Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | May 9, 2015

She’s one of the greats

Happy Mom at the Maki Family Reunion last summer.

Happy Mom at the Maki Family Reunion last summer.

I don’t enjoy manufactured holidays. They seem forced, a product of marketing and consumerism. But I like Mother’s Day.

First of all, Moms deserve their day. My Mom included — and especially.

I’m going to state the obvious here, and this in no way is intended to slight the contributions that dads make, and grandparents, and aunts and uncles, and good friends. It does take a lot of people to help turn a demanding, ego-centric, sometimes jerky child into a thoughtful, caring, productive and loving human. That shit does not happen by itself. And moms do a lot of the heavy lifting. They just do.

When I think back on some of the garbage I pulled on my Mom (and Dad, of course), it’s a wonder she still speaks to me. I snuck out of school with friends in 9th grade to get drunk — and did I. She had to drive out to Lannon Quarry to rescue my wretched self. A few years later, I wrecked her favorite car. I got multiple speeding tickets. I threatened to drop out of college after one year so I could work in a factory. I threw countless temper tantrums and said disrespectful things — from time to time. Once, memorably, she told me and my brothers we were going to send her to the “insane asylum.” I don’t doubt we tested her patience.

But she stuck with it, and these days I’m pretty sure she thinks I’m OK. I don’t want to assume.

Even a broken ankle can't keep a good woman down.

Even a broken ankle can’t keep a good woman down.

What she taught me along the way was toughness, and patience, and perseverance, and consistency, and, well, toughness. She broke her ankle before she married my Dad in 1959 — but that didn’t stop her. She just rolled into the ceremony and off they went. I don’t think they did much polka dancing that night, but they’ve done plenty since then. She had three sons and then went back to college to finish her degree and become a teacher. She was diagnosed with breast cancer right before Christmas one year awhile back. When the doctor suggested she postpone surgery until “after the holidays,” she said: Nope, let’s do this. Like I said, tough.

Once we became parents, my Mom was always a phone call away. She saved us on more than a few occasions. When we moved from California to New York (when Jenna was only 11 months old), Mom flew to Laguna Beach with another granddaughter for a visit. A few days later, she flew back with the baby and our niece on a red-eye flight to Milwaukee while Melody and I jetted off to NYC to hunt for an apartment. On Mom’s flight back to Milwaukee, Jenna cried the whole way. Did I mention it was a red-eye flight? Yeah, there was no sleeping but plenty of red eyes, no doubt. But my Mom did that kind of thing without complaint or concern for her own well-being. She always did what needed to be done. As most moms do. I see you out there, moms. I know who you are!

A few years later — after we had moved from New York to Minnesota — we attempted to do the Disney World vacation (as you do). But we had to race back from Florida when it became apparent that Jenna had contracted chicken pox. We left the Sunshine State for the Ice Cube State, which of course was in the midst of one of those week-long stretches of below-zero (Fahrenheit) temps. When we got back, Melody and I had to go to work. But because Jenna was sick, our childcare situation was out. No worries. Mom rushed over from Wisconsin and helped us through one the toughest stretches of weather and parenting — again, without hesitation and without complaint. I know we could have done it without her, but I sure am glad we didn’t have to.

Grandma and Jenna, many years after the

Grandma and Jenna, many years after the “pox.”

My Mom (like my Dad) has always been there. It’s how I learned to “be the best me that I can be.” I might not always live up to their  standards — it seems impossible, frankly — but I try. And I know what it looks like to be a great parent, a great mom, someone who puts her own needs on the back burner so that her child’s (or grandchild’s or great-grandchild’s) needs are tended to.

So as Melody and I prepare for our return trip home from Bulgaria — and a year of closer contact with the two best parents a kid could ever hope for — I’m so happy that I get to say, “Happy Mother’s Day,” Mom. Oh, and make sure you get yourself set up to cook some of my favorite meals. After all, what’s the point of being a Mom if you can’t spoil your kids from time to time?

Thanks, Mom.



  1. Mark, I am truly verklempt. This is a beautiful piece of writing and has brought tears to my eyes. Your mom is a very special person and I treasure the times she came to book group. Thanks for bringing to my mind my own mother who died much to young and before I was really old enough to articulate how much she meant to me, did for me, and impacted my life. Happy Mother’s Day to all!

  2. You’ve done it again. Beautifully written. Tears. What a lovely tribute to your Mom, who is indeed a very special lady. Glad I married you so I could have her in my life, too 🙂

    • I’m glad, too, that you found Mark so I could have you in my life.

  3. Mark, What a wonderful tribute! Thank you. It was easy to be a parent to a great son. Love to you both and looking forward to giving you a big hug.

  4. Your mom is indeed one of the greats … and you’re the proof. Thank you for this beautiful and sweet post, Mark.

  5. Beautiful words for an even more beautiful person. We are all so lucky to have her in our lives!

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