Blog: Revisiting Mom

Burt Ross

Mom has been dead for over 20 years now and with Mother’s Day upon us, I still think of her often. The fact is I think about her all year, not just now.

I was a sick kid, the baby in the family, and Mom was always the protective mother. No matter how hard she tried to protect me from getting the childhood diseases of its day, I succumbed to pneumonia, measles, mumps, chicken pox and polio. 

A well read college graduate (most women in the 1920’s did not attend college), Mom spent a good chunk of her parenting days taking care of her very sick child.  When at age 7, I spent five months in the hospital after contracting polio, Mom literally did not miss a day visiting me. She had to take two buses to get to the hospital, but she did it.

When I finally got out of the hospital, Mom arranged for me to get physical therapy, took me to doctors from Milwaukee to Boston, and finally decided to have the head of Orthopedic surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital perform two operations.

Since I had lengthy periods of recuperation from the surgeries which allowed me to get rid of a leg brace, Mom had instructors teach me how to type, to play chess, to debate, and so on. When I went away to camp or to boarding school, Mom made sure that all the supervisors were aware of my situation and made the necessary accommodations.

We are all the product of our parents for good or for bad.  I realize how many skills I developed because Mom encouraged me to do things I almost assuredly would not have done were it not for her guidance. I am typing this column at a speed of probably more than  60 words per minute. I can do so looking away from the keyboard. When I was in a full length leg cast for months, Mom knew I couldn’t swim or play ball which I loved to do, so she had me learn things which she knew would help me in the future, like typing. I was even one of a handful of future lawyers who took the bar exam on a typewriter.

There is another side to having an overprotective mother. On one occasion when I was Mayor shortly after my life had been threatened by the mob, I was invited to my folks’ home for a home cooked dinner. When I didn’t arrive promptly at 6:30, Mom started to worry (there were no cell phones back then), and by 7PM, Mom decided I was in mortal danger and did what any Jewish mother would do, she called the Fort Lee police and shared her concern. Within minutes all units arrived at my apartment house armed to the teeth, and they started doing room to room searches trying to find the missing mayor who was out walking his dog.

That didn’t happen again. I called the Chief of Police and asked him to ignore all future calls from my Mom. There is no love like a mother’s love. And that’s the truth. Happy Mother’s Day.