By CNN's Susan Garraty
President Barack Obama explained to a group of students last month while visiting Kuala Lumpur his biggest regret: he should have spent more time with his mother. In his 20’s and 30’s, the President said his busy life in Chicago as a grass roots organizer and then attorney meant that he didn’t always reach out and communicate with his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham.
“I regret not having spent more time with my mother. Because she died early - she got cancer right around when she was my age, actually, she was just a year older than I am now,” mused the President.
He added, “I realized that I didn’t– every single day, or at least more often, just spend time with her and find out what she was thinking and what she was doing, because she had been such an important part of my life.” On his way to the White House, the President wrote the book: Dreams From My Father, giving the top billing to a father he could recollect meeting only a couple of times. It’s not like he included the subtitle How Ann Dunham Shaped Me for the White House.
Latent appreciation for our mothers sometimes seems similar to the delayed recognition of some of the world’s great painters and authors whose works have little value or critical acclaim till after their death. Grown children may recount the vivid embarrassments their mothers caused during teenage years or their mom’s unyielding demands in schoolwork and chores; it can take decades to realize that those motherly machinations actually encouraged the development of many a successful adult. Take Vincent van Gogh. He couldn’t sell many of his paintings in his lifetime, and he went a bit insane in the effort. Van Gogh didn’t even think his mom would like his artwork following her Dutch puritanical upbringing. Writing in 1889 to Anna van Gogh-Carbentus, he sent along a personal portrait doubting she’d find it worthy of hanging on the wall, “I’m afraid it will disappoint you, though, and a few things seem unimportant and ugly to you.”
Van Gogh died never knowing he would become one of the world’s most recognized and lauded artists. The clean shaven van Gogh portrait he sent to his mother sold in 1998 for $71.5 million.
Not every child waits till after their mother’s passing to bestow beatitudes. Kevin Durant’s recognition of his mother during his acceptance of the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award is now viral video validation for the woman who sacrificed and pushed her son into prominence. With contagious tears streaming down his face, Durant declared his mother the true MVP.
“I look back to what brought me here,” said the Oklahoma City Thunder star. Durant noting that his mother, Wanda Pratt, held down multiple jobs even while doubling the wind sprints his coaches required he run and kept him off the streets.
It’s been a hundred years since President Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. Don’t take a century to recognize your mother. Strict and strong or chill and easy going, if she’s in the next room or it’s been a long time since you actually picked up the phone and not merely texted, take a moment on this Mother’s Day to say, “I love you.”
Susan Garraty is a producer on State of the Union. The mother of three children, she and her husband are getting ready to send their youngest off to college. He went to prom this weekend and she’s hopeful he returns home in time for Mother’s Day.