Focus on the Family

Focus on the Family with Jim Daly

In Honor of Mothers Everywhere

In Honor of Mothers Everywhere

Comedian Dennis Swanberg pays tribute to mothers as he shares humorous and touching stories about his mom.
Original Air Date: May 6, 2011


John Fuller: On today’s “Focus on the Family,” Dennis Swanberg celebrates the love of a mom, as he remembers a phone conversation with his dad.


Dennis Swanberg: Come on down here. Your momma’s looking forward to seeing ya.” I always wanna say, “Daddy, are you looking forward to seeing me?” (Laughter) But see, he’s not into that. “Now your mother really is excited about it.” “Well, Dad, are you lookin’ forward to seein’ me, too?” “Your mother really, really (Laughter) has been lookin’ forward to it.”

End of Excerpt

John: (Laughing) Well, nobody cares like a mom and Dennis was feeling that at the time, of course. Welcome to a special edition of “Focus on the Family” with our president, Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, Mother’s Day is comin’ up this Sunday and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than with some heartwarming comedy from our good friend, Dennis Swanberg. He’s known for his amazing impersonations of film stars like Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne–one of my favorites–but in this message we’re going to hear more personal stories as he pays tribute to his mom, Pauline Bernadine.

John: Well, that’s right and many of us who have heard Dennis over the years are familiar with that name. Dennis was a pastor for many years before he felt that God was leading him to travel and speak as he puts it, a “minister of encouragement” to audiences worldwide and is the author of a number of books. His wife is Laurie and they have two grown boys. And as you’ll hear, Dennis grew up in Austin, Texas. His parents, Floyd Leon, who went on to be with the Lord three years ago and as you said, Jim, his mom, Pauline Bernadine. Here is a special Mother’s Day presentation from Dennis Swanberg on “Focus on the Family.”


Dennis: (Applause) Oh, I’m tellin’ ya, ladies, are y’all happy? Are y’all happy? (Audience response) You know, mommas are ya happy? See, if mommas ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Are you all happy? You know, ladies we love you. We appreciate you. We thank you for all that you do and … and uh … I try to make my wife happy. And it’s not easy makin’ happy. (Laughter) But you know, the old saying’, “If momma’s not happy, ain’t nobody happy.”

We men, we try to provide for ya. You know what I mean? We wanna please ya. We want to protect you. We want to provide you with possessions. (Laughter) And we’re worn plumb out. We’re pooped. (Laughter)

I don’t know how to say this, but y’all are getting on our nerves. Do you know that? (Laughter) Y’all are on our nerves! Y’all think we get on your nerves. Y’all get on our nerves. We men, we try so hard, we die early. Y’all women outlive us. It’s a statistic. I ain’t making it up. It’s a statistic. I mean, I do these trips to Branson, to Myrtle Beach, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and I watch these senior adult buses—32 women and 7 magnificent men on the bus! (Laughter)

Am I tellin’ the truth? And every women on that bus is want—”I wanna be with him; you know, I wish I could sit next to him. That one woman’s been with him the whole time!” (Laughter) “You know, you’re supposed to share!” (Laughter) “I don’t wanna be serious with him, but I’d like to know him better.”(Laughter)

It’s a statistic. Y’all outlive us. I’m telling ya, now. It’s just a matter of fact and we laugh about it. Nothin’ to get upset about, but y’all do outlive us. You know what I’m tellin ya. And I was in Mel Tillis’s theater up there in Branson, Missouri. And I was talkin’ about this with a group of senior adults. We laughed about it and we were having a good time. And when I finished speakin’, you know, a man came up to me and said, “Brother Dennis, I’ll tell you why a man dies before a woman!” I said, “Why’s that?” “We want to!” (Laughter. Applause) I ain’t goin’ there. I ain’t goin’ there. But it’s the truth. These women—I’ll tell you what, but we love you through Jesus, amen. It’s a ministry. (Laughter)

I mean, you know, I remember the days when I was growing up back home in Austin, Texas with Floyd Leon and Pauline Bernadine. And I remember those times when my older sister, Sherry Darlene, when she’d go sit on my daddy’s lap and hug on him and run her fingers through his hair and everything. And then he’d just pull out his bill fold and he’d say, “Well, how much ya need, baby? Where y’all going to get some pizza or what now? Did your girlfriend’s daddy pay for it last time?” “He paid for it last time, Dad. He really did.” “Well, you pay for it this time.” I’m going, “Liar, liar, pants on fire! (Laughter) They’re double dipping! They’re double dippin’! (Laughter) She’s sitting on her daddy’s lap. She’s sitting on my daddy’s lap, gettin’ cash! She gets up. She leaves.

