He was mortified by his mother — until he wasn't

Andresandhismom-zocalo.jpgAndrés Martinez, the Washington editor of Zócalo Public Square and vice president of the New America Foundation, writes a read-worthy Mother's Day piece at the Zócalo website. When he was growing up in Mexico, he writes, "I had extra reason to be mortified. Mom was just so—how to put this?—different." An American who spoke Spanish with a heavy gringa accent, and who insisted on speaking English to Martinez's friends. A Dallas native, she "loved Mexico with the passion of the convert."

Then Martinez went away to college, began his own family, and was no longer mortified by her ways. This was the first Mother's Day since he got the phone call, in February.

I would love to tell you that there was something particularly poignant or meaningful about my last conversation with my mother in February, but I can’t....

I was at the Houston airport, changing planes on the way back from a work trip to Mexico. I was seated at the counter of Johnny Rockets, having ordered a burger. I dialed Mom to tell her the trip was great, and that Sebastian (her 9-year-old grandson) and I would come see her the next day, Sunday afternoon. I asked if she had watched any of the Winter Olympics. She said yes, and we agreed it was all so beautiful. Truth be told, I probably rushed things along to get off the phone as my burger was arriving, and my flight was leaving shortly.


The day Mom died I got the call from the retirement home as I was picking up some things at the grocery store to bring to her in a few hours. Every time I pick up bananas now I remember that moment and how I abandoned my cart to run out of the store, grocery mission aborted.

The police officer sat me down in the lobby to inform me that Mom had passed peacefully in her sleep, seeming to belie the need to have a cop involved. What should be done with the body, he asked. I looked at him, befuddled, unprepared for the pace with which things were unfolding. The officer suggested that, for now, I go with a funeral home down the road and think things through overnight.

It wasn’t until about midnight that I remembered, with a jolt, what she wanted...

More at Zócalo.

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