Dear Old Mama

I watched one of those TV award shows last night. You know the kind I mean. The award ceremonies where celebrities you’ve never heard of accept accolades for doing stuff you don’t actually care about.

There is always that miserable part of the ceremony when the winners say their thank-yous.

My wife and I watched one such winner wave his hood ornament around and read through a prodigious thank-you list that lasted about as long as veterinary school. When he finished, my wife turned to me and said, “He didn’t thank his mama.”

I couldn’t believe it.

She was right. Here was a guy on television, winning a major award, sporting a modern hairstyle that looked like it had been coiffed by electro shock therapy, and he didn’t even mention his mother. None of the other winners did, either.

Later that night my wife and I attempted streaming a popular dramatic series. I am told this particular series is popular right now. Known for its “lifelike” authenticity.

In a heated scene that depicted an argument between a teenage daughter and her mother, things got out of control. They threw stuff. Vases shattered. People screamed. Lots of crying.

The crescendo came when the daughter started cussing at her mother and called her everything but a child of God. At one point the scene became so “lifelike” that I canceled my monthly streaming subscription.

And all this has me wondering what’s happened to the image of the American mom? Our culture used to respect Mama. Mama used to be a sacred institution. Mama was everything.

Once upon a time, pro football players mentioned their mamas during Super Bowls. On the nightly news, civilians inadvertently caught on camera were required by federal law to wave at the lens like an idiot and yell, “Hi, Mom!” And on ABC prime time, “Family Feud” host, Richard Dawson, could be seen French kissing half the mothers in North America.

Even TV moms were pretty cool back in the day. I remember turning on the tube to see Caroline Ingalls, Claire Huxtable, Carol Brady, Sophia Petrillo, June Cleaver, Lucy Ricardo, or Wilma Flintsone.

Where did they go? And whose bright idea was it to replace them with Kris Jenner and the Kardashians?

And here’s something else: You would have never seen Elvis on an award show forgetting to mention his mama.

Elvis once told the world that his mother was the “love of his life.” His first hit song was about Mama. His mother, Gladys, is buried next to him in Graceland’s backyard.

Some other notable American mothers:

Mary Kay Ash. Mary Kay was 45 years old when she founded Mary Kay Cosmetics in 1963. She was a struggling single mom scraping to support three children.

Candy Lightner. In 1980 a drunk driver killed one of Candy’s teenage daughters. Within months after the accident she started Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to help pass tougher legislation on drunk driving. MADD has claimed that drunk driving has been reduced by half since its founding.

And Alberta King. Many Americans have forgotten this woman’s name. Alberta King was Martin Luther King Jr.’s mother. She had a hand in changing the world. Six years after her son was assassinated, someone shot and killed Alberta while she was playing the church organ.

There is one word in the world that is the same in nearly 6,500 human languages. It is four letters. It is the first word spoken by many infants worldwide. And according to military chaplains and medics, it is the most common final word uttered by dying soldiers in every war. Mama.

Mama taught us to work fervently, to play hard, and to love sincerely. She taught us to say we were sorry like we meant it.

She showed us how to iron our slacks. How to clean our fingernails. Mama gave us Campbell’s chicken noodle when our tummies hurt. She taught us to stand up for ourselves when Mark Tyler busted our lower lips on the playground. She made us biscuits.

Since the dawn of time, little kids have been shedding dirty clothes onto bedroom floors, and every day their clothes disappear only to reappear in dressers, cleaned and folded. It’s not magic. It’s Mama.

Mama reminded us to say “thank you,” to pray for the shut-ins, and she showed us how to seek spiritual guidance during the final innings of the ‘95 World Series.

She kissed our boo-boos, she used a Sharpie to write our names in the waistbands of our underpants. She could fix our hair with nothing but her own spit, and cure our broken heart with cubed steak. She gave us her best years and asked for nothing in return.

Maybe it’s been a while since you’ve called her. Maybe you’ve been a little busy. Maybe you ought to pick up the phone right now.

Well, if you do happen to be lucky enough to talk to your mother today, for heaven’s sake, don’t forget to thank her.


  1. Steve McCaleb - July 1, 2021 7:06 am

    YouTube: Have you called your mama today?-Paul “Bear” Bryant. Guaranteed to make a grown man cry. I’m living, dripping proof. Great post and sage advice. Hit mighty close to home. Thank you Sean.

