This Mother’s Day, in particular, will be rich with memories—some of which are from events that happened long ago but that seem as if they happened yesterday.
“I’M NOT HUNGRY!” Those three words struck fear into the hearts of my parents whose exasperated sighs filled our dining room for many years. My parents would willingly testify that there were more peas pushed around the perimeter of my dinner plate than there were stars in the sky. I remember how, with deepening desperation, they tried to prepare the perfect provisions that would tempt the taste buds of this picky eater. Fortunately, at some point, I saw the GREEN light and adopted a healthy, humane diet. But little did I know that this theme would repeat itself in our household years later.
Late last spring, my 81-year-old mom was diagnosed with brain cancer. Over the ensuing weeks, as her appetite waned, she began to boycott one favorite staple after another until the only food that she could tolerate was ice cream. I became all too familiar with the echo of “I’M NOT HUNGRY,” except now it was coming from my dear mom, and I was the one doing the hand-wringing and worrying about her nutrition.
All that changed one night a few weeks later when an astonishing thing happened. Mom’s voice had become weaker, but she motioned me over to her and whispered that she wanted to tell me how proud she was of me for being vegan. She followed that by saying that it was about time that she “stopped abusing animals“ with her diet. I sat, stunned.
She proceeded to tell me that she always knew that eating animals was wrong and that she was actually a closet vegetarian as a child. But during the Depression, her dad, who was a single parent, worked hard to prepare nutritious meals for his three young children. “I didn’t have the heart to tell my dad that I wouldn’t eat the meat he’d worked so hard to put on our table,” she said. “After that, I just got lazy.” She went on, “I had a little fox terrier named Lucky whom I loved with all my heart. When I would think about eating meat, I wondered if there was really a difference between the dog I loved and the animal who ended up on my plate. I denied it for years, but there is no difference whatsoever. I don’t know how much time I have left, but I’m going to make it right while I still can.”
And that was that. From that moment on, Mom’s ice cream was nondairy, and she actually regained a bit of appetite for an occasional tomato-and-cucumber salad. She even tried a veggie hot dog on the Fourth of July. But mostly, it was vegan ice cream—and we gave her as much of it as she wanted whenever she wanted it.
We lost Mom last year, just before the holidays, but what a legacy she left with us. In fact, my dad started eating more healthful, meat-free meals. Last week, I noticed a copy of PETA’s Animal Times on his kitchen counter. “Oh, you should read that,” he said. “They have lots of great info in there about being vay-gun.” I just smiled. Broadly. My 81-year-old dad—a card carrying member of PETA. I bet my mom was smiling too.
This post is for you, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day.