On Love and Respect for Your Mother

It was clear to anyone who knew Dad that the love of his life was our Mom, Emily. He never tired of telling stories about significant events in their life together, or telling us things that increased our respect for her.

First dinner after their honeymoon

One of our favorites was their first dinner together after their honeymoon. They had moved into a little apartment and were beginning life together as a young couple. Dad headed off to work, and Mom stayed at home as a homemaker (as virtually all women did in those days). Dad returned from work, eagerly anticipating his first return to his lovely bride, and their first dinner together in their new place.

He described how he opened the door and announced his arrival, expecting Emily to run up and give him a kiss. Instead, he heard some kind of sound from the kitchen. He put his things down and headed into the kitchen. There was Emily, back to the door, working away at something. He began to approach her to give her a kiss, and she reeled around, put up both her hands and yelled “Stop!” She looked down at the floor, and his gaze followed hers down. He saw two plates of food on the floor, which he was just about to step on. It turns out that the kitchen was so small and there was so little counter space, Mom had just decided to use the floor as a counter.

Dad always ended the story with this line: “And I knew right then that with someone this creative and resourceful as my wife, we were going to do just fine.”

The lady he fell in love with

I’m not sure why, but as kids we were always interested to know about the “other women” in Dad’s life. Had he dated someone else? Was he ever in love with someone else? What was she like?

One night he finally cracked, and said yes, there was a lady he had fallen in love with. It was actually a couple of years after he married Mom. We braced for an exciting story! He was driving down the street, not far from our house, and he stopped at a stop sign. He looked over and saw the most gorgeous woman he had ever seen, holding a little baby in her arms. “0 my gosh,” we thought, not far from here? “It might be someone we know!” Then Dad delivered his final line: “And then I looked again and it was your mother holding your sister Vicki.”

“Oh rats,” we thought, “another boring story.” But as the years went by, we were more and more thankful that there was only one woman in Dad’s life.

On another occasion he described the incredible concern Mom took for each one of us. He recounted how she used to go around and pick up all our toys every night and put them all away. He would say, “Emily, why bother? They’re just going to mess them all up again tomorrow.” And Mom would reply, “Well, I just want them to know where to find them.” She was a devoted mother, and Dad let us know about it on many occasions.

A pillar of strength

The most sobering story he ever shared with us about Mom was a time when he thought he was going to have a nervous breakdown. He wasn’t sure what it was like to have a nervous breakdown, but he was very stressed at work, and he just decided he had to leave early and go home. He walked in the door and Mom came up to him, concerned about what might be wrong and why he had come home early. He said, “Emily, I think I’m about to have a nervous breakdown.” He then described how she looked into his eyes, read what she saw there and said, “No, you’re going to be all right.” And he knew from that moment on that he would be all right. Emily was a pillar of strength for him and for the whole family, and Dad never let us forget that.

Dad had a way of complimenting Mom while talking to others. The last time I saw this was in the hospital a few weeks before he died. I was visiting him and Mom was there. We were talking about things I was doing at work, and about this and that. He suddenly shifted the topic, and said “You know, it’s probably a real blessing that you decided to join a religious brotherhood rather than getting married.” I thought he was going to talk about the ability to dedicate my life to God, and other spiritual stuff. Then the final delivery (and the real message) came: “… because you could never have found a woman who could compare to your mother.”

I said “Amen to that, Dad!” The message had been delivered to me, and most importantly to Mom –there was no one, anywhere, who could compare with Emily. Dad delivered that message regularly, in many different ways and times, and he never tired of it.

This article is excerpted from an unpublished book, From Dad to Son: Things My Dad Taught Me About Life, © 2002 Ted Kennedy. Used with permission.

Top image credit: image of, from Bigstock.com, © , stock photo ID: 411401. Used with permission. 

Top image credit: illustration of family enjoying meal together, from BigStock.com, © by mentalmind, stock photo ID: 473609929. Used with permission. 

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