A Mother’s/Father’s Day Story

By Lloyd Graff

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I’ve always looked at the Hallmark holidays of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day with apprehension. It comes from my Dad’s anxious attitude toward his mother, who used the occasion to employ emotional extortion to exact the tribute she expected from our family.

My father lived in fear of her neurotic twists and occasional psychotic breaks. For my own mother, Mother’s Day was her day to nurture my Dad as he tiptoed through the rituals of motherly appeasement.

As a child I observed my parents’ management of Grandma Graff with a combination of amusement and studiousness. It was a lesson in the art of maintaining family peace without admitting the weirdness of our group dance.

I grew up with the dark presence of Ethel Graff at our house every Friday night and Sunday where she would routinely attempt to sow jealously and discontent. She dripped contempt for my mother, who unflappably played three cornered emotional poker with her and my father. One of my grandmother’s more transparent gambits was to ask me and my siblings, “Who do you like more, your mother or your father?”

We would play along, saying we liked them just the same, but in retrospect I wish I would have said, “I’m never going to give you a straight answer to such a ridiculously transparent and stupid question.” But that kind of honesty was forbidden toward dangerous Grandma Graff.

My father occasionally referred to a past Mother’s Day nightmare. His mother was offended one year because she felt her sister-in-law, Ida Pinkert, received better treatment on Mother’s Day than she had (which was quite possible because Ida was clearly a more beloved mother). My grandmother went into a long vituperative tantrum, which eventually led to her hospitalization in a psychiatric ward.

My dad was traumatized by this Mother’s Day spectacular. The holiday became a black mark on his calendar—a day to be navigated around, not embraced.

As a kid I got the scary message without having it explicitly stated. For me Mother’s Day and its cloned cousin Father’s Day, were like Greek Easter to me—holidays other people celebrated.

Question: What comes to mind when you think of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day?

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7 thoughts on “A Mother’s/Father’s Day Story

  1. Gopal

    Mother’s day and father’s day-
    The first thought is gratitude- that I have them both- alive, well, happy & together.
    But parents’ day as a day for celebration does not make any sense- parents need to be celebrated everyday- they are the reason for our existence.

  2. Wait For Me Too...

    As a child, it was a day for showing your parents how much love & respect you had for them. Showing up on that day was expected.  As a parent, it is merely a Hallmark holiday.  Why would I be happy to have my kids forced to send a card or come visit?  I’d rather see them every other day of the year, when they want to. 

  3. Dan Vespa


    Wow, you have just explained a typical “European Descent” person’s Mother’s / Father’s Day to a tee! It really starts to rear it’s head as the children become parents themselves and it becomes a real juggling act! Right now my Mother is making her usual demands of our time (sibling’s) to “do something” for our Father on Father’s day. But now their are our children who want to do something for us as well! Add in the “in-laws” and you got yourself a situation that I practically dread almost every year!!

  4. Larry Clayman

    We have never celebrated either day in our house. It goes back to what you said. We see no need to honor one’s parents on pre-prescribed days conjured up by card company’s to fill in between valentine’s day and Christmas. We buy each other gifts and tell each other how much we love them when that sincere emotion is strong–not on a designated day.

  5. Noah Graff


    I don’t think Mother’s Day is all bad. Sure Hallmark created the holiday to make money, but some people here are almost sounding like Jahova’s Witnesses, with this attitude of, “Everyday is special. Why should we celebrate today?” The common man needs Hallmark to spur them on to recognize someone special in their lives like a parent or a Valentine. Families get together, and people say important things to each other, which likely would not have been said otherwise. And don’t forget, Hollidays–man made or not–are fun. Not a bad thing.

    BTW–Lloyd does enjoy mother’s day. We celebrate it as a family pretty often. The blog I don’t think was necessarily to make a statement about the trivialities of mother’s day. It was more just an outlet for him to tell an interesting story about a dark part of his family life growing up.

  6. Barry Halgrimson

    Sorry to hear about your Grandma. My Grandmas were both pretty quiet. We didn’t talk much. I loved them though. Mental illness is tough. The lack of self-awareness is shocking. Like Tourette’s almost. Let’s hope we make it though with our dignity.

  7. Paul Huber

    Upon arrival in Zurich Switzerland, after working 31/2 years in the USA, I did head directly to my father’s home.
    After our warm initial greetings I did thank my father for having turned me into a self reliant young man which actually made my life in the USA a breeze.
    We both did feel very sad that mother did pass away two years earlier and I could not embrace and thank her for sparing no effort to teach me all the skills of a homemaker. I did not appreciate it as a teen, but my cooking expertise made life easy as a single man and also impressed my girl friends.
    I will never forget the life skills given to me by my parents. My they rest in peace.


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