“Life doesn’t come with a manual. It comes with a mother.” Unknown

It was the mid-1950s and I was getting ready to celebrate my 8th birthday while living with my mom in central England.

As a factory supervisor in a textile mill, my mother generally worked past 6 o’clock most evenings and then the two of us would eat a very light supper except on Fridays.

Friday was the day my mom received her weekly pay packet — all cash — which meant fresh fish and chips from the Fosse Road Fish & Chip Shop.

One particular Friday, after a long, hard week at work, my mom handed me a 1-pound note asking me to run to the fish and chip shop and purchase 3 shillings’ worth of fish and a shilling’s worth of chips.

“Your Uncle George,” my mother’s youngest brother “is going to stop by so I want to save him some fish,” she said.

Handing me a 1-pound note from inside her paper pay packet, she said be sure to bring me the change. Currency in pocket, I raced to Fosse Road and brought home the fish and chips handing my mother her change first.

Ready to salt and vinegar the biggest piece of fish in the sack, my mother said, “Michael, you gave me 17 shillings back and that’s too much.”

“Well, that’s what he gave me. I got 3 shillings’ worth of fish and 1 shilling’s worth of chips.”

“Sorry, Michael, but you need to run back to the shop and return that extra shilling right now,” my mom insisted.

That’s just one of the lessons about honesty, fairness and how to treat others my mother taught me and one I have never forgotten.

It’s been said that our mothers are our first and best teachers. I couldn’t agree more.

On the second Sunday in May, we celebrate and honor our mothers with a Mother’s Day designation. For me, May is also the time 17 years ago my own mother passed away. However, the lessons she taught me about how to live a rich, fulfilling life of joy and helping others to do the same remain. These traits also live on in my children and grandchildren and hopefully they will carry on to my grandchildren’s grandchildren.

Mom’s life lessons taught me about respecting others and always trying to see the good in people no matter who they are. She always encouraged me to never look away or turn my back on someone in need.

“Be yourself,” she would insist, while reminding me that you can never be anyone else so try to always be your own best self.

Once when I told her about a schoolmate I hated, she made it abundantly clear that hatred does nothing more than destroy the vessel that carries it.

“Regretting is a big waste of time,” she often repeated, because it robs you of your joy. And she emphasized that your happiness depends on you alone, cautioning me to never let anyone decide happiness for me.

I could go on, but suffice to say those life lessons and so many more have shaped and molded me into the person I have become.

It’s been almost 17 years since my mother’s passing, but my sense of loss will never go away. I still miss her. I always will.

Mike Fitsko is a retired principal and longtime columnist from New Braunfels.

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