Bear gets the waterworks cranked up in Mother’s Day spot


You may or may not be a fan of the late University of Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, but chances are you got a lump in your throat if you ever saw that classic South Central Bell commercial he shot back in the 1980s.

This was a time when long-distance fees paid the freight for South Central Bell and the company recruited the popular coach to get those telephone lines humming.

In the low-def commercial, Bryant was shown sitting in a chair behind his desk and clad appropriately in a crimson sweater, though he was bare-headed without his famous hounds tooth hat because his momma always told him it was impolite to wear a hat indoors. This was also the reason he never wore his trademark fedora when his team played in a domed stadium.

In any event, Bryant brought tears to the eyes of many when he uttered these words in his inimitable growling tone:

“One of the first things we tell our players is to keep in touch with their families. We keep them pretty busy, but they always have time to pick up the phone and call. It’s real important to keep in touch. Have you called your momma today? I sure wish I could call mine.”

It’s been said those mournful closing words weren’t in the original script but were improvised by Bryant as he recited his lines and thought about his own deceased mother. Either way, it was a tender moment that belied the man’s gruff exterior and caught the viewing audience – yes, people used to actually watch TV commercials – by surprise.

I cued up that video on YouTube recently when I began thinking about Mother’s Day and was trying to figure out what to buy the beloved moms in my life. I thought about the usual books, gift cards, flowers, picture frames and other things, but nothing seemed to resonate.

To be frank, I’m in a bit of a bind because I decided to raise the bar a couple of years ago when I led a program at my church designed to inspire my fellow Methodist men to express themselves through the written word. As part of the program, and to set an example for the brave men who had the courage to pursue this project, I wrote personal letters to my mother and my wife describing the many ways they have touched my life.

I will admit both letters were printed using an elegant typeface instead of my own indecipherable chicken scratch because I actually wanted them to be able to make out the words. Even so, those letters are framed and perched on their respective night stands and serve as a constant reminder of my love and devotion to these two very special women.

I was happy to convey my feelings to those I love so dearly, but of course it presented a huge problem – what to do for an encore. Since then, Hallmark cards don’t seem to have the same impact.

As far as my wife is concerned, I made a futile attempt to count my spring cleaning labor as an early Mother’s Day gift. I figured several sweaty hours scratching around in the flower beds, digging up old roots, shoveling dirt, making mulch runs to the local nursery, performing maintenance jobs – plus chiropractor bills and ENT treatment – was worth a mint and would serve as a suitable gift.

But then she threatened to start tallying up all her hours cooking dinner, doing laundry and getting the kids off to school, so I had to retreat and regroup.

Desperate, I turned to the internet to seek out some gift ideas when I stumbled across an article about a 57-year-old mother of two who just came out and admitted having children was the biggest regret of her life. Here, in part, is what she wrote: “I cannot understand mothers who insist they want children…then race back to work at the earliest opportunity after giving birth, leaving the vital job of caring for them to strangers…Why have them at all if you don’t want to bring them up, or can’t afford to? And why pretend you wanted them if you have no intention of raising them? This hypocrisy is far more pernicious and difficult to fathom than my own admission that my life would have been better without children.” Wow!

Perhaps even more interesting was the comment section where many female readers applauded her for telling the truth and suggested many mothers feel the same way but don’t have the guts to be honest about it to themselves or others.

I’ve opined previously in this space that no person should have children until they’re completely done getting their groove on, unless they’re planning to discover a new groove in parenting, because it’s an all-consuming, transformational, dying-unto-life experience. My guess is this woman still has something she needs to prove to someone, probably herself.

I’m hoping my own mother never had regrets about bringing me into her life. She’s done a lot of things, gone a lot of places and known a lot of people, but I always felt absolutely certain my sister and I stood squarely at the center of her mortal world. A lot of things mattered to her, but nothing seemed to matter more to her than being a good mom.

On second thought, she may have had some reservations about motherhood that time she got a call from the police at 2 a.m. and was told to meet the ambulance at the hospital because her son had dang-near killed himself in a car wreck after making some stupid decisions. I can think of a few more instances where she may have had her doubts, but I don’t want to further incriminate myself.

As it is, I count my blessings daily that my mom is still around, has a very happy, fulfilling and contented life, and lives close by so we can visit frequently. As far as gift-giving goes, Mother’s Day is a breeze because she’s easy to please. I’d like to think she sees that letter on her night stand and falls to sleep at the end of every day resting comfortably in the sentiment that the love and respect her son has for her is deep, enduring and expressed clearly and indelibly right there on that page.

But I’m sure a phone call couldn’t hurt.

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