    • Butch Veazey - July 1, 2021 4:07 pm

      Don’t forget about the line that Coach Bryant ad libbed next…”I sure wish I could call mine”

  2. Peggy ALEXANDER - July 1, 2021 7:13 am

    Yes, call them while you still can. Tell them what the mean to you. Give them a great big hug. I t means more when it is not a special day. You just doit because they are still with you and you want to let them know how much they mean to you. 💕

  3. Christina - July 1, 2021 7:25 am

    Mamas are da best!
    PS: your mama would be proud of this “speech” from you.

  4. Eileen - July 1, 2021 7:50 am

    Thankful for mine and grateful that she endured seven of us through to adulthood. Missed on earth for going on 21 years.

  5. Norma Den - July 1, 2021 8:21 am

    My Mom went to Heaven aged 64 in 1980, still missed everyday. Remember your Moms, hug them, kiss them, buy them flowers while they can enjoy them and never forget to thank them for the huge sacrifices they made for you. Too late once they’ve gone.

  6. Sandi. - July 1, 2021 9:10 am

    Reading this makes me miss my sweet Mama so much more than usual. How I wish she was still living so I could call her and remind her how much she meant to me and my siblings. If your mama is still alive, consider yourself very blessed.

  7. Lisa Bowman - July 1, 2021 9:17 am


  8. Laura Wilson - July 1, 2021 9:32 am

    Dear Abby said to write your mother a letter telling her how much she meant to you. I did and I found that later many years later when I was cleaning out mom’s house after she passed. She kept it with her important papers. How I wish I could thank her face to face again and dad too.

  9. Ernie - July 1, 2021 10:34 am

    It breaks my heart that more and more children have no idea what you are talking about. So grateful I do.

  10. Joan moore - July 1, 2021 11:09 am

    Mine was magical. Did everything a mother could do except teach me how to live without her. I love you and thank you.

    • Leigh Amiot - July 1, 2021 11:44 am

      Joan, somehow I got through Sean’s column with dry eyes, but your comment made me blink tears away.

    • Gwen - July 1, 2021 1:43 pm

      That’s exactly right, Joan. My mom passed in 2014. I’m 66 years old and I still need her and miss her just as much as the day she left

  11. eliza - July 1, 2021 11:16 am

    One of your best.

  12. Brenda Kern - July 1, 2021 11:21 am

    Great advice. I wish my mom was still here so I could give her a big hug and tell her how much she means to me. So if you are lucky enough to still have your mama call her today and tell her how much you love her and give her a big hug!

  13. Nan Williams - July 1, 2021 11:28 am

    ALL of our sacred institutions have been torn down, but I think you’ve got something there with “Mama.” Perhaps, that’s where this whole mess began – when Mama got kicked off her pedestal. If there’s no respect for Mama, how can there be respect for our nation? For our flag? For the church? etc. Yes, Sean. Once again, I think you’ve hit the nail squarely on the head. And again, I thank you,
    Mama Nan

    • Jo - July 1, 2021 3:15 pm


  14. Terric - July 1, 2021 11:28 am

    It has been 15 years, and still not a day goes by that I wish I could hug my Mama’s neck and tell her that I loved her 💕.

  15. Tinkabell - July 1, 2021 11:38 am

    It’s been almost 30 years since my Mom died…it wasn’t always an easy time with her but she was many of the special things you mentioned…especially the BISCUITS ❤ Wouls give most anything to see or talk to her today.

  16. Karen Holderman - July 1, 2021 11:41 am

    You are so right. I do miss my mom. I keep all the wonderful memories of her and the love and care she gave me tucked in my heart.

  17. Dean - July 1, 2021 11:45 am

    Sad but true. Kids today have mo respect for anyone

  18. Susiebelle - July 1, 2021 11:53 am

    Remember Bear Bryant’s encouragement: Don’t forget to call your mama. I sure wish I could call mine. “

  19. elizabethroosje - July 1, 2021 11:55 am

    My Mother is my closest friend outside of my Husband. I don’t watch TV shows of today, don’t have any subscription streaming services. Books I have and there are treasures like yours to be had. God keep us and our morhers!

  20. Nancy Crews - July 1, 2021 12:00 pm

    ❤your writing. Thank you, Mama. Miss you.

