Saturday, May 08, 2010

Mother’s Day, in which I give Nancy Rae Rhys the Floor.

Yes, I'm back, and I'm lazy, too, 'cuz this is a post from 2010. It's old, but it's apt. 


For Mother’s Day, I thought I’d tell you all about my mom. Instead, I’m posting this letter she wrote to me about a month before I got sober. It says more about her than I ever could.

A little background: She had just visited my husband and me in Kalamazoo, Michigan. A lung cancer survivor, she drove all by herself from Albuquerque and back in her little red Datsun.

Just a few months later, she would learn that she had several malignant, and inoperable, brain tumors.  That’s when we moved to Albuquerque.

Mom died a month and a half after she saw me pick up my one-year chip. She was 52, and had nearly 11 years sober herself.

Until today, I've never shown this letter to anyone except my current sponsor and my daughter. I haven’t changed a word, although I have shortened it.  I would have preferred to leave out some other parts, but I believe she would have insisted that I leave them in. So, I did.  Sadly, I’m just now learning the lessons she was trying to teach me back then. Even so, her letter has helped me through countless difficult times.

Mom, thank you. I love you always.

June 29, 1981

Dear Lynne,

I think we haven’t had much chance over the past ten years or so to have mother-daughter – or woman-to-woman talks. I hope Donald will understand if, because of this feeling, I sometimes write to you separately. I don’t mean to exclude him at all. But he has had a mother all his life and you haven’t had your fair share of mothering.

I got the feeling when I was with you that there are some things you don’t know about Lynne. I am your mother and allowed to be prejudiced in your favor. But I am also a mother in the unique position of having seen you so seldom as you changed from a child to a woman, that I am quite objective about you in many ways.

You have heard it so often you don’t hear it – If I could have any daughter in the whole world, I would choose you. I have told Bob the same about a son. These are not just words to me. It is a prayer of thanksgiving. I am twice blessed and my gratitude is boundless.

Lynne is beautiful, intelligent and she has a good heart. That is the way it is. Perhaps a mother could want more in a daughter, but I can’t imagine what it would be. Perhaps a human being could want more in another human being – but what?

I am going to assume you know you are intelligent. If you question that, let me know and I’ll address the question. I have answers that have nothing to do with my opinions or observations. If you don’t give Lynne credit for outstanding intelligence, it’s time you do that.

You are beautiful – physically beautiful. I don’t use the words often because I believe it is seldom appropriate. But you are a beautiful young woman. I know you are not aware of your beauty. I think that’s a terrible waste. It is nothing to gloat over or take credit for. But it should surely be appreciated and cared for.

You quit hiding that beauty, and I guarantee you, Lynne will be one helluva beautiful woman. 

It has taken me 50 years to accept my attractiveness. And the Nancy I finally accepted as attractive has outrageous scars and a face that aged from the illness.

You don’t have to do that to Lynne. I want desperately for you to begin to allow Lynne to live now.

Okay – as for the good heart. You have tried to be good all your life. I’m not saying you’ve been good every minute or that there aren’t times when you just say, “The hell with it, I’ll just be bad.” No one is good every minute. (But) you’ve never been able to avoid trying to be good for very long. You have sought approval from other people – so you have tried to be good as you thought they wanted. But we can’t read the other guy’s mind.

The only “good” we can rely on is our own instinct to be good. I am human – not bad. I’m quite practical, loving, try to be honest and fair with others, mean no harm to other people, and believe everyone has a right to share my world. I think these are good instincts. I believe I have a good heart. I’ve a long way to go, of course. But I am working my life in the direction of acceptance of this one of God’s children.

I am obligated to know your instincts as best I can. You have a good heart, in my opinion.

If you could have any daughter in the whole, wide world, wouldn’t you choose one who is intelligent, beautiful and has a good heart? And wouldn’t you want for her to accept herself as she is?

I want you to learn to accept my daughter as she is – intelligent, beautiful and good-hearted. That’s worth fighting for. And, honey, I’m gonna fight for it.

If we were closer I could tell you all these things in bits and pieces as we go along. I would keep reminding you that you are intelligent, beautiful and have a good heart. We don’t have that luxury. But we do have cheap paper and pens. We do have 18 cents for a stamp. We do both express ourselves in writing when we choose to.

So – whatever –

I love you right where you are right this minute – and this minute – and this minute. That is a given. So you might as well stick it in your personality computer system’s memory and push the memory button a hundred times a day. You won’t figure in enough love – but you’d be on the right equation.

The message is acceptance and love.



  1. What an amazingly intimate letter to receive from your mother, how beautifully stated. Do you realize how fortunate you are? That your mother took the time top put these words down so explicitly on paper?

    You can honor her words by, you know, believing them. Trust your Mom, Lynne.

  2. Thank you, Lynne, for sharing this letter. We've never met in person - not yet anyway - but I've read enough of your writing to know that your mother was right about you. ~Bea