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Every picture tells a Mother's Day story



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May 09, 2012 | 07:26 AM
We all have snapshots of our mothers.

Snippets of memories.

Most of mine come from a time when she was aging — perhaps the first time I really paid attention.

People have special memories of their mothers at different times in their lives.

Today, we offer two early recollections.

On one end of the spectrum is 10-year-old Reese Mikrut of Lake Geneva. She wrote the winning essay in our Mother of the Year contest. which will be announced officially next week.

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Reese recalls fondly when she was very young that she would crawl into bed in the morning with her colors and crayons and they'd draw together. "Now that I'm 10 years old and going to school we don't do that anymore," she writes, a bit wistfully.

Even earlier in life's timeline is Dick Bartal of Williams Bay.

Dick is 82. His mother turns 102 on Friday, two days before Mother's Day.

She lives in an independent care home in Indiana and uses a walker but her mind is sharp.

Dick has memories of his mother at a time even earlier than Reese — before he was born. Of course, he couldn't remember her back then. But he can summon her in real snapshots when his mother was young. A photo of his mother and father as newlyweds. His mother in a 1926 Nash. His mother in a bathing suit.

Perhaps it's the wedding photo that's the most noteworthy in one way, at least to Dick. He was born exactly nine months after the honeymoon to Wisconsin Dells.

Dick puts 30,000 to 40,000 miles on his car each year to visit her, but won't be making it this Mother's Day. One of his two brothers will visit this year.

Instead, Dick is going to have his mom's "no lettuce" salad in her honor.

One of the most vivid memories of my mother occurred in 1989, shortly before she died.

Alice was in a nursing home in Sheboygan, where I grew up. For a time, the nursing home window faced the apartment building where she lived alone after I left for college. She raised me alone since I was 6, when my father died.

I visited her when she was on her deathbed. I felt I had been a pretty oblivious child and teenager. I was into my own head, doing my own things. I felt I'd never properly thanked her.

So I closed the door and walked around her antiseptic nursing home room. It was just her and me. But she was unconscious and had been for days. She was breathing, but that was about it from what I could tell.

I started recalling out-loud times when she'd been a special mother. When she'd typed my term papers and gave me money so I could win a UNICEF contest one Halloween. How she supported me even when I underachieved, overindulged and came in too late, which was too often.

I circled the room telling stories of her motherhood during my childhood. I remember stopping in front of the window, wondering if she heard me or not. I never found out. She never regained consciousness and died a few days later.

That's one snapshot of her and me I'll never forget. It's a visual snippet in my head, every bit as powerful as anything printed could be.

So in honor of mothers everywhere, alive or not, we offer the following real snapshots of Dick's mother Anna.

As for my mother, Alice, I think I'll just remember the snapshot in my head, of her on her deathbed, and hope she was listening.

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