For One More Day
is a 2006 novel taken place during the mid 1900's by the acclaimed sportswriter and author Mitch Albom
. It opens with the novel's protagonist planning to commit suicide. His adulthood is shown to have been rife with sadness. His own daughter didn't invite or tell him about her wedding. His mother has been dead since 8 years, but he is granted one more day to spend with her after he tried to kill himself.
The underlying theme or belief that runs throughout this novel, which is similar to that of his previous books (Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven), is that love is the biggest influence in one's life.
The Boston Globe said "Albom has the ability to make you cry in spite of yourself." Fellow sports commentator Bob Costas said, "Mitch Albom writes with insight and compassion." Also the Cleveland Plain Dealer said, "Albom has a gift for tapping into readers' sincerely sentimental spots."
"If you had the chance, just one chance, to go back and fix what you did wrong in life, would you take it? And if you did, would you be big enough to stand it? Mitch Albom, in this new book, once again demonstrates why he is one of my favorite writers: a fearless explorer of the wishful and magical, he is also a devout believer in the power of love. For One More Day will make you smile. It will make you wistful. It will make you blink back tears of nostalgia. But most of all, it will make you believe in the eternal power of a mother's love." – James McBride
Charles “Chick” Benetto
As a child, Chick’s father once told him: “You can be a mama’s boy or a daddy’s boy, but you can’t be both.” This idea encapsulates his childhood – growing up in a dysfunctional family, Chick was forced essentially to choose between his parents. Unfortunately, he picked the wrong one: his father, Len. His mother, Posey, showered him with love while his father, Len, provided him nothing but neglect. Consequently Chick strove to obtain his father’s approval only to fall short time and time again. At the age of eleven Len and Posey divorced, and Chick did not see his father again until college.
Throughout his life, Chick continually took his mother’s love for granted. In typical motherly fashion, Posey was always concerned with Chick’s best interests. And, in typical son fashion, he always pushed her away, often maliciously. This continues throughout his childhood and into his college and adult life as he marries his wife, Catherine, and fathers a daughter, Maria. Finally, when Chick is in his late 40’s, Posey dies of a heart attack. Chick was not present when she died, as he was pursuing a pointless baseball endeavor his father pushed him into. Shortly after her death Catherine left him and Maria cut him out of her life. His newfound loneliness, combined with alcoholism and depression, culminated in his attempted suicide. Chick decided to end his life in the same place he grew up – Pepperville Beach. After a disastrous car crash and a plunge off a water tower, Chick was miraculously still alive, regaining consciousness the next day. What happened next is difficult to explain: he encounters his deceased mother with the opportunity to spend one more day with her, making peace with all the regrets in his life.
Pauline, or “Posey,” is Chick’s mother. She showered him with love, attention, and perceived “nagging,” as all mothers do. When her son and daughter were eleven and six, respectively, she was abandoned by her husband. She struggled to raise a family alone, persisting through the scorn of the entire town, her employers, and even her own son. After Posey’s long career as a nurse, she was callously fired. Divorces were very uncommon in those days, and as an attractive, divorced woman, the men in the hospital felt distracted with her around. For reporting an incident in which she was sexually harassed by an older member of the hospital, she was fired. But instead of conceding to defeat, she survived by being a hair dresser,and then cleaning apartments. As the years progressed, Chick distanced himself from his mother more and more, until eventually Posey died at age 79.
Len Benetto, Chick’s father, met Posey during high school. Retrieving an errant baseball from a lake, he bumped heads with a swimmer: his future wife. Shortly after he enlisted in World War II he sent Posey a letter asking for her hand in marriage. 16 years later, Posey discovers that Len also married an Italian woman, who he split his time with until completely abandoning Chick, Posey, and Roberta. Chick only learns this during his final day with his mother.
After divorcing Posey, Len only saw Chick once every few years. The first time was during his first college baseball game, and as Chick continued to advance in professional baseball up to the major leagues, he noticed that his relationship with his father advanced similarly. After his son injured his knee, never to play again in the major leagues, Len essentially ended the relationship. Len only contacted his son again to persuade him to partake in the “Old Timers game,” but that failed to develop into anything and they never spoke again. He outlived his son, and only stopped by briefly for the funeral.
Catherine met Chick during college as he lip synced and played air guitar to “This Could Be the Start of Something Big.” She married Chick and bore his child, a daughter Maria. After Posey’s death and Chick’s alcoholism she divorced her husband, but they partially reconciled after Chick’s encounter with his dead mother.
