning the funeral of her late husband Richard.

This means us writing the obituary and creating the service, although the pastor has, in Richard’s handwriting, what he had wanted to happen. Undoubtedly, he hadn’t counted on a pandemic. On the other hand, more people may be able to attend virtually, notably his elderly siblings.

And my mother-in-law may be selling her house in Oneonta and moving to the Albany area in the coming months. Which’ll mean she’ll be 15 minutes away, rather than 75. That would be nice.

Sometimes, you just need your mother

balance of justice

Carol and LydiaHere’s a picture of my daughter with her mother in December 2015. My friend Alice took it. Perhaps my daughter was just tired. Or maybe she needed her mother’s shoulder.

It’s interesting how the demarcation of emotional responsibilities in our household lies. I’d like to think of myself as the Cool Dad. Yet it was my wife who managed to remember the names of the seven members of BTS and tell them apart, back when my daughter was into them heavily in the past couple of years. While I catch a greater number of my daughter’s current lingo references – though by no means all – my wife picks up some things from her students that simply was oblivious to.


After my father-in-law died in April 2020, I think her three serving children were worried about their mother. But, in many ways, she’s been surprisingly resilient. And pragmatic. In some ways, my wife is very much like her mother. In the past, when I pointed this out, my wife resisted the comparison. Now, she pretty much owns it.

My mother-in-law and I get along pretty well. She refers to me as her favorite son-in-law. Of course, I’m her ONLY son-in-law. But I’ll take it anyway.


I continue to miss my own mother. This Mother’s Day is a lot easier than the holiday in 2011 when I was dealing with being an Orphaned Adult for the first time. It’s odd, but my recollections of her as my mom when I was growing up are spotty.

Part of that, I suppose, is because she worked outside of the home, primarily in the accounting department of McLean’s department store in downtown Binghamton, NY. In fact, I remember walking downtown and going to her office on the fourth or fifth floor, often enough that her co-workers recognized me after a while.

The one specific “mom” thing I remember involved me playing baseball in Valley Street park. I was pitching, and the batter, Aline, hit the ball back at me and hit me in my left temple. She called the doctor who told her that I might have a concussion. So every couple of hours, she’d come into my room and gently wake me up.

Mother’s Day

The history of Mother’s Day is as Day of Peace. Here’s part of Julia Ward Howe’s proclamation in 1870:

“Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether our baptism be that of water or of tears!… We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says “Disarm, Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”

Sometimes, you just need your mother.

When do we lose our parents?

Parental loss varies by race and socio-economic status.

when do we lose our parentsAs a Census geek and as someone has lost both parents, I was intrigued by a new report about “When do we lose our parents?” It’s called “Parental Mortality is Linked to a Variety of Socio-economic and Demographic Factors.” Here’s the underlying study, Exploring the Link between Socioeconomic Factors and Parental Mortality.

“People lose their fathers earlier in life than their mothers, and the timing of parental loss is linked to factors such as race, educational attainment and poverty status.

“For the first time, the 2014 panel of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) included a series of questions asking respondents whether their parents were still alive.” As you may know, my father died in 2000, my mother in 2011, so my experience is more common.

“For example, among those ages 45 to 49, 26% have lost their mother, while 45% have lost their father. Along these same lines, 7 in 10 of those ages 60 to 64 have a deceased mother, while about 87% have lost their father.” I was 47 when my dad died, 58 when mom passed.

“Among adults ages 25 to 34, about 15% of the white population and Asian population have lost one or both parents. By contrast, about 17% of the Hispanic population and 24% of the black population have experienced the death of a parent.” Fortunately, I am not in this group, but I know many folks who are.

“Among those ages 35 to 44, 43% of those living below the Federal Poverty Level have lost one or both parents, compared to 28% for those living in households with an income-to-poverty ratio of at least 400% of the FPL.

“Parental loss, which varies by race and socio-economic status, is often accompanied by psychological and material consequences. These statistics demonstrate the way these new SIPP data can help assess how socio-economic and demographic characteristics are associated with parental mortality in the United States.”

I suppose this is a bummer of a Mother’s Day post. But my mom always tried to do the right thing by others. My father spent his life addressing inequities. Somehow I don’t think they’d mind.

Mother’s Day Vigil against Child Separation

Addressing the policy of inhumane treatment of children

Mother's Day Vigil

Citizen activists bring attention to the human rights abuses of detained children and separated families.

Mothers and local activist groups will stand in solidarity with actions across the country planned for Mother’s Day. We call on our government to end the traumatizing policies of separating and detaining children. We call upon our fellow citizens to stand with us in our objection and call to action. This will be a peaceful family-friendly event.

What: Mother’s Day Vigil to Stand Against Child Separation and Detention
Who: Capital District Border Watch, Progressive Schenectady, and Bethlehem Indivisible
Where: Albany NY, Corner of Madison Ave and New Scotland Ave.
When: Sunday May 12, 2019, 11:00am to 1:00pm
Why: The policy of inhumane treatment of children and the erosion of human rights and international refugee protocol

Mother’s Day is NOT a day for melancholy, is it?

She says goodbye to the seniors, which is difficult for her each year.

Since my mother died in February 2011, with me by her side in a Charlotte, NC hospital, there are periods that are harder than others throughout the year. November, her birth month, and February can sometimes be rough.

Mother’s Day is a mixed bag, emotionally. After all, I can celebrate my wife as the mother of our daughter, and my mother-in-law as the mother of my wife, and all those women, living and dead, who have been like a mother to me over the year.

This May, I attended a production of The Music Man at a high school about an hour south of Albany. My wife’s niece, and therefore my niece, was in the production, as she has for the previous five years, going back to 6th grade. It was quite good.

If you go on Sunday matinee, after the performance, the director thanks various folks individually. Then she says goodbye to the seniors, which is difficult for her each year, as they literally leave their shoes on stage.

One of the seniors, the one who played the mayor’s wife, really bonded with the director. Each of them had lost their mothers, I don’t know when, but recently enough that the sentiment felt really raw.

And damned if seeing them mourning their mothers on stage kicked up similar feelings for me.

Then there was that woman who got partially sucked out of a Southwest Airlines plane and soon died. At least two of the news networks reported on her husband telling her parents of their daughter’s death. But then he had to figure out how to tell their two children that their mom was not coming home. I had no reaction… ah, who am I kidding?

So this Mother’s Day is a tad more melancholy for me, for these reasons, or maybe something else, or for no discernable cause at all. Of course, I know that even if your mom’s alive, one can dread the commemoration.