  21. Bill Collins - July 1, 2021 12:01 pm

    I live on a portion of land my Grandfather purchased in 1902. My mother arrived with my brother and myself in 1944 to this same spot. She was considered an outsider with a war baby on her hip, ( me ). She endured hardships beyond most peoples comprehension. Arriving in a southern town with hogs running around on dirt streets prior to living in a share croppers shack, no money to spare, scrapping up enough food to feed us, working in fields from dawn to dusk, snakes in the yard, bugs, etc., etc., stuff she was not use to… but she was the most caring, kind, giving person and truly a gift from God. No one on Gods green earth is more protective, loving or caring than your mother. I still miss her so much! If your mother is still living, go to her and hug her like you mean it and thank God you can still tell her how much you love her!!!! I wish I could tell my mother that.

  22. Bkr - July 1, 2021 1:02 pm

    LOVE THIS!!!

  23. cshabluk - July 1, 2021 1:04 pm

    Thank you for this. The world needs more of your written reflections on life to remind us that we are not perfect but we are all important to someone and we can try a little every day to make someone’s life a little better, a little easier..

  24. Bettye - July 1, 2021 1:25 pm

    This was one of your best! Can’t wait to see my mom one day. I’m going to thank her!

  25. Steve Moore Watkins - July 1, 2021 1:28 pm

    I thanked my mama for the Tampa Bay Lightning win last night–what you should have been watching…

  26. Leslie in NC - July 1, 2021 1:31 pm

    What Karen said. I too keep the memories of my mama tucked safely away in my heart.

  27. Laura King - July 1, 2021 1:42 pm

    My mother is still alive and I love her but not all of us get “ the mother” you are referring to. My mother has bi-polar disorder which was diagnosed in her 70’s. I am the eldest of five and had a lot of responsibility not only for my siblings but helped “raise” my mother after her divorce. I was her best friend, confidant, babysitter, house cleaner and all around support system. My mother is now a very bitter and angry woman who has children and many grandchildren who love her but she cannot love herself. She has pushed away all her friends and is now pushing away all her family. It is very painful to watch someone kill themselves in misery they create for themselves. Anytime any of us try to offer help she bites our heads off like we are her enemies. I’ve had lots of therapy over the years and the best advice my therapist told me was…”you have to be okay if your mother never is” She taught me a lot of good things…but she also taught me what NOT to do to my own children.

    • S. - July 1, 2021 5:31 pm

      Laura King, I can so relate. My mother has extreme NPD. She too taught me a lot of good things along with how NOT to treat people. She has also proven the old saying that poison destroys the vessel it is stored in to be wrong, At 99 1/2 years old, her hate, bitterness, and vengeance is stronger than ever, but has destroyed many people around her. So sad, and people wonder why no one shows up to visit some people in nursing homes or at their funeral.

  28. Amy Mack - July 1, 2021 1:54 pm

    And if you’ve still got a Mama walking on this earth love her and call her and hug her like there’s no tomorrow. Some of ours have gone to their reward and we miss them more than you can imagine.

    Great job Sean!

  29. Pam Speer - July 1, 2021 2:43 pm

    There is a poem by Billy Collins (poet laureate) which listed all the things his mother had done for him and how he repaid her with a lanyard he made at camp. It is touching and true.

  30. Hosea Long - July 1, 2021 3:03 pm

    Enjoyed reading this. It would have gone good with Mother’s Day, don’t you think?

  31. Kelly Baker - July 1, 2021 3:25 pm

    I lost my mama May 26th after a years long battle with dementia/Alzheimer’s. She was my best friend, a prolific teacher of things and my biggest supporter. I am not sure at which point I will truly break down but I imagine it will come the first time I have to cook a holiday meal without her or get up Christmas morning and she isn’t in my living room. In 46 years I have only missed one Christmas morning with my mama. I lost my dad at 13 to an oil field accident, my mom was 41 and had to finish raising her kids and forge a new life without her husband of 25 years. I truly am lost knowing I can’t pick up the phone to ask her a hundred little insignificant questions that I know she would have had an answer.

  32. Debbie g - July 1, 2021 3:31 pm

    I am thankful for my mom. And for your mama. Sean. You might have been different without her. And what would all of us have done without you Love to all

  33. Mildred McCaskill - July 1, 2021 3:55 pm

    Again, thank you Sean!

