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Under my hat: Mother's Day is a very personal holiday

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    The Work Projects Administration’s 1938 statue honoring motherhood towers over Ashland in Schuylkill County and is the only one of its kind in the country. DONALD R. SERFASS/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

Published May 04. 2018 03:35PM


Sunday is Mother’s Day.

I’ve always felt it’s a holiday that wouldn’t be necessary if the world were perfect.

That’s because, in a perfect world, we wouldn’t need to set aside a day to honor the concept of mothers.

Instead, mothers (and fathers) would be revered every day.

Mother’s Day is a very personal holiday — as intense as how you feel inside. Interestingly, it varies from person to person, something I learned from a close friend.

For many years I lived and worked in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area. My best friend was a co-worker, Paul.

Paul was a military veteran and tough guy. He’d risen through the ranks in a branch of the military that prides itself in building men in mind, body and spirit.

He was fortunate enough to have served during a noncombat era. But he prided himself on his readiness and perceived independence.

Perhaps as part of that particular philosophy, Paul said it’s important to distance oneself from parents.

“You need to go on and live your own life. You can’t let a parent hold you back or stand in your way,” he’d say.

It struck me as odd. It gave me pause when he spoke like that. My mother was the center of my life on a daily basis.

But Paul believed it’s the duty of a parent to understand that a child must break away.

He said parents must learn to “let go” in a permanent way.

I was fascinated by his thoughts, even if we agreed to disagree.

Paul was resolute and made a point of emphasizing his views whenever he discussed childhood and the values he’d acquired.

He made it clear he believed that one role of a parent is to shed parental ties in order to let a child mature. In a way, I knew what he meant.

Still, I never quite understood why he viewed a parent as a roadblock. Or why he saw a parent as somehow standing in the way of a child’s growth or achievements.

Whatever the case, Paul seemed to place his parents in secondary position. To him, parents were an obligation and sometimes an inconvenience. He rarely spoke of his mother. I spoke of my mother just about every day.

He eventually became a parent himself, the father of three girls.

His children were the center of his world during their youth. But all three grew up fast and left home at an early age.

Once that happened, they didn’t do a good job of keeping in touch with their dad.

Paul wasn’t happy about it. I could tell. He often seemed troubled and lonesome. Of course, he still had his wife for companionship. But something was missing. It was more than an empty nest syndrome. Paul never seemed to have a pleasant aura surrounding him. He just seemed to be unhappy.

After two decades, I left my job in Wilkes-Barre and lost contact. I often wondered if Paul had ever reflected on his beliefs, or if he’d ever changed his mind about parenthood.

Late last year, after my retirement, I decided to look him up to see how he’s doing. I searched his name online to find out where he’s living.

Sadly, instead of finding Paul, I found his obituary. I’d missed out on a possible reunion by a matter of a few months. Paul passed away in Florida early last year. His daughters live in Pennsylvania. So I’m guessing they weren’t with him when he died.

I’ll never share Paul’s attitude about mothers and fathers.

In Pennsylvania Dutch families, mothers — and their kitchens — hold families together like glue. The tie that binds. It’s the same in other cultures and nationalities as well. And that makes sense.

A mother isn’t someone to be honored once a year. Instead, she should be part of your life every day. Her influence should be felt even when she’s no longer here.

Mine has been gone 10 years and I think of her constantly. I miss her in ways that words can’t express. If I allow myself, I can fall apart and cry at the drop of a hat. It’ll never change. Bonds between a parent and child are eternal. They’re not something to be casually dismissed or relegated to secondary status.

The whole concept of motherhood is special.

And motherhood often transcends biology. What I mean is that a sense of motherhood can arise within the heart.

The mother figure in your life might be a best friend or maybe a special neighbor.

That’s just the way it is.

Families aren’t necessarily defined by biology, and neither is motherhood.

Mothers are something to be cherished. They’re an eternal blessing for those wise enough to value the gift.

A mother is your best friend and will remain so until the end of time.

Give your mother a hug today. Do it again tomorrow, even if that hug can be nothing more than a warm feeling surrounding you.

Contact Donald R. Serfass at

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