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A Date with Mom

Glurge:   A deceased mother finds a way to tell her son what their last dinner together meant to her.

LEGEND

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, 2005]

After 21 years of marriage, my wife wanted me to take another woman out to dinner and a movie. She said, "I love you, but I know this other woman loves you and would love to spend some time with you."

The other woman that my wife wanted me to visit was my mother, who had been a widow for 19 years, but the demands of my work and my 3 children had made it possible to visit her only occasionally.

That night I called to invite her to go out for dinner and a movie.

"What's wrong, are you well?" she asked. My mother is the type of woman who suspects that a late night call or surprise invitation is a sign of bad news.

"I thought that it would be pleasant to spend some time with you," I responded. "Just the two of us."

She thought about it for a moment, and then said, "I would like that very much."

That Friday after work, as I drove over to pick her up I was a bit nervous. When I arrived at her house, I noticed that she, too, seemed to be nervous about our date. She waited in the door with her coat on. She had curled her hair and was wearing the dress that she had worn to celebrate her last wedding anniversary. She smiled from a face that was as radiant as an Angel's. "I told my friends that I was going to go out with my son, and they were impressed," she said, as she got into the car. "They can't wait to hear about our meeting."

We went to a restaurant that, although not elegant, was very nice and cozy. My mother took my arm as if she were the First Lady. After we sat down, I had to read the menu. Her eyes could only read large print. Half way through the entries, I lifted my eyes and saw Mom sitting there staring at me. A nostalgic smile was on her lips. "It was I who used to have to read the menu when you were small," she said. "Then it's time that you relax and let me return the favor," I responded.

During the dinner, we had an agreeable conversation — nothing extraordinary but catching up on recent events of each other's life. We talked so much that we missed the movie. As we arrived at her house later, she said, "I'll go out with you again, but only if you let me invite you." I agreed.

"How was your dinner date?" Asked my wife when I got home.

"Very nice. Much more so than I could have imagined," I answered.

A few days later, my mother died of a massive heart attack. It happened so suddenly that I didn't have a chance to do anything for her. Some time later, I received an envelope with a copy of a restaurant receipt from the same place where mother and I had dined. An attached note said: "I paid this bill in advance. I wasn't sure that I could be there; but nevertheless I paid for two plates — one for you and the other for your wife. You will never know what that night meant for me."

"I love you, son."

At that moment, I understood the importance of saying in time: "I love you," and to give our loved ones the time that they deserve. Nothing in life is more important than your family. Give them the time they deserve, because these things cannot be put off till "some other time."
 

Origins:   Our earliest sighting of this story was its appearance as an Internet newsgroup post in November 2005, and it has landed in the snopes.com inbox many times since then. While the item is lacking in checkable details (no names, dates, or locations are given) and is therefore not subject to being vetted or disproved, it is clear that whatever its veracity may be, there is something in the tale itself that resonates with
people.

The moral of the story about a final dinner shared by mother and son is that praiseworthy tasks should be performed in the here and now rather than put off for some later date. The narrative drives home its message by having the mother die shortly after her evening with her son, thereby underscoring the lesson that "someday" doesn't always come — that the people we always promised ourselves we'd find time to be nice to don't always live long enough to see it. "Follow the dutiful son's example and act now," says the tale, "lest for you and yours tomorrow not come."

The cyber-circulated version of this tale is a shortened form of a piece that appeared in Reader's Digest in 1995, and that a condensed version of a longer article from Woman's Day. This David Farrell story, titled "That 'Other Woman' in My Life," does not, however, conclude with the death of the mother; instead, that one dinner works to form the basis of ongoing interaction between them which itself works to further enrich the writer's life. Here is how it ended in Reader's Digest, picking up from the point in the story where the son tells his wife he'd enjoyed his evening with his mother more than he'd thought he would (which occurs just before the "died of a massive heart attack" section in the online version):
Mom and I go out for dinner a couple of times a month. Sometimes we take in a movie, but mostly we talk. I tell her about my trials at work and brag about the kids and Peggy.

Mom fills me in on family gossip and tells me about her past. Now I know what it was like for her to work in a factory during World War II. I know how she met my father there, and how they nutured a trolley-car courtship through those difficult times. I can't get enough of these stories. They are important to me, a part of my history.

We also talk about the future. Because of health problems, my mother worries about the days ahead. "I have so much living to do," she told me once. "I need to be there while my grandchildren grow up. I don't want to miss any of it."

Like many baby boomers, I tend to fill my calendar to the brim as I struggle to fit family, career and friendships into my life. I often complain about how quickly time flies. Spending time with my mom has taught me the importance of slowing down.

Peggy was right. Dating another woman has helped my marriage.
In 2006 someone thought to reposition the Internet-circulated piece's message about the importance of doing good things before it's too late into an "in praise of mothers" offering by appending this coda:
Somebody said it takes about 6 weeks to get back to normal after you've had a baby . . .
Somebody doesn't know that once you're a mother, "normal" is history.

Somebody said you learn how to be a mother by instinct . . .
Somebody never took a 3-year-old shopping.

Somebody said being a mother is boring . . .
Somebody never rode in a car driven by a teenager with a driver's permit.

Somebody said good mothers never raise their voices . . .
Somebody never came out the back door just in time to see her child hit a golf ball through the neighbor's kitchen window.

Somebody said you don't need an education to be a mother . . .
Somebody never helped a 4th grader with his math.

Somebody said you can't love the 5th child as much as you love the first . . .
Somebody doesn't have 5 children.

Somebody said a mother can find all the answers to her child-rearing questions in the books . . .
Somebody never had a child stuff beans up his nose or in his ears.

Somebody said the hardest part of being a mother is labor and delivery . . .
Somebody never watched her "baby" get on the bus for the 1st day of kindergarten. Or on a plane headed for military boot camp.

Somebody said a mother can do her job with her eyes closed and one hand tied behind her back . . .
Somebody never organized 7 giggling Brownies to sell cookies.

Somebody said a mother can stop worrying after her child gets married . . .
Somebody doesn't know that marriage adds a new son- or daughter-in-law to a mother's heartstrings.

Somebody said a mother's job is done when her last child leaves home . . .
Somebody never had grandchildren.

Somebody said your mother knows you love her, so you don't need to tell her . . .
Somebody isn't a mother.

Pass this along to all the "mothers" in your life.
Another similar glurge piece concludes with the literary device of having the sympathetic figure who died leave a special gift for the other character in the story, with said item teaching a lesson in love. While in the above tale the deceased mother leaves a prepaid restaurant bill for her son and his wife, in "The Sandpiper" the child who turns around an old curmudgeon leaves him a drawing.

Barbara "she gave him the bird" Mikkelson

Last updated:   11 May 2014

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Sources:

    Farrell, David.   "That 'Other Woman' in My Life."
    Reader's Digest.   October 1995   (pp. 159-160).