If it’s not one thing, it’s your mother…

By Rona Barrett

This past Mother’s Day, I was lashing myself for not getting out of bed, buying flowers and placing them on my mother’s gravesite. But I didn’t feel well, couldn’t move.

Funny how, when we’re flat on our backs, thoughts and memories swarm inside our heads and sting our conscience.

I remembered as a child being jealous of my girlfriends who had such close relationships with their mothers — like sisters or best friends. I just…never had that.

My mother — picture Raymond’s mother on Everybody Loves Raymond — didn’t know exactly how to handle somebody like me, her first child, debilitated by Muscular Dystrophy. She seemed — to me, anyway ¬— always very sad and feeling sorry for herself.

Her frustration was so overwhelming that, instead of talking, everything festered into an argument.

Much later in life, I told my father, “…I only wish I had a mother who could have been my friend.”

It was then he told me there were things about my mother she wished nobody would ever know.

“I made a promise to your mother,” Daddy said, “That I would never say a word. It was a secret between the two of us. But I think you should know now…”

Because of what he shared, I was given a clearer understanding of why my mother acted as she did; I never did, nor will I, share that secret with anyone.

However, I will always remember her best piece of advice:

“Rona dear, if you can suddenly realize that in that black cloud that hovers over you, ‘Hey look, I just saw the sun peep out…’ that’s a change in attitude because you’re looking for better things. Everything in life is about YOUR attitude. No one can change it for you.”

My best memory of my mother is a funny one.

Often, we would make a pilgramage to Klein’s, a behemoth department store in lower Manhattan. We would venture into the most expensive aisles where she would see something she loved. But she’d never buy it right there and then: “I will buy that $25 dress at $10 and not a penny more!”

It drove me crazy!

Then, like we were in some grand heist, she’d whisper: “If I stick this in the $10 aisle they’ll never know. And next week we’ll come back…”

And we kept coming back until eventually a clerk assumed the $25 item needed to be marked down to $10. As long as no one else purchased the discounted item before my mother, she eventually got her bargain.

Such insane stick-to-i-tive-ness.

I now also realize that we are often uncomfortable with those who embody traits that we don’t like to own up to in ourselves.

But I accept all of this about my mother. I know I could never have changed her, or my past. But I CAN choose to change the effect that past has on me now, and in the future.

Acceptance…a better gift than flowers for my mother — and myself.

Until next time…keep thinking the good thoughts.

— For more than 30 years, Rona Barrett was a pioneering entertainment reporter, commentator and producer. Since 2000, she has focused her attention and career on the growing crisis of housing and support for our aging population. She is the founder and CEO of the Rona Barrett Foundation, the catalyst behind Santa Ynez Valley’s first affordable senior housing, the Golden Inn & Village. Contact her atinfo@ronabarrettfoundation.org. The opinions expressed are her own.