Maria, the daughter of Chick and Catherine, was born at the tail end of Chick’s failed athletic career. Other than baseball, she was the one thing in her father’s life that gave him a sense of contentment and satisfaction. She was the one who found Posey dead, and at the funeral said “When heaven’s done with grandma, we’d like her back, please.” Within a few years she had lost contact with her father. Unbeknownst to Chick at the time, she took on a sports writing job during college, perhaps a subliminal internal reflection of her father. When she married, she did not invite Chick to the ceremony, spurring his attempted suicide. They reconciled afterwards and enjoyed his few remaining years together. At the end of the novel it is revealed that she has narrated the story.
Roberta is Chick’s younger sister. As a child she had a penchant for wearing ballerina shoes, a trait she would eventually pass on to her own daughter. She does not play a major role in the story, but simply contrasts Chick’s disdain for Posey with her own adoration. When she is fifteen and Chick is in college, she suggests that Posey remarry. Along with everyone else in Chick’s life, she eventually loses contact with him as he falls into the depths of alcoholism.
As the narrator is headed for the airport from closing on a house in Pepperville Beach, he notices a little league game en route. With some extra time on his hands, he stops by the field to observe. Here, he meets an ex-baseball player, Chick Benetto, who he learns had attempted suicide a few years ago. He sits down with Chick and listens to his life story.
In the opening chapter, Chick tells the reader why he tried to kill himself. His life began to unravel the day of his mother’s funeral, about ten years before the present day. Chick was not with his mother when she died, as he had lied to her about being busy with something yet to be revealed. The day of his mother’s funeral, Chick’s life plunged into a downward spiral. Without his mother’s consistent positive reinforcement Chick could no longer be happy with the man he had become: an ex-professional baseball player now salesman. He spent the days after the funeral in drunken delirium. Developing severe alcoholism, he eventually lost all his money in an investment scheme and was cut out of his wife’s and daughter’s lives. The tipping point was the day he learned that his daughter got married without so much as telling him in advance, let alone inviting him to the wedding. Completely cut off from his family, working at what he perceived to be a dead-end job, and wallowing in the self-pity that goes hand-in-hand with alcoholism, Chick decided to commit suicide.
Chick Tries to End It All
After a weekend of binge drinking, Chick returns to work on Monday still feeling the effects of a recent drinking binge. He sneaks out of his office to go home, his last action as an employee. He calls his wife to berate her about his daughter’s wedding and tell her that he is leaving. After getting drunk, again, Chick grabs a gun and begins the two hour drive to his home: Pepperville Beach.
Drunkenly weaving his way in between highway lanes, Chick stops at a convenience store to replenish his beer supply. Once back on the highway, he passes the Pepperville Beach exit and, instead of getting off at the next exit, turns his car around and drives backwards on the highway until he reaches his destination. As he leaves the highway via an entrance ramp he collides head-on with a truck, is thrown from the wreckage and survives, ironically. Ignoring the well-being of the other driver, he begins the walk to his old house.
As dawn breaks, Chick arrives at the water tower he had often frequented as a child. He ascends the tower, losing his breath, and scolding himself for being so out of shape. He reiterates to himself his lack of relevance in his daughter’s life and leaps from the tower. After plummeting through numerous tree branches he thuds to the ground, somehow having defied death a second time. He looks up to see the baseball field he played on as a child, the morning sun, and his deceased mother.
On the brink of consciousness, Chick stares at his mother. By the time he is finally able to lift himself up she is gone, and Chick tries to rationalize what he has seen. Disregarding whatever mental lapse caused his hallucination, he rose to his feet and began walking to his old house with the suicidal intentions yet again. The sight of his mother brings back memories of his childhood, which interweave with the present day in repeating chapter sequences: events in the current day, flashbacks from Chick’s childhood, notes from Chick’s mother, and self-explanatory chapters such as “Times My Mother Stood Up For Me” and “Times I Did Not Stand Up For My Mother.”
We get our first glimpse into Chick’s childhood, summarized by something his father once told him: “You can be a mama’s boy or a daddy’s boy. But you can’t be both.” Chick chose to be a “daddy’s boy,” mimicking his every move, running to his job as a liquor store clerk every day after school, and generally doing anything and everything possible to appease his father. But, one spring day in fifth grade, Chick’s mother informed him that his father left and was never coming back. From that day on, Chick was a mama’s boy, against his own volition.
How Mother Met Father
Chick’s mother wrote notes of encouragement and love on ordinary and unimportant days to her son. Throughout the years Chick had saved many of these, which have been incorporated into the book between chapters. The first one was on Chick’s first day of kindergarten, even though he did not know how to read. As Posey departed, blowing him kisses, Chick worried about the prospect of not being able to find her after school. “You can’t lose your mother,” she had said. This youthful devotion to his mother would slowly diminish over the years.