I go sit on my daddy’s lap. (Laughter) I was about 16. He said, “Get off my lap! Goodnight! What are ya doing?” I said, “I want some money.” “Get up off my lap! Don’t ever sit on my lap like that again! Goodnight!” I said, “Well Daddy, I’d like to have some money. I’d like to go get some pizza.” “You can go get a job, son.” (Laughter)

I tell you what I did though; I went and found my momma, Pauline Bernadine, find my momma. And I went back there. She’s back in the back bedroom. I said, “Momma.” She said, “What? What’s the matter?” I said, “Momma, I’d like to have some money to go get some pizza. I mean, I made my car payment. I made my insurance payment. You know what I’m saying?” I said, “I’d like to have some extra cash to go get me some pizza.” And she’d say, “Well, where is your daddy? Where is your daddy?” I’d say, “He’s out in the garage.” “Okay, this is our little secret.” (Laughter)

She’d go back—she has money hid all over the house! I mean, whenever my momma dies, I’m putting police tape around the house! (Laughter) There’s money in there. Are ya with me? Money you know not of. And then she’d give me some money and I’d [say],”Thank ya, Momma.” And she’d say, “Well, what do I get?” And I’d give momma a hug. I’d hug my momma. I love to hug my momma. I hug my momma; sometimes I’d hug her too tight. “Don’t squeeze so tight now!”

Oh, I’d have fun huggin’ my momma. My momma, Pauline Bernadine, is full-figured. Amen? Full-figured, mature. Momma says, “I think I have a gland problem. I really do.” (Laughter) I said, “Momma, it’s this gland right here.” (Laughter) And she says, “No, I’m serious.” My momma’s got hangy-down part on her arms. (Laughter) I mean, when we go swimmin’ in the lake. I put my foot in my mouth awhile back and said, “Momma, those are the cutest little floaties I ever seen on your arms right there!” (Laughter) She said, “Those are mine!” (Laughter)

My precious, little, old momma. Her hair is sorta wiry. It’s sorta poofed up and hairspray on it. And she says, “It’s gotta last a week!” (Laughter) I mean, I remember when I baptized her years ago. Put her underneath the water. When I came up, her hair didn’t go down! Water went through like a sieve. (Laughter)

I love my momma. My momma still takes care of me, Pauline Bernadine. And I had those precious memories when she took care of me. I was the middle child. Older sister, Sherry Darlene, little sister, Terry Lynn, and I was blessed being that middle. I knew how to work both ends of the situation. You know, right there, that middle child, you’re the compromiser. You know how to work it. And my little momma, bless her heart, she loved me. But I remember there were those times when I’d come home from school and she’d say, “Come here; hug your mother.” I’d say, “Momma, I ain’t huggin’ ya.” “I said, ‘Hug your mother.’” I said, “Momma, I ain’t huggin’ ya.” “I said, ‘Hug your mother.’”

And then my daddy would be in that recliner with a stick on the side. Boom! Break it down and say, “Boy, you better hug your mother right now!” (Laughter) Because Daddy knew if Momma wasn’t happy, he’d be unhappy a long time. You know what I’m saying! (Laughter) I ain’t gonna deal with that now. That’s another sermon. (Laughter)

My little momma, she was a good cook, too. I love my momma. I hug her a bunch, because she’s a good cook. When I’d be going off to school, I’d say, “Momma, if ya love me, when I get back there’ll be some chocolate ice-box pies.” She said, “I don’t have time, Dennis, to do that. I don’t have time.” “Like I said, if ya love me, there’ll be some chocolate ice-box pies when I get home.” “Don’t do that to me, okay? I don’t have time. Don’t do that to your mother!” I said, “Well, forget it. Just forget it.” (Laughter)

I’d come home after football practice and she’d say, “Well, you might wanna look in the refrigerator.” (Laughter) I’d open it up and there’d be two chocolate ice-box pies in there and I’d say, “Come on, Momma.” I’d give her a little a hug. Hug my momma. I love my momma.

You know, I hug. I hug her every chance now. And she is full-figured and you know what I’m saying and everything. Sometimes I’d just reach around and just grab a little love roll right there and go “Woo!” She goes, “Stop it!” (Laughter)

Program Note:

John: We’re listening to former pastor and Christian humorist, Dennis Swanberg on today’s “Focus on the Family.” And in just a few minutes you’ll hear how he surprised his mom with the best birthday present ever and it might give you some good ideas to surprise your own mom this Sunday. Get a CD of this program with quite a bit of extra content by Dennis when you call 800-A-FAMILY or you can get the instant download at . Let’s go ahead and return now to Dennis Swanberg on today’s “Focus on the Family.”

