Ana Veciana-Suarez

A letter to a much-missed mother

Sira Veciana, the mother of Miami Herald columnist Ana Veciana Suarez, who passed away on Aug. 4, 2002.
Sira Veciana, the mother of Miami Herald columnist Ana Veciana Suarez, who passed away on Aug. 4, 2002.

Dear Mami,

Here we are again, another May.

Though I miss you on special occasions and during the unforgiving routine of daily life, it’s the jabbing reminder of Mother’s Day that serves to accentuate the loss. It’s an ache that homesteads under my heart, secure in its claim, impervious to the passage of time. Yes, all these many years later, I still long for the comfort of your presence. I now understand why dying soldiers cry out for their mothers, why women in the anguish of labor insist on the respite only a mother can offer.

I remember those Mother’s Days growing up. Nothing fancy, maybe crayoned cards, perhaps a trinket or two. Certainly no uptown Sunday brunch. Too little money, too many of us. But — and surely you’ll recall this one detail — we always wore a red carnation pinned to our homemade dresses. The red symbolized life. It meant you were alive. For the past dozen years, if that custom is still practiced somewhere, I might’ve worn white.

As a mother and grandmother now, I realize what an outsized influence you had on me and on the generations that have followed. Though I don’t favor you in looks or temperament, so much of who I am — what I’ve become — I owe to you. My resiliency, for sure. My capacity to work, and work, and work, when others have clocked out. My ability to juggle competing demands. My uncompromising expectations of my own children.

Like you, I parent in a way that is both exacting and loving. Or at least I like to think I do. I don’t ever ease up. You had few tools, except the belt and the scowl, but now technology has become my ally. I text, I email, I Skype, I Facebook and FaceTime, All and anything to get my message across: Stay hungry. Stay humble. Kick ass.

Like you, I feel it my duty, when the situation warrants it, to give the kids a piece of my mind.. Even as they move on to their own successes, I remain their mother. They won’t soon forget that. Maybe I’ll learn to be more circumspect one day. Maybe I’ll tire. Maybe I’ll move on to more compelling interests. Not likely. I believe it’s better to admonish with a loving heart than to keep the peace in a bow to apathy. Who taught me that?

Like you, I’ve tried to give my children wings. I’ve told them to follow their heart, even when I haven’t agreed with their choices. Now I understand how I crushed your hopes (and Papi’s, too), when I announced my career ambitions. Writer, what kind of profession is that?

Like you, I’ve worked hard to pass on a family treasure map, a moral GPS to guide my children long after I’m gone. Sometimes I’ve missed a turn or sped through a red light. Sometimes I’ve forgotten the cardinal points of kindness and compassion, fairness and generosity. But a while back I also learned from my first teacher that there is an irrepressible joy in getting back on track.

So here we are again. Another year, another May. I’ve grown grayer but happier. I need more light to read but can see more clearly. I’ve endured my fair share of heartbreak, but that has made the good times all that more precious. Since you’ve been gone, life has been good, life has been interesting.

Still, at times, regardless of abundance or paucity, I think: Mami. I want my Mami.

A daughter.

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