For geezer orphans: Mother’s Day is never over

Photo/Ralph Daily

There’s always a way to say thanks to mom, even after she’s gone. Here’s one surprising idea , a way to keep the special day alive by adding a new phase to the celebration…

 When my mother graduated from the planet in her old age, I missed celebrating her special day. What was Mother’s Day without a mother?  Does the party have to end when mother is gone? Why not a further stage to the family celebrations?

For Mother’s Day does have its stages. The recognition typically begins when young moms post crayoned Mother’s Day cards on the refrigerator—the frame of fame in every home. And dad throws in a nightgown to fatten the offerings. That’s the pre-school stage.

Then there’s the pancake era. The kids, now older, make breakfast for mom, served in bed, crumbs in the sheets, the tray decorated by dandelions in old pickle jars. As the years pass, the flowers come from the florist and the pancakes evolve into an Eggs Benedict brunch, payment in Hollandaise and Mimosas for another year of motherhood.

But then what? What happens when mom is no longer there, but the gratitude lingers on? I knew I couldn’t just park my mood at sad when Mother’s Day rolled around after my mom died. No place for sad with my mom. She was a show business performer and the smile must go on. So I had to think of something else to do other than mope and complain I’m an orphan.

But what?

Inviting Mom to Dinner

I once read that the ancient Greeks set a place at the table for their favorite god, even though they knew the god wouldn’t show up. And it’s true that even today some cultures offer treats for the departed, sometimes on the anniversary of a death, sometimes during special holidays such as Mexico’s Day of the Dead, which sounds gruesome, but isn’t. Music, food, decorations—it’s a holiday in Mexico to honor the spirits of the departed.

So why not mom and me? If other cultures enjoyed social occasions with people who used to be, why not a little party to honor mom on her day? So my man and I set a table for four—-places for him, his mom, me and my mom—both mothers long gone to the spirit world.

I fixed my mom’s favorite meal—Shrimp Scampi—and hoped his invisible mom would like it because I wasn’t making two main courses for one meal. (Two ghosts, but just one special recipe—my new rule.)


We lit candles and we raised our glasses to the memory of those lovely ladies. We told each other stories about our mothers—how one thought the solution to all troubles was to put on lipstick—Revlon’s Fire and Ice—and how the neighborhood kids would come over, not to see us, but to see our moms.

So it was dinner for four, leftovers for two and lots of family stories. Sweet nostalgia for dessert. What could be better?

For us, it’s a new tradition, a forever stage to Mother’s Day celebrations. And anybody who thinks I’m silly—putting out food for invisible people—should remember who used to put out milk and cookies for Santa.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Mel Walsh is a columnist, a gerontologist and the author of four non-fiction books, the most recent, HOT GRANNY, Chronicle Books, advice for older women. 

This entry was posted in Family, Food & Recipes and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to For geezer orphans: Mother’s Day is never over

  1. Susan Eyre-Schlesinger says:

    when the Japanese celebrate the Oban in August (probably not spelled correctly but I am in Greece so can’t check any notes) they light candles along the paths in the cemetaries so the spirits can find their way home, and put out all sorts of tasty dishes
    so the spirits can savor their favorite foods. (I read in a novel that there are traditional cakes as well but neither my son nor his Japanese wife knew about them). I had hoped to visit when my son and his family lived there but alas didn’t make it. they would go to Mabu’s mother’s house in Inoshima – an island off the coast of Hiroshima – where the cemetary was up on a hill.
    Giles said the pathway leading down to the houses at the bottom was lit with paper lanterns and looked somewhat like a fairy tale. I have been there so at least I can visualize it in my imagination.

  2. Margaret says:

    Ah, memory…

    Fire and Ice was my first lipstick. I wonder if they still make it…

    Mother’s Day has always been complicated for me. My rigid immigrant mom hated it – too American, too silly to honor mom on ONE day of the year and take her for granted the other 364, too indulgent, too… everything.

    For me, as a relinquishing birthmother, it’s a day of sadness that my birth-daughter doesn’t want to know me. I keep hoping that maybe this year… But it hasn’t happened yet. And my step-daughters, with whom I have a wonderful relationship, have never acknowledged me on MD, maybe to respect their mother? My poor husband never knows how to handle this day. So we sort of ignore it – go for a walk, maybe, or spend the day in indulgent reading and a nice dinner.

    I just try to ignore it.

  3. Rhoda Eligator says:

    I love your entries in the Geezer diaries, Mel. Please do more. Rhoda Schwartz Eligator (Wellesley, ’58)

    • Mel Walsh says:

      Rhoda, your comment is the one who got me started again. Thank you. If I don’t hear from people I begin to think nobody reads the posts and then my motivation begins to lag. So I’m grateful you took the time to post. Mel

  4. Geraldine says:

    I miss my mom every single day and Mother’s Day is even worse, she passed on when I was just over 5o. What a lovely post to read I’m not alone with this sadness and longing.

  5. geraldine denise kuss says:

    I´m in Rio De Janeiro Brazil and Mother´sDay is strange , everyone goes out to a barbeque restaurant with their very badly behaved kids who run around the restaurants screaming and shouting,in other words, playing. I used to hate it . but now I´m divorced and my daughter and husband live in Toronto I miss those awful lunches so much!

  6. lulu says:

    This really hit home for me today, thanks for sharing a lovely story! My own mother was promoted to glory a year ago and I still miss her.

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