Leonard Benetto met Pauline in the spring of 1944. Len swam into a lake to retrieve his baseball as Posey did the same. They bumped heads, and, as Chick’s mother says, they never stopped. After being shipped off to Italy during World War II with the intention of “killing more of the enemy than anyone in town,” Len sent Posey a letter: “Be my wife.” He returned two weeks later, and they married shortly thereafter.
Chick describes his mother as an exuberant and beautiful woman, although one he himself would characterize as a “nag.” She would pester him about mundane things such as his homework being finished or his pants being ripped. She also loved to correct his grammar, most often his order confusion of first and third person pronouns.
“If my family was a democracy, my father’s vote counted twice.” This describes the hierarchy in Chick’s house as a child. As such, Chick abided by his father’s aspirations for him to play baseball. He would wear his cleats to church, stored a glove at his father’s store, and was scolded for paying attention to his mother at games instead of the ball. She, he says, was not part of “the plan.” Although he admits that she showed him unabashed love, he notes that she did not make him “work for it.” Children strive for love that is withheld from them, and Chick strove to please his father while taking his mother’s love for granted. This disparity was to such a degree that it a list years later: “Time My Mother Stood Up for Me” and “Times I Did Not Stand Up for My Mother.”
The first notable time Chick’s mother stood up for him was when he was five years old. As she conversed with a neighbor, Chick wandered into a nearby backyard, where he was accosted by a German shepherd. His mother came running to his rescue and literally “barked” the dog into submission. “You have to show them who’s boss, Charley” she said.
Chick Returns to His Old House
By now it is morning. Chick trudges to his childhood home, finds the key hidden underneath an artificial rock in the flower box, and goes inside to find that the house, empty since his mother’s death, is actually inhabited. Chick could fresh smell the fresh scent of carpet cleaner and finds leftover food inside the refrigerator. He hears his mother calling his name, and runs out the door.
The first time Chick does not stand up for his mother was at age six during a Halloween parade. Despite her husband’s suggestion to buy a costume, Chick’s mother decides that, as this is his first Halloween parade, she would make him a mummy costume out of toilet paper. Inevitably it rains, ruining his costume. As the other children point and laugh, Chick spots his mother and screams at her, “You ruined my life!”
As Chick cowers in fear on the back porch his mother walks through the door. She looks exactly as she did the last time he saw her – her 79th birthday. He comments on the fact that although he had damaged his body many times before, this is the first time he had damaged his mind. As he stares at his mother, he crosses the line between reality and delusion. He hugs his mother “as if he would never let go.”
When he was eight years old, Chick had the homework assignment of preparing a presentation on the cause of an echo. After asking his father only to be dismissed he resorts to his mother, who helps him memorize the definition, cause, and other requirements of an echo. Upon successfully preparing for his echo presentation the next day, his father apathetically says, “What a colossal waste of time.”
The Melody Changes
Before Len abandoned his family, Posey’s favorite song was This Could Be the Start of Something Big. She referred to the song as a real “swinger,” and whenever it came on the radio she would drum on her husband’s shoulders, which he would completely ignore. She would then do the same to Chick who, feeling as if laughing would be a betrayal of his father, did his best to resist. However, upon being tickled, he could no longer contain himself. After Len left, Posey no longer listened to the song, as she didn’t want to acknowledge the fact that her own “something big” had backfired.
The Encounter Inside the House
As children, Chick and Roberta once spent an afternoon carving their names into their kitchen table with steak knives. When their mother returned they frantically covered the crime with a jug of apple juice, but their mother was no fool. She immediately found out what they had done and scolded them accordingly. Roberta, exhibiting notable audacity at her young age, asked: “Should we finish, so we at least spell our names right?” The trio succumbed to uncontrollable laughter. Len was predictably furious when he returned, but Chick likes to think that his mother enjoyed the idea that her children had left a permanent mark on their home.
Now, Chick is sitting at the very same kitchen table. His mother walks in armed with antiseptic and a washcloth and begins to clean his wounds. He continues to debate the absurdity of the situation against his desire to reconcile with a lost loved one. He makes an attempt to talk to her, but all she says is “Charley… the trouble you get into.”
When he was nine years old, Chick had attempted to borrow 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The librarian believed that Chick was too young to read the book, so she gave him a picture book instead. When he explained this to his mother, she grabbed him by the hand, dragged him back into the library, and scolded the librarian for telling a child a book was “too hard.” Chick took out 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
Inevitably, children are sucked into their parent’s petty arguments and used as pawns in the chess game of moral superiority. Squabbling over the quality of a meal was one such argument Chick’s parents often had. One night Len was complaining about Posey’s baked ziti, Posey was getting frustrated at his discontent, and eventually Len asked Charley what he thought of the meal. Being a “daddy’s boy,” he simply replied “it’s not right.” Again, Charley blindly sides with his father over his mother.