End of Program Note

Dennis: You know, I love my momma because my momma believed in me. My momma always was there for me. I’d come home from school and have these report cards that on it said, “Talks too much. Talks too much.” My whole life was, “Talks too much.” Anybody know what I’m talking about? Talk—brother, I know how you feel, son. Hang in there. It’ll get better in about 40 years. (Laughter) “Talks too much.” I wanna tell my teachers now, I’ve made a lot of money talking too much! (Laughter) Amen? Amen? Amen? Amen? Amen? (Laughter and Applause) Whew!

I remember in school, I remember I’d go to my teachers and my teachers would say, “You’re gonna be my helper. You’re gonna be my helper.” I went, “I did that last year.” You know, every year I was my teacher’s helper. Every year I had to sit next to my teacher’s desk. Grade school, junior high, high school, college. When I went to the seminary, I had to sit next to my professor’s desk! (Laughter)

Oh, I love my momma. You know, all these years, all these years, I’ve missed my momma’s birthday. And you know, when I was in the pastorate for 23 years, you know, getting off on the weekend or Sunday, I mean, if you take off a weekend, it counts as a day of vacation! Amen?

And then I’m busy since 1995, speaking and entertaining and doing this as a ministry of encouragement. And a while back I got to thinkin’, I haven’t been with my mother on her birthday in probably over 20 years.

Well, this last August 23rd, I was in Houston, Texas. I was gonna speak that night and I got up early that morning ’cause when I travel so much I get up; I wake up early and all of a sudden, I realized it was my momma’s birthday. So I get on the phone and I call my momma and she answers, “Hello? Hello?” “Momma, hi! What are you doing?” I said, “Momma, happy birthday.” “Oh, well, thank you.” “Happy birthday, Momma. How old are ya?” “76.” I said, “Momma, goodnight. Getting older.” “Well, you are, too.” (Laughter)

And I said, “Well, what are you gonna do today? What’s your plans for today?” She says, “Well, I’m gonna go to Foley’s and I’m gonna get me a gift for Daddy to give to me for my birthday.” (Laughter)

So you young couples, that’s what happens later on. As a matter of fact, even in mid-life they’ll go buy stuff and just inform you of what they’ve done (Laughter) and then they’ll say things like, “This is my birthday and my Christmas.” (Laughter)

I remember my wife did that one time. I looked a new rock she had on her finger. I went, “Good night, I could build two churches on that rock right there.” (Laughter) She said, “Do you have be spiritual about everything?” (Laughter) I said, “Well, excuse me.”

But my little momma, I said, “Well, Momma, so you’re going to get you[rself something.]” “I’m gonna go get something for Daddy to give to me.” And then I said, “You don’t wrap it up.” “Oh, yeah, I wrap it up and everything. And we enjoy opening it and everything. I like doing that.” I went, “Well, isn’t that precious.” (Laughter)

“So you’re going to Foley’s?” “Yeah.” I said, “When does Foley’s open?” She said, “Ten o’clock in the morning.” I said, “Really?” I said—and all of a sudden I got an idea—I said, “Well Momma, I’ll tell you what, have your cell phone on.” Now she has a cell phone. When she started out she had 30 minutes for the month. (Laughter) My dad said, “She don’t need more than that. That’s just for emergencies only.” (Laughter) Now she’s up to about three or 400. We’re so proud of her. My dad always gets nervous about those cell phones. He said, “I think it gives you cancer.” (Laughter) Them cell phones, everything give you cancer.

I said, “Momma, have your cell phone on,” I said, “because I’m gonna have FedEx drop you off my gift and they won’t leave it at the house unless you give them permission. They’re gonna call you for permission.” I just made all that up. “That’s what I want you to do, Momma.”

And I decided I’m gonna drive from Houston in my rent[al] car to Austin and I’m gonna see if I can find her at Foley’s. And I’m drivin’ along and I get to Foley’s right at 10 o’clock. Look in there and I don’t know where to even look in that big ‘ole place where she’s gonna shop. So, I called my older sister Sherry Darlene. I said, “Darlene, what kinda outfits does Momma wear?” She said, “Well, she wears Alfred Dunbar,” or Dunner, okay. Little Alfred Dunner—whoever he is. (Laughter) So I went over to the lady and I said, “Do you have any Alfred Dunner stuff here?” She said, “Oh, right over there.” I went over there and there’s the little section: Alfred Dunner. And so, then I backed off and I’m waiting and I’m waiting and I’m worried and wondering if she’s gonna come or not. So I called Darlene back again.

