Gifts and flowers are fine, but apologies also work

I hope you haven’t forgotten that today is Mother’s Day.

No worries if you did; I’ve got your back.

I know exactly what you can give your mother in no time. You won’t have to run to the store and it won’t cost you anything. Maybe a bit of personal pride or discomfort.

This Mother’s Day, give your mother what she undoubtedly deserves.

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It doesn’t matter why; it is enough to choose a transgression and live with it.

No judgment here, folks. I can’t imagine how many apologies I owed my mother over the years. I could be a cheeky little bugger whenever I wanted to; may still be, in fact.

I wish I had had the foresight to apologize more back when it still mattered, not now, after she’s been gone for six plus years.

Theodore Decker, Columbus Dispatch Underground Columnist

This is just one of those instances, an apology my mother owed but never received from her dumb son.

On the universally long and vicious arc of intrafamilial pain and cruelty, I recognize that this personal example of meanness was as petty as the person inflicting it. Moms throughout history have endured untold worse.

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That doesn’t excuse my behavior.

Like I said, I could be a brat. This particular event stuck with me in part because I was old enough to know more about it. It’s one thing to have a meltdown when you’re 5 years old. At 15, the excuses run out.

The day in question is about my age.

We were living in the southern part of upstate New York then, and we had gone with another family to spend a summer day by the lake.

The other dad owned a boat. This is the day I learned to water ski.

It’s funny how the mind works. What stuck with me over the years, other than the appalling treatment I gave my mother later that day, was not the excitement of learning to water ski, but the fear of being caught by a giant catfish.

I’ve always had an active imagination and tend to overthink everything. So this fear of the giant catfish is in character. Believe it or not, there was a basis for my fear at the time.

I fished in this lake and knew for a fact that there were some really big catfish in there.

More importantly, there had just been a story in the news that summer about a kid who was waterskiing when he was grabbed and pulled underwater by a giant catfish. You do not believe me ? The good folks at UPI have the story on file. I just reread it, and it’s exactly as awful as I remember.

I digress. Obviously I didn’t get eaten by a giant catfish that day, although I probably deserved it.

Waterskiing passed with no monster fish attacks, and our afternoon passed to a barbecue and a game of wiffle ball.

Every time I think about it, I feel like a jerk again, because it was so stupid and immature on so many levels.

It was a wiffle ball, to shout out loud. There were no stakes except that everyone is having fun. I was not being judged that day for my composure by a jury of my teenage peers. My manhood was not threatened. There was no money on the line.

My mother and I were on the same team. She wasn’t playing very well. We were losing, and I became irrationally angry.

After another mistake, I exploded and accused her of ruining the game. I didn’t want her on my team.

Benevolent as she was, she bowed out. I don’t remember what happened after that, but I’m sure my anger probably precipitated the end of the game.

Given all the other times I’ve turned out to be a less than stellar son, I know why this incident stuck with me.

I have a distinct memory of the pain on my mother’s face that day as she left a game everyone enjoyed, including her, until her irritable son ruined it.

She hid this wound well, of course. But at some point in the next 40 years, it might have been decent of me to say, “Hey mom, I hurt you that day, I saw it in your eyes, and I’m sorry. I was a jerk.”

That’s all well and good, you might say, but an apology is a pretty lousy Mother’s Day gift.

Perhaps. But anything else about moms? No one accepts lame gifts more confidently than they do.

Theodore Decker is a subway columnist at the Columbus Dispatch. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @Theodore_Decker.

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