A Fresh Start
Charley’s mother cooks him eggs for breakfast and asks if he is able to stay all day. He finally musters up the courage to say to her “Mom, this is impossible.” All she says in response is “Eat.”
Chick deemed himself the man of the house upon his father’s departure, and as such resisted the urge to cry. He was only eleven years old, and acted as all children do when a parent leaves: “by behaving in a way that could bring him back.” Chick recalls his parents fighting throughout his childhood. Their arguments sometimes drove his sister to tears, but through all their hostility Chick still viewed them as an enigmatic, happy couple. He often returned to the mental image of a wedding in which his mother wore a beautiful red dress that, although attracting the scorn of the other women, created a radiant beauty only she could possess. “They fought, but they danced.” When asked what new hobby Chick wants to take up after his father’s departure, he tells his mother “baseball.” Clearly, even after his father has left, he stills gains Chick’s favor over Posey.
A Meal Together
Further conceding to his self-proclaimed insanity, Chick eats the breakfast his mother made him and thanks her. She seems very surprised to hear Chick thank her for anything. Chick is beginning to act on the remorse he felt with his mother’s death by showing an appreciation seldom seen while she was alive.
Chick’s Family After the Divorce
Divorces were very uncommon back in the 1950’s and 1960’s. In fact, Chick did not know one other child who shared his burden. As the only children with divorced parents in town, adults began to treat Chick and Roberta differently. They were often stopped in the street and asked “How are you doing?” contrasting the question Chick was used to: “What are you doing?” Posey, however, was not so fortunate. As Len left while she stayed with the children, she was forced to endure the judgment of Pepperville Beach. This included Chick, who no longer allowed his mother to kiss him.
One afternoon, Chick was playing catch in a church parking lot. Two nuns offered him a platter of food, which he brought to his mother as instructed. Never one to accept handouts, Posey shoveled all the food into the garbage disposal. Later an opposing baseball coach inquired to Chick as to whether or not Posey, a “divorcee,” needed “help around the house,” a question Chick appropriately did not trust. Later, he caught two of his friends using binoculars to watch his mother undress after she came home from work, muttering “Oooh… divorcee.” Chick attacked the two bigger children with a ferocity he had never shown.
Chick takes a walk with his mother by the lake where they grew up, and she shows him a carving on a tree she made years before: “Please.” It is a prayer for a child. She refers to Chick as a “wish granted,” and he reflects on how long it has been since someone spoke of him that way. Again, Chick tries to address the sheer absurdity of his mother’s appearance. He says to her “Mom, you died.” To this, she simply replies: “You make too much of things.”
Before Len abandoned Posey, she was known to not only be a great talker, but also an excellent listener. She had many friends through which to demonstrate her kindness and social skills. After the divorce, however, she lost all her friends. This was especially evident every New Year, as she would stay home to have a “party” with the children while all the other adults were at parties of their own.
Another instance in which Chick did not stand up for his mother was on Christmas Eve, shortly after the divorce. Roberta awakened to the sound of Santa, who Chick immediately recognized as his mother in a Santa costume. Instead of playing along and allowing his sister and mother the blissful delusion of Christmas, he shined a flashlight in “Santa’s” eyes and announced that it was really just their mother.
After the walk by the lake, Chick and Posey head to her first “appointment:” an elderly woman named Rose.
Chick explains how his mother became a hairdresser. When she was working as a nurse, Posey enjoyed primping her female patients by applying them makeup and doing their hair. Her philosophy was that even though patients were sick, there was no reason they shouldn’t look nice. Unfortunately, after her divorce, the hospital didn’t look at Posey the same way. Now that she was single she was viewed as a distraction to the male employees, and she was eventually fired for reporting an instance of sexual harassment she suffered by an older doctor. The afternoon she got fired she wanted to take Chick and Roberta out to get ice cream, but Chick hostilely declined, electing to attend baseball practice instead. Again, long after his father is gone, Chick is still acting in a way to appease him at the expense of his mother.
When he was fourteen, Chick’s mother caught him with cigarettes. Justifiably infuriated, she implored him to never touch them again. Chick’s response was that, as a smoker herself, she was a hypocrite. He went on to attack her for the way she dressed and says “You make me sick!” She grabs him, and slaps him while saying “Is that what you think of me!?” Chick flees the house and returns long after dark to find his cigarettes still in his drawer.
