My mother didn't have to tell me everything. Word in my family sifted down through many older brothers and sisters, the way big corporations and the military handle things.

I guess she expected all of us to follow her code of honesty and expected good results. One Mother's Day, after mass, when I was very young and lacked a gift, I ripped off a five-pound box of chocolates and presented it to her.

She never questioned me, but I'm sure a lot of prayers were sent skyward.

Another Mother's Day I picked a handsome pair of salt-and-pepper shakers. Somehow the thought was there, but I suspected that she suspected and that took away the pleasure of giving.

She never told me not to fight, knowing it was a part of neighborhood survival, but would provide a chunk of ice for a black eye or a swollen nose.

When pegged trousers came in with zoot suits, she never told me I looked silly -- old photos now show that I did. But she was never one to kill one's spirit.

When war came, she never told me that I should take the application for the Navy back to the recruiting office. She was fiercely loyal to America and barely hid her tears the morning I went away.

And she never told me that life was going to be easy. It never had been for her, and I never heard her tell a lie.