Kathleen Parker

WASHINGTON -- This year American consumers are expected to spend an average of $138.63 each on flowers, cards and gifts for Mother's Day, for a grand total of $15.8 billion.

That's a whole lotta hydrangeas.

Anna Jarvis never had such excess in mind when in 1914, her idea to honor mothers resulted in Congress passing a joint resolution establishing Mother's Day. In fact, she despised the commercialization that followed and once was arrested for her rowdy protests. She merely wanted to honor her own mother, who was considered a community hero for her efforts after the Civil War toward improving sanitary conditions and helping American families reconcile.

What Jarvis hated is now the norm. A mom who doesn't receive a card or flowers is likely to feel let down. Then there are other mothers for whom flowers are of little concern, who gather on Web sites to exchange stories and sympathy for the sons and daughters lost to or damaged by war.

One of those is Oklahoma's 2006 Mother of the Year, Cynde Collins-Clark, about whom I've written previously in connection with her son, Joe, an Iraq War veteran who returned from his tour of duty in 2004 with severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Collins-Clark is a hero, too. Not only has she helped her son get back on his feet, but she's done yeoman's work to help other veterans and their families.

During a recent visit to Oklahoma City, I met with Joe and his mother, a perky, blithe spirit whose eyes frequently well with tears. Joe is a tall, clean-cut young man who wouldn't stand out in a crowd, but he's not like other 24-year-olds. The day we met in a hotel restaurant was one of the few times Joe, who kept his back to the wall, had left his house since returning from Iraq. For nearly two years, he didn't even leave his bedroom.

Although he is still disabled and unable to work, Joe is on the mend, thanks in part to a booklet he has written for others. Available through a Web site his mother created (VeteransFamiliesUnited.org), "The Endless Journey Home" describes what PTSD looks like, how to find help and how to navigate the Veterans Administration.

Both Joe and his mother, a licensed professional counselor, are quick to note that the VA is full of caring, qualified people, but they assert that "processes" within the bureaucracy need improvement.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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