Mother of Mine depicts the struggle of Eero, a young Finnish boy, to adapt to the death of his father in World War II, and the subsequent removal of a generation of Finnish children to neighboring Sweden for their protection. Eero’s putative new mother Signe wants nothing to do with the boy once he arrives, so her husband Hjalmar kindly introduces to his new home and host family. “We have a radio, a clock, and a Grandpa. He’s sick and can’t talk, but he hears everything you say. Right, old man?” In response, Grandpa (whose disability is likely the result of a stroke; his speech and motor skills are affected, but he seems largely cognitively intact) makes a slurping sound, and the two laugh a bit.
That night, at the dinner table, Grandpa is shakily feeding himself with a spoon when Signe gets frustrated. She peremptorily declares that everyone is done eating, brusquely wipes his face, and wheels him to his bedroom. Indeed, Grandpa serves as a bellwether of sorts for Signe’s moods; when she is frustrated with the interloper in her home, Grandpa is accorded little respect for his autonomy. Later, when she warms up to Eero, Grandpa is seen picnicking with the family on a grassy hill; it must have taken an effort to lug him up there in his wheelchair, but he is included as part of the family and even enjoys a beer or two.
When Eero’s mother is finally able to take care of him again, Grandpa is visibility distraught at his departure, and slurs out a single word: “Stay.”