Rose and Posey ask about Chick’s daughter, Maria. He recounts his not being invited to her wedding and explains that she is ashamed of him. They both agree that “children get embarrassed by their parents,” and go on to explain that this is usually the result of a child in pain. Children want their parents to hurt the way they themselves hurt: this is all the result of a child that simply hasn’t lived long enough. The phone rings, and on the other end Chick hears a booming voice bellowing “Charles Benetto!” He hangs up out of fear, and inexplicably falls asleep.
Only once did Len try to return. He snuck back into the house in the middle of the night, which Posey initially thought was an attempted robbery. She takes Chick’s bat and sneaks downstairs. Chick hears whispering, someone leaving, and eventually Posey returning upstairs. She said it was nothing, but Chick realizes that it was, in fact, his father. He was angry at her for not allowing him to stay.
Without a fatherly presence, Posey needed to take on the burden of acting as both parents. This included teaching Chick to shave. A proud teenager, Chick tried to act as if he knew exactly what he was doing. His mother did not act overbearing, but instead let him figure it out himself, even though they both realized that it should be Len, not Posey, standing next to him.
A year later, Chick is trick-or-treating with his girlfriend and sister. They stop at one house, and the woman asks if she knows their parents. Roberta tells the woman that her mother is Mrs. Benetto and the woman, about to drop a piece of candy into her bag, pulls back and says “Don’t you mean Miss Benetto?” She goes on to lecture Roberta on Posey, saying that her husband doesn’t need to see her “little fashion show” and she shouldn’t get any “grand ideas.” Roberta asks for a piece of chocolate, which the woman refuses, and says “Must run in the family. You all want your hands on everything.” Chick, although irate, does nothing.
Rose Says Good-Bye
Posey finishes her appointment with Rose. She is getting ready to see her husband, which Chick does not question further, fearful of him being in a hospital or nursing home. As they leave the house, Posey suggests that they get lunch. She goes on to explain that Rose’s death is not far off, and it was her obligation to help her “get ready.”
Chick and College
Chick fulfills his mother’s dream by going to college. He is on a baseball scholarship, although Posey tended to leave out the “baseball” part when discussing her son’s scholarship. She cooks him a breakfast big enough for six people, and they head off to move in. Roberta wanted to come, but Chick would not allow it. Chick and his mother arrive at college; he is sporting a necktie and she is wearing a purple pants suit. They stuck out like a sore thumb against the long haired, sandal wearing college body of the 1960’s. As they ambulate around campus, Posey feverishly points to various places, saying things like “You can study there” or “You can eat there.” Posey solidifies her motherly nature as the pair walk across the quad as a beautiful girl heads towards them. Chick looks at her and thinks to himself “my first college girl?” But his mother, as the girl gets within earshot, asks him if he remembered his toiletry kit. Finally, as Chick heads to his room, he tells his mother to stay behind. He tries to give her a kiss on the cheek, but she fully embraces him. Chick heads to his room, commenting on the fact that this was the closest his mother would ever come to a college education.
The Middle of the Day
Chick informs his mother that he split up with Catherine. He concedes the fact that the split was entirely his fault and that things are “different” now. To this, his mother assures him: “Things can be fixed.”
When Ghosts Return
Chick always viewed baseball as a connection to his father. It was representative of his undying loyalty to his father’s desires, and he would always picture him giving advice while playing. So, it was very appropriate that Chick would see his father for the first time in eight years at one of his baseball games. During his first game in college, Chick saw Len sitting in the front row. He simply acknowledged his son with a nod, and Chick needed to exert a severe effort to avoid crying. He hit the first pitch he saw over the left field fence.
Posey’s next appointment is with Miss Thelma, who used to be the Benetto’s cleaning lady. It was she who coined the nickname “Chick,” much to his father’s dismay. Thelma is lying on her bed and whispers, “They all think I’m sleeping.” Chick learns that after she left the hospital, his mother worked with Miss Thelma cleaning houses in order to put him and his sister through college. Chick is upset that she never told him, and almost starts a screaming match with his dead mother.
Chick’s father continued to attend his baseball games, simply acknowledging his son with a nod when he came to the plate but never speaking. After this went on for a few weeks, he finally met his son at the team bus. He told Chick to ask for his coach’s permission to drive back to campus with his father as opposed to with the team. Chick, instead of bombarding him with an arsenal of questions, simply obliged. Chick explains that his father is respecting the authority of the coach, and Chick is respecting the authority of his father, which makes the world make sense – everyone behaving like men.
