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Robert Hitt Neill column

Finest mother’s day gift comes from father

There have been many, many wonderful words written in honor of the women who are our mothers by many, many wonderful writers.  

I’ve written a few myself over the 22 years this syndicated column has been running, since I had a mother whom I appreciated an awful lot, and am approaching 44 years of marriage with the beautiful mother who has borne my own children, plus have been introduced in the past year and a half to the joys of grandfatherhood, or rather “Grunk-hood,” as the young man in question terms it. To become a proper Grunk requires that one of your own children must produce a child, thereby creating another mother to be honored on Mothers Day.

The most profound words I consider to have been written about mothers were, as far as I knew when I first learned these words, by an unknown author. I don’t remember, matter of fact, whether I heard someone else make the quote or whether I read the quote somewhere without attributing it to its proper author.  

“Anonymous” covers a lot of sins in the several books of sayings and poems that I regularly enjoy, and as an author myself, I have over the years figured out the truth of the old saying, “What goes around, comes around.”

Folks come up with a novel way to phrase a well-known truth, and sometimes years down the road, it gets quoted as Gospel to the original writer, except it is attributed to someone else entirely.  If it happens in a book, the second guy sometimes gets sued.

A dozen years ago, as I was doing a lot of speaking hither and yon, a lady asked me months beforehand to speak to her group on “the first Friday in June.”

While I have had Lyme Disease with its accompanying memory loss, I can pretty well remember where I’m going for the next few months. I just can’t recall where I’d been the past few months. So, without looking at a calendar, I told the lady that I could be at her function. I found out that she required me only to “speak on whatever you want to,” agreed on a fee, and plugged the occasion into my Steel Trap Mind.  

The date arrived before I realized that it was also the date of my wedding anniversary, June 3rd.  However, it was a close-to-home appointment, so I hied me off to do my duty.

It didn’t take much thought for me to decide to speak on a subject that I knew quite well: my anniversary, I told the audience a Love Story about my Bride, naturally. Especially since she was back at the house.

I even waxed somewhat poetic in places, and some of the ladies – and I’m trying to say this modestly, now – had tears in their eyes as I expressed my love for Betsy. I ended my testimony with the quote I had for years considered to be the epitome of Marriage and Family Love, although I had no idea who had originally penned the line: “The Finest Gift a Father can leave his children is the Knowledge that he Loves their Mother.”

I reckoned that I had left that Gift to my own children, thanked the lady for asking me to come speak, and sat down.

After the meeting concluded, a good many folks came down to say they enjoyed my presentation, shake my hand, hug my neck, or even to buy a book and get me to autograph it.  

The last person to greet me wore a policeman’s uniform. And he had a little book in his hand. I quickly thought back to where I had parked my pickup, but couldn’t remember a parking meter, nor that I’d seen a handicapped space to ignore. Surely he hadn’t observed me speeding to the meeting, tracked me down, and now was going to give me a ticket?

Nope.  He was the city’s Police Chief, and the little book in his hand I now saw was not a ticket book, but his day book. He was almost speechless as he shoved it forward for me to inspect.  

It was one of those little pocket books with a Devotional Thought printed out for each day.  On that year’s date of June 3rd was printed these words: “The Finest Gift a Father can leave to his children is the Knowledge that he Loves their Mother.”

His book named the author, a man named Rex Hespeth. I had never heard of Rex before, but he sure wrote one good quote!