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Woe to the man who doesn't call mom on Mother's Day

Seriously, I know about a dozen guys who won't call their moms this Sunday. Not only that, some of them seem to wear it on their sleeves.

A Mother's Day Facebook post, for example, from one such dude a few years ago: "No, I am not calling my mom today. She knows how much I love her every day of the year. Why should today be any different?"

When I saw it, I thought: "And what would you have thought if your mom had done the same thing on your birthday when you were growing up?"

Sure, you might have buried your disappointment; and, sure, you probably wouldn't have loved your mom any less for it. You probably wouldn't have believed that she loved you any less either.

But somewhere deep inside, you would have felt a little crestfallen and a little less special.

Doesn't every kid deserve to know every once in awhile that they're REALLY loved beyond the day-to-day?

I can't think of one mother I know who fails to show this to their children on the anniversaries of their births.

Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Thanksgiving, Easter and every other holiday too.

After many decades on this planet, it seems to me that this is what mothers do. They live to make their kids feel loved.

That comes in many forms, of course. Sometimes it's tough love; sometimes it's love that gets on your nerves; sometimes it's subtle love; sometimes it's mixed-signals love; sometimes its run-of-the-mill love; and sometimes it's just what the doctor ordered -- and just in the knick of time.

When I first moved to the Twin Cities 10 years ago, I knew absolutely no one, and I while I'd found a fantastic apartment in Lowertown St. Paul, money was tight -- like REALLY tight, peanut-butter and bananas tight.

I had just left my job in Madison and enrolled in business school to get my MBA, but my financial aid wasn't coming for more than a month. The Minneapolis magazine I was freelancing for also suddenly fell on hard times and was already two months late with about a half-dozen story payments.

So I had to pinch my grocery budget like a politician pinches a lie, ration my gas, kill time with ballgames and cable TV series, play "Godzilla Meets the Toilet-Paper Monster" with my cat Rocky and explore downtown St. Paul for hours and hours at a time on foot.

All in all, it wasn't bad, actually, especially in retrospect. I was on a great adventure, and, hey, a little short-term poverty only meant that the payoff would be that much sweeter. To me, I was living a great story.

Still, after a few days of virtually no genuine human contact, it would get a little spooky from time to time.

Inevitably, that was when my mother would call.

"Hi, there. Just calling to see how you're doing," she would say.

"Doin' OK, mom. How are you?"

"Oh, we're doing just fine. Listen, are you sure you're OK? We worry about you."

"Yeah -- really, mom. Everything's fine."

Then we'd talk about my brothers and sisters, my dad's latest Bill-Clinton-is-the-devil-incarnate fixation, her crazy-lady neighbor or whatever for a half hour or so.

"OK, I'll let you go," she'd conclude. "Just wanted to make sure you're all right."

"I am indeed, mom. Thanks."

"Love you."

"Love you too."

OK, so it wasn't exactly mother-and-son poetry. But it always made my day -- like a little manna from heaven.

And, besides, how in the world did she know that it was the perfect time to call?

Like I said, this is what mothers do.

My dad, too, was a great guy. Every day, I realize just how much I'm like him, and (mostly) I thank him for that -- even though he and I had some tussles that would make D-Day look like a skip through the park.

But he was a bit of a dominator when it came to my mom, so I always secretly hoped that maybe she'd finally come into her full bloom when he was gone -- and there was never a doubt in my mind that he'd go first.

If you knew him, you'd know what I mean. Mom, meanwhile, was the picture of health for her entire life.

"Clean livin'," she used to say. "Clean livin'."

Then one day, my sister thought she looked a little pale-yellow and insisted that she see a doctor.

Less than three months later, she was dead. Pancreatic cancer, which for my money is the cruelest disease on the face of the earth. I still have a problem with the higher power over that one.

I called my mom every day after her diagnosis and visited her in Portage at least every other week. I held her hand for the last time and spoke my final words to her less than 24 hours before she died.

As is the case so often with longtime couples, my dad followed soon after.

Every year since my mom passed away, there's a gaping hole in my heart where Mother's Day used to be. I still want to call her, but I can't. I'd still like to hear about her crazy-lady neighbor, but I can't. I'd still like to tell her that I love her again, but I can't.

I hope you'll think about that this Sunday, all you too-macho-to-be-real Mother's Day scofflaws.

I mean, really, is it too much to ask for a simple phone call that makes her day? She is, after all, the woman who gave you life.

Chuck Nowlen

Chuck Nowlen joined the Star-Observer team as a business, township and general-assignment reporter in April, 2014 after a three-decade career in newspapers and magazines, and as a newsroom-management/business-planning consultant.

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