When She’s Not Really Your Mom – But She’s Close

I went to a funeral this past week. My friend’s mom. She was a sweet woman who never came to your house empty-handed, who always had a smile and who couldn’t help but ask me, in private, if her son, my friend, was ever going to get married.

At the funeral service, and later, at the home, I saw photo albums of her when she was younger and her son was a boy, which meant I was a boy, too. And I got a little misty. I realized there are all these categories of people in our lives: parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins, friends, colleagues.

And then there’s your friend’s mom.

Over the years, your friend’s mom might carpool you to Little League. Your friend’s mom might tuck you in when you sleep over. Your friend’s mom might make a certain spaghetti or chocolate chip cookie better than your mom does – something you will never tell your mom, but the minute you get in your friend’s house you start salivating.

Your friend’s mom might bandage your knee if you skinned it in their driveway. Your friend’s mom will give you a bowl of ice cream when she’s giving one to your friend, and yours might even have a little more in it.

Your friend’s mom might point out your good behavior and say to her child, “Why can’t you be polite like that?” But if you act up or misbehave, your friend’s mom will get your mom on the phone, and that’s the end of that.

She’s there for all the big events

Your friend’s mom, as you get older, may appear kinder than your mom, or funnier, or prettier, or just newer. She might dance when your mom doesn’t. She might wear her hair down, when yours wears hers up. When your own parents seem to be badgering you through adolescence, your friend’s mom might seem like an oasis of understanding. She’ll listen. She’ll nod. But at some point, she’ll say, “You really should talk with your mother about this.”

Your friend’s mom knows her place.

Your friend’s mom will cheer for you at a baseball game, same as her own child. She’ll root for you to get into college, she’ll hug you at your graduation, she’ll say she remembers you when you were “this high.”

When you marry, your friend’s mom will be invited, and when your friend marries, you’ll hug your friend’s mom and say, “Can you believe it?”

When your friend’s mom grows ill, you’ll get a call. And when she dies, you’ll feel sympathy and grief at the same time.

A little piece of all of us

It seems now I have seen too many of my friends’ moms pass on. The kid next door. His mom died of cancer. The drummer in our garage band. His mom died of cancer. My college roommate. His mom died of cancer. My good pal here in Michigan. His mom died of cancer. Her name was Dorothy Mills. She was buried this past week.

A small news story ran as an obituary. It said in addition to raising her three sons, she was a nurse’s aide during World War II and worked for racial tolerance during the 1960s and ’70s. I never knew that. You see your friends’ moms through a filter of sweetness and hugs and cookies, a link in your chain of affection. You can forget they have lives, careers, accomplishments, dreams.

I’ve been lucky to know my friends’ moms, and with every funeral, I hold my own mother more dearly, and maybe my friends do, too. The fact is, we’re all in this together, being parents and being children. And often, when your friend’s mom dies, you lose a little of a friend and a little of a mom as well.

Contact MITCH ALBOM: 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760). Also catch “Monday Sports Albom” 7-8 p.m. Mondays on WJR. To read his recent columns in the Free Press, go to www.freep.com/mitch.

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