I said, “See where she is. Call her on the cell phone.” So she did and then she called me back. “She’s coming over. She’s coming into the Foley’s. She’s coming. Be ready.” So I was waiting and all of a sudden way over yonder, she comes walkin’ in to Foley’s.

Here’s this precious little senior adult lady, 5′ tall, healthy and she’s walking in there and I was watchin’ my momma. I guess the first time I’ve just watched my momma from a distance without her knowing that I was watching and she’s just coming in there and she got these rack of clothes and she’d look and look. And her little hair’s still poofy and wirey, has it sorta blocked in the back now; new little touch. (Laughter)

And she’d pick up an outfit and she’d put it to her little chest, but what can you tell by putting it up against you? (Laughter) It’s sorta like a man with a short tie. He’s going, “Looks good from here!” (Laughter)

And she kept looking and I kept watching my little momma and I said, “Lord, my momma is a senior adult. My momma’s getting older.” I just watched her. And I thought about all those years growing up and when I’d hug my momma and stuff like that, when she used to pinch me on the hangy down part of my arm when I acted up in church; left a hickey on my arm right there. (Laughter)

I’d go to high school and my buddies would say, “Hey Swan! You got a hickey! Who gave you the hickey on the back of your arm?” I went, “My mother.” (Laughter) I can tell there was a lady over here going, “I don’t think I’d of told that.” (Laughter) Just pray for me, Honey; just pray for me. Well, that’s what my momma does. She just loves me unconditionally.

Finally, I made my way and I got right behind her and all of a sudden she turns around to look at another rack of clothes but, “Dennis! Oh, Dennis! Oh, Dennis! Dennis! What are you doing here?” I said, “Well, it’s your birthday! Happy birthday!” “Oh!! Oh!!” (Laughter) I said, “Well, what are you doin’?” “I’m trying to find something for Daddy to give me for my birthday.” (Laughter)

“But I don’t like anything I’ve seen.” I said, “Well, come over here to Alfred Dunner over here.” “Oh, that’s not on sale right now. It’s not on sale.” I said, “Momma, we ain’t worrying about what’s on sale. I’m gonna get you some Alfred Dunner.” “Oh, Dennis! That’s why we have something and y’all don’t.” (Laughter)

I mean, at that moment, you know, it’s sorta a precious moment I almost wanted to break into Barney Fife and say, “You’re the cat’s meow! You’re the sweetest little thing I’ve ever known!” You know? It was just a precious time and I said, “Momma, you pick out what you want. Let’s look at it.” And I remember we looked at that rack and I remember, I think she’s like an 18. There was a little number, 18, on her little outfit. And she said, “I can fit in an 18. I don’t button anything anymore.” (Laughter)

And I told her, I said, “I don’t either.” (Laughter) And she looked at me and she said, “See, we’re so much alike!” (Laughter) I said, “Well, my reason I don’t button it is ’cause it won’t reach.” She said, “You didn’t need to say that.” And then I bought her a little outfit, a little blouse. And then I got her them britches of Alfred Dunner britches. And I’m gonna tell you, those are awesome. That elastic, woo! (Laughter)

And then I took her over and said, “Let’s get a purse.” “Now, that’s enough. That is too much. That’s too much!” I said, “Momma, I’m getting’ you a purse.” And I took her to this place where the purses were behind the glass, locked. And she said, “No, Dennis, no. If Daddy found out, he would die!” (Laughter) And my dad’s memory’s not the best as it used to be and I said, “Well, he won’t remember!” (Laughter)

You know, he won’t know! “Well we’re not spending that much. Oh, gosh!” (Laughter) So she ended up buying a little $29 dollar red purse. I said, “Now we’re gonna go to the food court and we’re just gonna have some coffee together.” “Oh, okay. I know where to go. Daddy and I, we go to Annie’s. The little cinnamon twist for our coffee ’cause it’s the best buy for a coffee.” I went, “Oh, we wanna save a nickel!” (Laughter)

And so, as we’re walking over there to get our coffee, there was this guy that had a booth, like a little booth wagon kind of thing and had T-shirts on there and coffee cups with pictures on it—people’s pictures on the coffee cup and the T-shirt. And I said, “Listen Buddy, could you take my mom and my picture—us together—and put it on a coffee cup?” He said, “I can put it on a coffee cup (in Indian accent).” (Laughter)

