Telling my mother I loved her used to be so much easier.
It was built in to my daily life.
I never went to bed — 9:30 p.m. every weeknight, no exceptions — without telling my mother I loved her. My school day started with me walking out the front door to the school bus and her giving me a hug and a peck on the cheek. When I got home from school, she was there to greet me, ask me how my day was and give me my daily post-school snack — a bowl of Ramen noodles.
There wasn’t a day that went by in which we did not tell one another, “I love you.”
Even when I went away to college, things didn’t change between us. There was a letter in my mailbox almost every day, each and every one of which closed with, “Love, Mom.” My phone bills were always higher than most other college kids, because we spoke every day on the phone. Whether I had a good day or a bad day, I knew she was only a phone call away, waiting to tell me how much she loved me.
When I moved back home after college, it was as if nothing had ever changed. My work day began and ended with my mother there to tell me how much she loved me. When I finally moved out of my parents’ house — at the tender age of 27 — she wept.
“Now I’ll have to be all alone with your father,” she said as she wiped away the tears. “I love you.”
Our love for one another hasn’t changed since I got married and had children of my own — but our lives have. I still see her several times a week and we still talk on the phone, but we don’t talk speak every day like we used to. And she’s not always there at night to tell me she loves me and for me to tell her how much I love her.
We don’t get to tell one another those simple, three words on a daily basis.
My mother used to have a saying she used to repeat often as my two brothers and I were getting married. Come to think of it, she had a lot of sayings. Whenever it was getting late and didn’t want to go to bed, she would always say, “When fun is best, it’s time to rest.” When she caught us with our elbows on the kitchen table while we ate, she would say, “All children fine and able, keep your elbows off the table.”
We called them mom-isms.
Before my brothers and I were getting married, she would frequently say, “A daughter’s a daughter for all of her life; a son is a son until he takes him a wife.”
The meaning was simple: When a son gets married, his new wife and subsequent children become the center of his life — and mom’s frequently are forced to fade into the background. I never thought that would happen to me.
But it did.
There were times I couldn’t call because I didn’t think there was enough time in the day to pick her up and give her a call. And besides, I could always call her tomorrow, right?
But as she gets older, I’m starting to wonder … what happens when there is no tomorrow?
Recently, my mother — who also just happens to be a beloved teacher at Saint Patrick Elementary School — had a health scare that put her in the hospital for nearly two weeks. Without going into too much detail — mostly because I know how much she would hate that — it was a frightening situation. She had a pair of seizures, the second of which came while she was in the hospital and saw her breathing and heart stop for the briefest of time.
There is nothing worse than having your sister call you on your cell phone and say, “You need to get to the hospital immediately … it’s mom. Just get here.”
The good news is she is out of the hospital and well on her way to recovery. She is the same lovable curmudgeon her children — her five children and the hundreds she has taught over the years — have come to know. She’s going to keep fighting the same way she has for the past 76 years of her life.
But in the days since she went into the hospital, I’ve had some time to reflect. How many times did I miss telling her how much I love her? How many days went by in which I didn’t do something as simple as pick up a telephone and tell her much she means to me?
And really, haven’t we all done that to our loved ones at some point in time?
Take a few minutes today and tell people how much you love them. Tell them how much they mean to you and how your life is better because they are in it. Don’t let another minute pass without simply telling someone, “I love you.”
Because you never know when it will be your last chance.
Troy’s very own David Fong appears on Thursdays in the Troy Daily News. Contact him at (937) 440-5228 or email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong