Do you remember the old days when the telephone company was called “Ma Bell?” – and when it really was a megalithic, monopolistic, conglomerate? Those days, Ma Bell told you to “reach out and touch someone” because it was “the next best thing to being there.” Every year around Mother’s Day, I remember a great story recounted by Bob Collins, a much beloved radio personality on WGN radio in Chicago. Affectionately called “Uncle Bobby” by his many listeners, Collins was solidly opinionated about almost everything and pretty willing to share those opinions with his Southern twang and infectious charm. He died in a plane crash outside Chicago in 2000. I was in Rome at that time, visiting for the Holy Year. I heard about the crash from a Vatican priest.

Well, you put Ma Bell, Bob Collins, Mother’s Day together with a touch of famed Alabama football Coach Bear Bryant, and you have a story that I think of every year – for years – since I heard it.

It seems Bryant was making a “reach out and touch” phone commercial. He characteristically used his tag line “Call your Momma.” Under his breath and not part of the script he said, “I wish I could call mine.” South Central Bell kept it in.

Collins told the story about the commercial year after year, but it was the “back side” that really grabs me … So, here it goes.

A woman called South Central Bell after the Bryant commercial ran. She spoke with some advertising person who accepted the “nice call from the nice lady” with courtesy, and was ready to say “Thank you, Good bye” when the woman said: “No, wait, you don’t understand. My husband heard that commercial and he called his mother. They had not spoken to each other for some time. They had a wonderful visit over the phone.” The ad guy was pleased and prepared to end the conversation thinking the woman was finished. She said: “There’s one other thing … my husband’s mother died that night.”

Bear Bryant died in 1983. My Mother died in 1996.

Call your Momma – I wish I could call mine.

I don’t have to draw you a picture, do I?

Happy Mother’s Day – See you at Sunday Mass!

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