Letters to the President: ‘My mother’s eyes’

Reporter’s Note: We hear a lot about first ladies, but usually not so much about the women who gave birth to our presidents. Still, this is a good day to think of them.

Dear Mr. President,
There is an old song that I often think of on Mother’s Day. It was written by the hugely underrated Tom Jans, and I suppose the most famous cover version was done by Bette Midler.

If you’ve never heard this tune, it is a lovely, plaintive song about a person saying he has his mother’s eyes. At first it sounds as if he means it merely in the colloquial sense. His eyes are blue, or green, or brown, or whatever color his mom’s eyes were. The song hints pretty strongly that she has gone on from this life.

But gradually you realize that it really means he doesn’t so much look like his mother, as he has her outlook. He sees life through the lessons she taught him. He sees how special he was to her, and yet how to the world he is just another nameless soul. He sees the bright hopes she tried to give him, and the deeper darkness of life that she was certainly wise enough to recognize, but perhaps shielded him from in his younger days.
And he sees his own shortcomings.

I think all of us who are or were blessed enough to have good mothers must feel some of that. If we listened to (or more likely simply absorbed) the lessons they taught, life shows us not only their wisdom, but also what they tried to protect us from – the petty cruelties, the meanness, the unfairness, and ugliness.

In a physical sense, I have my father’s eyes – pale gray, crinkled at the edges from laughter and smiling. But in a spiritual sense, they are my mother’s eyes, too. Because often I try to look at the world as she does – with kindness, patience, and love; realizing that other people, whatever their shortcomings, were once children too”¦and hopefully had a mother’s eyes to watch over them and instill in them a decency, fairness, and value that might be rekindled with just a kindly glance.
Anyway, I should wrap this up. I need to call her and say hello. I talk to her every couple of days most of the time, but you know you can’t miss a day like this. On top of which she and I need to discuss the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Man, for a widowed woman way down in Alabama, that lady just loves her hockey!


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