  34. Linda Moon - July 1, 2021 4:33 pm

    Your wife was very perceptive about the accolades that omitted Mama. And then, I read about the TV show with “lifelike” “authenticity”. Aren’t those two terms polar opposites? One is an imitation and one is real…but paired, they made an interesting oxymoron for this reader, Writer. I could write a tome about Mamas. The older Mamas, including mine, have passed. But a couple of younger ones I know and love are still here. When I’m with them soon, I’ll thank them for raising my grandchildren!

  35. Paul McCutchen - July 1, 2021 5:44 pm

    I am 69 years old and call my mom at least once a week sometimes more.

  36. MAM - July 1, 2021 7:05 pm

    I lost my mama 15 years ago. She was mommy when I was little and she graduated to Mom as I got older. I still often dream about her. I, too, wish I could ask her questions. Someday I will see her again when the questions won’t matter any longer. Call your mom if she’s still with us.

  37. Sandra - July 1, 2021 8:18 pm

    I am a very blessed mother, I am 76 years old and have three children. They call me every day. I have one son that calls me when he leaves work every day. He lives out of state. And when I need them they are always here. I thank God every day for the family I have. Make sure you hug your mom and tell her you love her. It will do her heart good.♥️🙏🏻

  38. Mary - July 1, 2021 9:44 pm

    Wyne Brady on Let’s Make a Deal always, at the end of the show says, Love you Mama.

  39. Jenny Young - July 1, 2021 9:49 pm

    I think many people are not confident that their mother loves them. Even in all the sacrifices she made while we grew up…things sometimes happen once we’re adults that we don’t know how to get past. My mother has been gone for 15 yrs. My mother-in-law only 4 yrs. They both were what you described when we were children but there was more to them than that. I took care of my mamma the last years of her life & we were able to work through the hard things & she knew I loved her. My mother-in-law didn’t want us…the pain of that makes it very hard to say thank you.

  40. Sonya Tuttle - July 2, 2021 1:57 am

    Sean Paul, is your mom in Heaven? You write about Mother Mary, who is a trip, but not about your own mom.

  41. Denise DeVries - July 2, 2021 11:05 am

    And do all of that before it’s too late a d she is gone. I still miss mine.

  42. B - July 2, 2021 1:46 pm

    Don’t forget about Michael Learned who portrayed Olivia Walton…
    There is a song by Glen Campbell that sums up mamas entitled “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle Rules the World.” The refrain says “There ought to be a hall of fame for mamas, Creation’s most unique and precious pearls…” Thank you, Sean for always writing from your heart.

  43. Suellen - July 2, 2021 2:13 pm

    I couldn’t find the words to comment here yesterday. I’m not sure that it will be any easier today. The best way to describe my Mom would be as the kids say “it’s complicated”. When she was in a good mood she was all of this and more but those times became fewer and fewer as she aged. Depression, dependency on prescription drugs all dulled her senses and emotions. She wasn’t there for birthdays and graduations. She would have been hard pressed to name all of her 12 grandchildren. Frequently she would ask me how many grandchildren she had. When she passed my children didn’t feel a lot of sorrow. They’d never had a real relationship with her. It was hard for them to understand my overwhelming sorrow. I was remembering the good days.

  44. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - July 2, 2021 2:15 pm

  45. Frances D Lester - July 2, 2021 7:56 pm

    Start practicing being a good, kind, generous person when you are young, and pray to God that dementia doesn’t make you depart from it when you are old!
    So thankful for Mom, Mother-in-law, Grandmother who lived that lesson for me!

  46. Sharon Clark Chang - July 3, 2021 11:32 pm

    That guy who looked like his hair had been styled by electroshock therapy–are you sure he was an American celebrity and not British PM Boris Johnson?

  47. SilkPurseProductions - July 4, 2021 1:01 pm

    Although, I never called my Mom “Mama” I am grateful every day for the strong foundation she gave me to build my life on. We lost her when I was twelve but, if it were not for that foundation I believe none of her children would have survived.

  48. Cathy Saviski - July 5, 2021 5:54 pm

    My Mama died 16yrs ago today. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t think of her, wish I could talk to her about something. It’s true what they say, you’ll never know how much you miss them until they’re gone.

  49. Bill Harris - July 9, 2021 11:22 pm

    Thank you Sean


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