OH MOTHER, MOTHER. You don't know how busy I've been. God, you couldn't believe it. I wrote three columns and did a book review and was interviewed for the radio (Someday, TV, mom) and went down to the basement from time to time to check on the work that's going on there. Mom, I've been busy. Happy Mother's Day.

Oh, Mother, Mother, I forgot again. All week I've been thinking of it, honest. I've been thinking I had to get you something. I was thinking that this year I would really be good and get you something and even mail it on time so I wouldn't have to get one of those "Thought-I-forgot?" cards. Oh, Mother, I forgot.

This is not like the year when I was a kid and I purposely didn't get you anything. Do you remember that? Do you remember that discussion we had when I discovered that Mother's Day was the creation of the florists. I announced that to you and you said, "Yes, it's true." And then I went on this rant against the florists ad holidays made up just to peddle things. Yes, you said. You agreed.

So that year I bought you nothing.That year I didn't even mention it. That year I thought we were all agreed on the meaninglessness of the day. I remember that day well. You cried.

You cried and I was puzzled. I went to Dad and explained it all -- what I had said and what you had said. I remember what he said. He said that someday I would understand women. I was just a kid. I believed him.

Sometimes I think we are all little boys and girls looking to get our mothers mad at us -- still looking for some attention, some love. Maybe that's it. On Friday, when I went around the office and asked about Mother's Day, people froze at their desks. They went pale. They all said they had forgotten. This is why the phone company cleans up on Mother's Day. The whole nation calls out of guilt.

Oh, Mother, this is what I'm going to do. I'm going to call. I'm going to gather everyone around and announce that I'm going to call you and then I'm going to get that awful recording that says that the circuits are busy because all the guilty sons in the world have asked their families to gather around and are calling their mothers because they forgot to send them something. I hate the phone company.

I know Judy didn't forget. My sister never forgets. Judy probably mailed the card two months ago. Judy also got you a gift -- the perfect gift. I know Judy did this. It's all right -- the goody twoshoes. I mean, I understand. She's a girl. Maybe she was nice enough to sign my name to the card. After all, she knows I always forget.

Oh, Mother, I used to think that these things didn't matter. I used to think that I just cheapened myself by going along with Mother's Day or Father's Day -- doing something because it was expected. I mean, who can value something that is done almost out of coercion? I know better now. I know now that people have a right to expect the expected. Mothers have a right to enjoy Mother's Day.

Oh, Mother, I used to think that when I grew up I'd do these things better. I thought that I would keep some sort of desk calendar like they do in the movies and know when to buy things and when to mail them and when to call. Being an adult has not changed things. When it comes to Mother's Day, I'm still a kid.

Listen, Mom, I'll Make it up to you next year. I'll buy you something swell or take you someplace or think of just the perfect gift. A handbag.How would you like a handbag? It would be your 394th handbag. It's what we always get you -- birthdays, Mother's Day, you-name-it. A handbag. We get Dad a book and you a handbag. You can use them to keep the books in.

Oh, Mother, I'm sorry. Oh, Mother, I should not have forgotten. I feel so guilty. When I call, I'm going to put your grandson on the phone right away. I'll get him to place the call and when you speak to him, you won't be mad. When you give your parents a grandchild, you get forgiven everything.

Mother, it's me, Richie. What did you expect? I do it every year.I never change and neither, thank God, do you. So a hug from all of us and a hello from your grandson and a kiss from your daughter-in-law and this card from me. I wrote it in the newspaper so everyone would know I kove you.

Happy Mother's Day.