During Chick’s sophomore year, a scout with the St. Louis Cardinals approached Len to discuss an opening they had in their single-A league. It turns out that the Pittsburgh Pirates had been scouting Chick for some time, as well. Chick finally tells his mother that he has been seeing Len. She seems both hurt and concerned for him, telling him not to let anything distract him, and she emphasizes that studying is the most important thing. When he calls home from college one afternoon, Roberta talks to him about their mother possibly remarrying, something that clearly upsets Chick. He takes a course in Latin, where he learns the derivation of the word “divorce:” it comes from “divertere,” meaning “to divert.” Chick deems this appropriate, as all divorce does is divert you from what you thought you knew.
Chick Makes His Choice
Chick recounts his respective high and low points during college. The high point began at a frat party, where he and his friends were lip synching to various records. “This Could Be the Start of Something Big” came on, and Chick stood on a table to put on his best performance. Here he met Catherine, his future wife. He called his mother the next day to tell her about both this and his exemplary grades – she was unbelievably proud. The low point came one year later, when he dropped out to play minor league baseball. His mom was more heartbroken than she had ever been throughout Chick’s whole life. He assured her that he can always go back, to which she responded: “Going back to something is harder than you think.”
The Work You Have to Do
Chick continues to interrogate his mother on her choice to become a housekeeper. He’s upset that she never got to pursue what mattered to her. However, this is not the case, for she says “I did what mattered to me. I was a mother.”
Chick tells Miss Thelma about his current job as a salesman. He explains how much he despises it, acknowledging that he felt ashamed to be “ordinary,” as ordinary people are forgotten. Miss Thelma, however, realizes that despite her being ordinary, she will never be forgotten due to her children.
Reaching the Top
Chick finally got called up to the major leagues in September of 1973 as the Pirates were on their way to winning a National League pennant. They lost in the World Series, in which Chick did not take the field once, although he did get one at bat in a playoff game. That spring he blew out his knee, and Chick never saw the major leagues again. He said that during his time in the major leagues, he felt more alive than any other time in his life.
Chick and Catherine spent the next few years jumping from city to city as Chick was exchanged between minor league clubs. Eventually, their daughter Maria was born, and Chick quit baseball shortly thereafter. He ended up working in sales. Chick uses a mountain climber’s parable to describe his baseball career. Descending a mountain is undoubtedly more difficult than the ascent. It’s a fight against human nature, as you must “care about yourself on the way down just as much as you did on the way up.”
The diminishment of his baseball career brought a renewed distance between Chick and his father. Although unemployed, Len never offered him a job – baseball was their one and only connection. When asked what happened between him and Posey, Len would simply provide generic, vague responses. These were similar to his mother’s responses, with the only difference being that Len would lower his eyes when he answered.
The Second Visit Ends
Miss Thelma’s grandchildren come in, and Chick learns from his mother that Thelma, too, will soon be dead. She explains that she was able to visit Thelma because she came to her mind. When you truly love someone, they never permanently leave. They exist forever in your heart. Clearly, this is applicable to Chick’s situation as well. He asks if he is also dying. She responds “You’re my son. That’s what you are.” Again, the glass bursts in Thelma’s house, and Chick hears the booming voice screaming his name.
The Sunlight Fades
Chick continues to make an attempt to comprehend his situation. He asks his mother more questions, such as “Am I dead?” and “Is this heaven?” as his mother ambiguously responds to each. The pair walk through Pepperville Beach, Posey pointing out the fact that all those around them are visible because she came to their mind. She goes on to explain that they all desired her while she was alive, and that her appearing in their mind now is a “woman’s prerogative.” Chick asks her why she never remarried. She does not give a definitive answer, but simply says that raising her children consumed most of her time, and time disappears quickly. Once they return to the kitchen, Chick tells her something he had been longing to say since she died: he tells her how much he has missed her.
The Day He Wanted Back
Chick recounts the last time he saw his mother alive. It was her birthday, and Chick brought his wife and daughter to Pepperville Beach to celebrate with Posey and her local friends. When Maria asks permission for his mother to do her makeup, he explains that although his life felt empty and meaningless since his fallout from professional baseball, Maria was the exception. As he is sitting with his mother and family, the telephone rings: his father. Unconcerned with his ex-wife’s birthday, Len tells Chick of an exhibition game being played the next day for retired players: the Old Timers game. In order to make it on time, Chick had to leave immediately. Understandably unable to tell his mother that he was abandoning her on her birthday in order to pursue a meaningless endeavor to attain his father’s approval, he makes up a story about an important client meeting, even going as far as to fake a call to his beeper. As his mother tries to tell him she loves him as a goodbye, the door closes, cutting her off, and she dies before he can see her ever again.
