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  • Writer's pictureMary Fichtner

An Open Letter to My Mom

Dear Mom,


I know you had a really long day today as I took you to three different appointments, all with the goal of helping you feel better. You completely trusted me and it is an honor to care for you now that you will be 89 soon.


Every time I say I am coming to help you, you try and talk me out of it. I never listen as I know it is your way of trying to take care of me.


As many say happens in time, our roles have reversed.


The year has been one of your hardest yet but you’ve been strong, brave, and kept your keen sense of humor as always. Your life-mate and husband of 68 years fell and broke his hip for the second time and you lived apart for almost 5 months for the first time in those 68 years. Now that he is home you said you are a qualified CNA without the certificate, a fact that cannot be argued.


You have also been challenged with your own health issues, but I have watched you overcome every day facing hard things and I am amazed. It has been an honor to watch you navigate with a whole lot of grit and all the moxie you have fought so hard to acquire.


I just want you to know that as I care for you in new ways it has helped me too.



I have a lot to say to you and so I thought I would write this letter. You have asked for my forgiveness for all your mom fails and I have told you I forgive you but want to make sure that you know those are not just words.


I forgive you for all the times you weren’t there for me and for the damage to my heart. There have been times I didn’t like you very much.


After knowing your story better and with each passing year, I understand more and more that you mothered me the very best you could. I have learned to let go of the bad and hold on to the good. And there is so much good.


This letter is to thank you for each great thing, specifically and with full and honest gratefulness. So here we go!


1. Thank you for your sense of humor! You passed it on to me and it is the best! In spite of how hard our life was at times, we laughed hard, we laughed often, and we laughed a lot. I believe in many ways it saved us.


There have been lots of times in my life when I realized what a gift this is but one that stands out was a time when I was riding in a taxi with my husband and another couple and I was laughing hysterically at a story. As a matter of fact, I was laughing so hard and so loud I was shushed a little. To that, the taxi driver commented, “Don’t shush her! I have never laughed that hard in my entire life!”


I can’t count the number of times when things were going south with my kids and your sense of humor saved the day! For example, the pig show at the county fair in 2008. But that is a story for another time.


This gift has been passed on to my kids and now we laugh hard and we laugh a lot when we are together.




2. I would like to thank you for your modeling of stellar social skills. And people skills. You are the best saleswoman I have known and I have known many. As I worked with you, I witnessed customer after customer who could not wait for your sales call.


Over and over, they trusted you to make choices for them. I observed how you made them laugh and how you built trust with them by creating not just business partnerships but friendships.


As you always said, “A great salesperson can sell things to people they didn’t realize they needed,” and that is exactly what you did. They would buy so much they would question their sanity when they got home but couldn’t wait for the next time for you to sell them whatever else they didn’t need.


To this day our family experiences your sales skills regularly buying your “Big Ideas,” as you like to call them.




3. Thank you for sharing your love of fashion and personal grooming. You set the bar high for always looking your best, in style, and making a statement on a limited budget. It is an art.


You have modeled that what you wear on the outside truly reflects how you feel inside and who you are. Understanding fashion, trends, putting things together, being unique in style, and recognizing things that are timeless in a wardrobe are powerful tools for living your best life. It adds fun and interest to life.


I learned if you’re having a bad day but you at least like what you’re wearing, it’s not as bad as it could have been. I learned that dressing well makes people take you more seriously.


You showed me that wearing clothes we like communicates we care for ourselves and therefore others. Maybe you learned it because you were shuffled around as a kid after the loss of your mom and wanted to fit in, a special gift from the scars of your childhood.




3. Thank you for modeling love and acceptance to all you meet. This one I haven’t quite gotten down yet. But I have watched you over the years bring many, many undesirables into your home to try and help them, love them, and accept them. All the while you gave up and sacrificed things for yourself.


Maybe it’s a little bit of why I struggle with this one. It was to your detriment sometimes. It sucked the life out of you at times, but you still did it.


You always see the best in others. You never say no to helping another. When people come to your house, they will be fed, lots of food. Whether they want to eat or not.


Our trailer was the one at the high school rodeos that all the kids wanted to be at for this reason. Your house is Grand Central Station to this day! I can’t even count the number of people that want you to be their mom.


It was hard to share sometimes but it has always been obvious that it is what you wanted. I am still working on this one, thank you for guiding the way.


4. Thank you for showing me the fun and rewards of dancing. You and dad are two of the best dancers I know.


You and dad’s first date was to go dancing and you continued until this last year when it wasn’t possible anymore. I never realized it wasn’t a normal thing for most couples until I got older. I have learned there is something magical about dancing with your spouse.


It has given Fred and I something to do together, it has helped us forget our problems for just a little while, it has taught coordination and rhythm, and it added a unique activity that many never get to experience. It is also bonding and I have noticed that when dancing with Fred all is right with the world for that time. It is something we can do together for most of our lives.


The importance of this gift can’t really be overstated. And as you told my kids, your beloved grandchildren, always pick a spouse that will dance with you. It is one of the best things you can do for your marriage. There is so much wisdom in that.



5. You have never been a complainer and that has spoken volumes to all of us. It has made it hard to take the best care of you at times because you refuse to admit you are hurting. I always know your goal is to keep moving forward even though you may be struggling.


Your childhood taught you to “buck up” and you have lived your entire life that way. “I’m doing great,” is your mantra. That way no one will tell you that you need to slow down or that you should consider resting or missing an event. I really respect this about you.


Nobody wants to be around a complainer or whiner and you have never been willing to own that title or be accused of either. This makes you gritty and graceful and an example for all.



6. You set such a high bar for how to be a grandmother I am not sure I will ever get over it. The proof is in the pudding on this one. Otherwise, your grandkids wouldn’t come to stay with you, call you, help you, and save some of your amazing voice messages.


You played with them, fed them, listened to them, went to all their events that you could, cheered them on, believed in them, and let them be who they are. It has been astounding to watch. And it wasn’t only your own grandkids but some adopted ones too.


I am fairly certain you will never understand the impact this has had on your grandkids and how it will transform generations.




7. And this may be the most important, thanks for teaching me to never give up. We have actually laughed at your never give up spirit a few times because there are a few things you do need to give up, such as making a lot of strong suggestions for Dad.


I love how you make fun of yourself by saying, “Is it my fault I know what everyone else should be doing?” But you have never, and I do repeat never, given up on trying to be better. Trying to love better. Trying to listen better. Trying to take care of yourself better. Trying to be a better mom, friend, and grandmother. And now a great-grandmother.


I think it would be a strong bet to claim most people your age wouldn’t attempt a millionth of what you do. You go to exercise classes, swimming, investment club, meetings of all sorts, a sewing club, renting a booth at the Antique Mall, and taking care of Dad.


I know you haven’t been able to do some of these things lately but I am confident you will be back in the saddle soon enough. This spirit and strength are past valuable and amaze me every day and also what has kept you young.




One last thing, dad reminded me the other day that during my young years, you had taken up smoking. When you asked me what I wanted for Christmas I told you all I wanted was for you to quit smoking.


So, you did that. Until the moment in time when Dad reminded me of this gift, I never realized its magnitude. I have heard it is one of the hardest habits to break and to do it for your 12-year-old daughter is way passed honorable and loving. Thank you for that…a huge act of love from you to me.


So, here’s to you mom! You have never gotten the accolades you deserve! You chose to keep me, raise me, love me, and even though I didn’t come out unscathed, there is no other mom I would have wanted to have. Love you lots!


Your third child, Mary

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