That's What Mothers Are For

John W. Fountain is an award winning journalist, tenured professor at the University of Illinois, former correspondent for the New York Times, and an editorial writer for the Chicago Sun Times.  His journey began on the rough West Side of Chicago. At a critical moment in life, his mother was there to point, maybe push him the right direction.  Reprinted below is an excerpt from his column in the Sun Times on May 10, 2012.  Enjoy, and Happy Mother’s Day! “John, I’m just glad you’re going back to school,” Mama said, beaming and bubbling over.  “I knew you could. I always knew you could. John, you can do anything you set your mind to. I’m just so happy for you.” “Thanks, Ma,” I said, my words choked with emotion. There was something else I needed to tell her: My voice cracked.

“Ma, uh, I, uh… I just want to thank you, too, Ma, for, uh, for believing in me and for being there when I needed you. I know that when you first mentioned the idea of me going back to Champaign (University of Illinois), I got so angry and said some things that I shouldn’t have,” I said, sitting in my usual crying spot on the heater.

“That’s OK, John, I understand.”

“No, Ma, I’m sorry. I just couldn’t see it. I just couldn’t see how I could go back.”

“I know,” she comforted. “That’s what mothers are for.”

I dried my eyes and walked downstairs. Mama didn’t follow. She walked back inside. I suspect that she watched from the window as we left.  As I drove away I had a feeling that the road, no matter how uncertain, led to a brighter future and that the worst was behind. But this one thing I was sure of: It was the Lord who had brought us out. Even now, 28 years later, what remains as clear is that my greatest asset was never my smarts, my tenacity, or even my faith as I sought a way up from our poverty in North Lawndale.

It was my mother.

A mother who, even when my biological father deserted us, never abandoned ship.  A mother who, even amid hopelessness, always gave me reasons to hope.  A mother who, even amid lack, always provided substance and sustenance by selfless sacrifice.  A mother who sometimes still apologizes for not having had more money, more resources, more to give- a matter I’d like to clear up once and for all.

Dear Mama, you gave me life and love. In my darkest days, it was your love that lifted me.

You alone were enough.