Chick recounts the final time his mother stood up for him. He has retired from baseball and is looking for something more fulfilling than sitting behind a desk every day, so he plans to open a sports bar with a friend. His wife opposes his idea, citing the fact that he knows absolutely nothing about running a business. His mother, however, asks if he truly believes in this. He does, so she gives the sports bar her blessing, convincing his wife to do the same. Two years later the bar goes out of business.
Chick finds that his father has mailed his old cleats to the hotel he is staying at before the game, but chooses not to make an appearance himself. The day of the game, Chick meets countless other retired players, all much more famous than himself. He continually makes comments implying the meaninglessness of the game, such as the fact that the stadium wasn’t even half full, all the “athletes” were barely physically capable, and the fact that he needed to rush onto the field upon hearing his name called to avoid the inevitable silence after the crowd grew tired of cheering for a player they had never heard of. In his only at-bat he pops up weakly.
As a child, Posey had always reflected on the simultaneous happenings elsewhere in the world. Observing a sunset would reflect the sun rise in China. So, as Chick made a futile attempt at reclaiming his baseball glory, his mother was dying back at her home. This is a literal embodiment of everything Chick had regretted in his life. He had strove to obtain his father’s love while ignoring his mother, which inevitably culminated in his not being with his mother as she died. Simultaneously, he was proving how useless all his efforts had been to succeed at baseball and please his father by failing at a meager attempt to rekindle his past.
After the game, he found his father outside the locker room. It was the first time he had seen him in two years. He thanks him for the cleats, but his father takes on a stern tone, asking why he isn’t in the locker room making connections to get back into the game. Chick explains that he simply wanted to see his father. His father replies: “Jesus. How are you going to get back in the game talking to me?”
Chick Finds Out His Mom is Gone
Chick receives a phone call from Catherine, who tells him that his mother has died. He also senses that he will never see his father again, which turns out to be the case. He reflects on this, saying that he lost both his parents on the same day, “one to shame, one to shadow.”
A Third and Final Visit
Chick and Posey arrive at a plain-looking, yellow apartment building. Inside is an elderly woman, seemingly in her seventies. She is Len’s other wife.
The last time Chick did not stand up for his mother was at her funeral. While shoveling dirt onto the coffin, a Jewish custom Posey chose to integrate into her own ceremony, he reflects on his previous actions. He feels that he has no right to shovel dirt onto his mother’s coffin, but does anyway. In his head, he hears his mother’s voice: “Oh Charley, how could you?”
Posey explains how his father met his other wife. During his stint in World War II, in the Appenine Mountains, he met this Italian woman. Not knowing how the war would turn out, let alone his own fate, Len chose to marry her, perhaps, Posey suggests, for security. It turns out that Len set up a new shop in Collinswood to live with his wife. It was her lasagna that Len always compared Posey’s to, which to this day still bothers her.
After her husband disappeared numerous times to “stay at a hotel” in Collinswood, Posey became suspicious and followed him to work one day. There, she discovered everything, including Len’s other son. Chick realizes that he spent his entire life devoting attention exclusively to someone who wouldn’t even consider doing the same in return, while ignoring the one who adored him. When Len came home, Posey told him to leave and never return.
If there was one moment in Chick’s life that he could change, he says that it would be to prevent his daughter from being the one to find his mother’s dead body. From that point on, he found it difficult to face his wife or daughter, which contributed to his alcoholism. When he finally confesses to Catherine as to his whereabouts at the time of his mother’s death, she simply replies: “At this point, what does it matter?”
Chick asks his mother if she hates Len’s other wife. She does not, citing the fact that she simply wanted the same things she herself did. “Secrets, Charley” she says, “they’ll tear you apart.” She tells him that it is finally time for him to leave, and asks why he wants to kill himself. He breaks down, telling her everything in his life that is wrong, and that he has given up. “Don’t give up,” she says. She also knew all along where he was when she died, but is not upset. She realizes that he had to make a choice between his mother and father, and says “A child should never have to choose.” As he leaves, the Italian woman looks at him and says “perdonare.”
Chick Finishes His Story
Chick recalls his earliest childhood memory. He was three years old, with his mother at a carnival. He was thirsty, so his mother picked him up and carried him to the front of the drinking fountain line. He remembers her cutting in line all the shirtless men, who simply waited for him to finish, alone in his own world with his mother. At the end of his last moments with his mother, he feels a similar sensation. His body is broken, but his mother carries him away. She tells him what the Italian woman had said: “perdonare.” “Forgive.” Not his father, but himself. He finally tells her that she was a good mother. Afraid he’ll lose her again, she says the same exact thing as on his first day of kindergarten: “You can’t lose your mother, Charley.” With this, Chick regains consciousness in the hands of a police officer.
