Joe Pisani (opinion): All the times I should have listened to my mother (and didn’t)

This artwork by Mark Weber relates to Mother's Day.

This artwork by Mark Weber relates to Mother's Day.

Mark Weber

I wish I listened to my mother.

She always told me to wipe down the shower, but I never did. I figured showers are supposed to get wet, right? Long after she’s gone, I have to replace the shower unit because of mold and mildew. Che stupido!

Mothers are always full of advice — when I was younger, I called it “nagging.” Unfortunately, sons and daughters seldom listen because they think they know better.

Mother’s Day is Sunday so as penance, I’d like to recall all the times I should have listened to my mother(and didn’t).

My mother told me never to judge a person by the color of their skin, their religious beliefs or their politics. OK, two out of three ain’t bad. I always judge people by their politics whether they’re Democrats or Republicans, so don’t talk politics around me.

She told me never to think the worst about a person because you don’t know what causes them to do the things they do, whether it’s the grumpy receptionist at the doctor’s office or the pontificating professor who has a meltdown if you disagree with him. I drop the ball on that one, too.

When I was a kid, she always made me try on pants before I bought them. In later years, I ignored that advice, so nothing I buy ever fits. The waist is too tight or the legs are too long. There are eight pairs hanging in my closet with stickers still on them. So try them on while you’re in the store.

She said it’s better to be a giver than a taker. All her life, she was a giver. She worked two jobs and gave money to anyone who needed it. And most of the time she needed it more than they did.

She ignored expiration dates. What does the government know anyway? She didn’t follow the science, but we all lived to tell the tale. There was the time at Christmas when she took a Friendly’s Jubilee Roll out of the freezer, and all the grandkids were digging into the ice cream, until my oldest daughter asked, “It’s Christmas so why is this ice cream red, white and blue?” She checked the box and discovered it was from Fourth of July ... two years earlier. After the screaming subsided, my mother got a chance to give her defense and told us emphatically: “Food lasts forever in the freezer.” So be sure you have a good freezer.

Floss every day. She learned this lesson the hard way because she never flossed as a girl during the Great Depression, when they were happy just to have a toothbrush. Later in life, she had periodontal problems. So floss until your gums bleed. You won’t regret it.

Keep your shelves stocked. During the Depression, she quit school in eighth grade and went to work at Kresge to support her family. Many nights she went to bed hungry. Years later, she kept the pantry full so her family would always have food on the table.

She said the most important thing you can do is say your prayers at night because you never know if you’ll wake up in the morning ... and you’ll need that little bit of insurance.

Be there for your family. She would get up and leave any time of the day or night to help someone. After she died, my cousin who suffered from mental illness would say, “I wish Auntie Dolly were here. She’d know what to do.”

And I can never forget the times she told me, “Joe, drink just one beer. You don’t need to drink the whole six-pack.” Wow, I should have listened.

For all her advice, my mother wasn’t perfect. There was one thing she couldn’t do. She couldn’t say, “I love you.” Not to her kids or grandkids, probably because as a girl she was never told, “I love you.” At the end of her life, when she was bedridden with cancer and Alzheimer’s, her granddaughters visited her one last time and told her, “We love you, Grandma.” But she could only whisper, “Me too.”

That was the closest she could come to saying, “I love you,” but it was close enough because after a lifetime of caring for everyone else, we all knew the depth of her love.

And so, Mom, wherever you are — and I hope it’s the good place — I love you.

One last thought. Our mothers may not be perfect, but neither are we, so if you’re holding a grudge, make up today. As a bricklayer I once worked with, named Dickey Dare, told me: “Kid, nobody’s ever gonna love you the way your mother does.”

Happy Mother’s Day.

Former Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time Editor Joe Pisani can be reached at