I’m just giving my testimony, all right? (Laughter) I’m trying to be as accurate as I can be. I said, “Well, I want two of ’em.” He said, “$21.95, $21.95.” And my momma said, “Dennis, I didn’t pay for a coffee cup!” (Laughter) I said, “We’re gonna have our picture on it.” He said, “You get one line on it–one line, one line per cup.” And I said, “Well, I want mine to say, ‘Momma, I love you. Dennis.’ Momma, what do you want on yours?” “I want ‘Dennis, I love you, Momma.’” And he was going, “I think I can handle that.” (Laughter)

I said, “Well, you fix it while we drink our coffee.” So he went to work on it. We get our cup of coffee and we sit down and we talk and we talk a long time. And we talk about a lot of things–talk about life, talk about Daddy, talk about us kids, talk about the days to come. And when it was all said and done, we’d finished and well, it was time to go ’cause the man came over and said, “I got your coffee cups in the box, right here in the box. They’re machine washable.” “Thank you.” (Laughter)

I paid him and then it’s just me and Momma, me and my little momma, and she didn’t have to tell me this time; God told me. He said, “Swanny, hug your momma.” And I hugged my momma and I hugged her a long time. It was one of those hugs where I ain’t gonna let go, she’ll have to let go first. And then after a while, “Okay, there’s people here.” (Laughter)

I’m here to tell ya, folks, if you’re momma’s alive, hug your momma. If your momma’s not alive, hug some momma that needs a hug. Hug some saint that needs a hug. People need hugs. You see, I believe that on the cross when Jesus looked at John and said, “John, behold your momma” and He looked at His momma and said, “Momma, behold your son” and I believe that there was a time and it was an appropriate time where old John hugged his new momma and held her.

And I’ll tell you what else I believe. I believe that when the Lord Jesus returned and I know He told Thomas to “Touch Me”—told someone else don’t touch Me then said, “Thomas, behold, go ahead and touch My side.” I have a feeling within those 40 days when He saw His momma, I betcha He hugged His momma. I betcha He hugged His momma. I betcha He hugged His momma.

And I know this, in heaven, in heaven when I see my momma I will give my momma a hug. I wanna encourage you, folks, to give folks that need that hug, that hug. Give ’em that holy hug and may you be blessed for a long, long time in giving those hugs.


John: A poignant thought with which to end this Mother’s Day edition of “Focus on the Family” with our special guest speaker, Dennis Swanberg.

Jim: John, I love that idea of Jesus hugging His mother during those 40 days when He walked on this earth in His resurrected body. I’ll bet those were moments that Mary treasured for the rest of her life.

Folks, if you’re blessed to have your mom nearby, give her a hug today, won’t ya? And if it’s too long of a distance, call her. That comes pretty close to a hug.

John: Well, we’ll be making phone calls, me to my mom and Dena to hers and I’ll just do a shout out right here, Jim. Dena is a great mom and we’re very fortunate to have her influence in the lives of all of our kids. And I was just telling her the other day, I would have messed them up a lot. I’m so glad that you’ve been the mom that you’ve been.

Jim: Well, that’s sweet, John and for me, my mom’s in heaven and I’ll say Happy Mother’s Day to Jean, who is an absolutely wonderful mother. Happy Mother’s Day, Jean.

And you know what, I think Jean would say and I would say, Focus has been a wonderful resource for her role as a mom and in the last year, over 600,000 families agreed. They said Focus strengthened their parenting skills and about 190,000 said that Focus helped save their family during a parenting crisis. Let me say thank you to all of you who have helped do this through your prayers and through your financial support of Focus.

John: That’s a lot of families, 600,000 and 190,000, maybe that’s you, maybe it’s your friends and neighbors, but this ministry is there every day trying to help out.

Jim: And let me say, if you’d like to help a family by supporting Focus on the Family, make a donation today. That’s how we do it. Ninety-five percent of our budget is fueled by you and we need to hear from you, because families are desperate today. I’ve had so many people, John, say Focus on the Family is right at the apex of what the culture needs, because the family is under such pressure. I believe it. I hope you believe it, too and you’ll be willing to stand with us and support us.

John: And if you donate today, we’ll send the CD from today’s message by Dennis Swanberg to you as our way of saying thank you for your generous gift of any amount to Focus on the Family. That CD will include quite a bit of extra content, a lot of wonderful humor from Dennis that we just couldn’t squeeze into today’s presentation. So, please donate today and we’ll send that to you. Our number is 800-232-6459; 800-A-FAMILY or you can donate online at www.focusonthefamily,.com/radio. If you’d prefer to write a check, our mailing address is 8605 Explorer Driver, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80920.

Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening in. I’m John Fuller, hoping you have a great weekend, reminding you to call your mom and inviting you back on Monday when you’ll hear how one woman went from never wanting kids to becoming a happy mother of three, as we once again, share encouragement to help you and your family thrive.

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