Chick’s Final Thoughts
Chick reflects on his experience with his mother. It would be easy to write the whole thing off as a figment of a damaged imagination, but he believes that somewhere between life and death his mother found time to give him one more day with her. He is ashamed for trying to commit suicide, for he now realizes that life is precious. After the crash, he never drinks again. He believes that his mother saved his life, and says that he would like to make things right with those he loves.
Chick dies five years after his last day with his mother, and three years after his encounter with Mitch. Several friends attend his funeral, although no one from his baseball days. His father stops by briefly, as well.
The narrator recounts all the events that Chick recalled, and the validity thereof, right down to the details of every visit he made with his mother. After the accident, he sold his mother’s home and gave the money to his daughter. Shortly afterwards he moved into an apartment nearby, reconciling with her and, to an extent, with Catherine. He worked part-time with a local parks and recreation office, ensuring that everybody got to play and have fun. Right before he died, he told his loved ones “Remember me for these days, not the old ones,” and was buried next to his mother.
The narrator reflects on Chick’s story: “Sharing tales of those we’ve lost is how we keep from really losing them.” The narrator does not think Chick was crazy, but truly believes that he spent a day with his mother. The child the narrator is carrying will be named “Charley,” and it is revealed that the entire story has been narrated by Maria, Chick’s daughter.
Eternity of a Mother’s Love
Interspersed between the current day and chronicles of his youth are chapters entitled “Times My Mother Stood Up for Me” and “Times I Did Not Stand Up for My Mother.” The earliest of both these events occur when Chick is only a child, and the latest events continue right up to his mother’s death. Throughout his entire life, not only did Posey shower Chick with unconditional love, compassion, sympathy, support, and reassurance, but he responded with anger, alienation, and apathy. And yet, Posey’s adoration for her son continued still after she died, even knowing that her son lied and abandoned her in the time immediately before her death.
Chick’s story is introduced with the narrator recounting their initial encounter, describing the series of events that led them to one another. Albom also includes “notes” to Chick from his mother, which are said to have been found amongst his belongings after he died, further contributing to the realism of the novel. The reader is under the impression throughout the novel that Albom is narrating, but in the epilogue it is revealed that the narrator is actually Maria, Chick’s daughter, implying that they have truly reconciled. This is especially fitting, as the primary reason for Chick’s attempted suicide was the fact that he felt he had been cut out of his daughter’s life.
After his mother’s death, Chick succumbed to severe alcoholism, which, among other things, contributed to his depression and eventual attempted suicide. This is both fitting and ironic, as his father had owned a liquor store throughout Chick’s childhood, a place he took great pleasure in visiting for his father’s company.
Drawing parallels to The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Albom provides a pleasing concept of the afterlife. Heaven is not a utopian dream land, but an opportunity to make peace with the events one experiences in life. He seems to hold the idea that we should all live for this life, making the most of our finite existence. As such, the afterlife is a way to improve the quality of life, not an entirely separate entity to anticipate after the drear of mortality. In many interviews, Albom has conveyed the idea that almost everyone has a deceased loved one who they were not able to make amends with, tell how they feel, or spend enough time with before they died. This can be very distressing, causing them to yearn for the loved one and regret their actions. The idea that this can be corrected, that we can make peace with those we were unable or too busy to do so with during life, is very gratifying.
Many of the events from Chick’s childhood coincided with Albom’s own life. For example, Albom includes a picture of himself dressed in a mummy costume at age six inside the back cover. The fact that the book is somewhat autobiographical is an emblem of the idea that Chick’s story is a reflection of the internal distress within all of us.
1) Elaborate on the idea that “every family is a ghost story.”
2) Why did Posey make the visits she did with Chick?
3) Compare and contrast Chick’s relationship with his father to that with his daughter, and Len’s relationship with wife and children to Chick’s relationship with his wife and child.
4) Explain how the changes in Chick’s relationship with his father affects his relationship with his mother.
5) If Chick had known the truth to his parent’s divorce, would he have behaved differently? Why or why not? To what extent?
6) Discuss and analyze the mountain climbing parable on page 151.
7) Explain the significance of the identity of the narrator.
In 2007, For One More Day became a made-for-TV movie. “Oprah Winfrey Presents: Mitch Albom’s For One More Day,” starring Michael Imperioli as Chick and directed by Lloyd Kramer, was nominated for the Screen Actors Guild award for Ellen Burstyn’s portrayal of Posey.
The audio book version read by the author is approximately 3.5 hours.