My mom will celebrate her 87th birthday this month. Eighty-seven years is a long time to be alive. It’s a long time to inhabit a body. It represents roughly 762,626.34 hours, 45,757,580 minutes. And I am grateful for all of them.
I‘m grateful for every moment that has made and makes my mom. I’m thankful for her successes and failures, her great loves and her heartaches, the mountains she’s climbed and the molehills she’s let be. I admire her steadfast work ethic (she retired at 83 from her full-time job of 45 years) and her sense of adventure (she moved to Austin at 83 after half a century in Houston). I’m awed by her calm courage during crises. I am humbled by her unwavering devotion to her daughters. She has a trusting nature and a sweet naiveté that I envy.
My mother was born during the depression and grew up poor. Her father left the family when she was 10 and never looked back. He offered no help or assistance, no birthday cards or Christmas presents, no child support until he was ordered by the court.
My mom and her brother lived with their grandparents during the war (WWII) while their mother, my grandmother, Mimi, worked in Houston. Mimi worked to send money home to provide for her children and help her parents. Every six months, Mimi would take a Greyhound Bus from Houston to Corsicana, then catch a cab to her parent’s home. One Christmas, it had been raining cats and dogs. The cab could get close to the house but the last mile was too muddy to drive. My grandmother walked that mile in the rain and mud carrying suitcases of presents for her children. She set an impressive example.
Their farm was near the tiny town of Eureka about 10 miles outside of Corsicana. There my mom developed a love for horses and a dislike for picking cotton and milking cows. She learned to back up a team of mules while driving a wagon. She learned to herd cattle on her neighbor’s farm. She could fell a tree in the direction she chose and sharpen the ax on a whetstone. She learned to use leverage when lifting a heavy object. When my mom was not outside, she was frequently behind a book. She credits her first grade teacher, Miss Parry of Miss Parry’s School, for her love of reading. To this day, she is a voracious reader.
At school, my mother was painfully shy and teased unmercifully for being smart. She graduated Valedictorian from high school. My mom was part of the first class to attend Navarro Jr. College, now part of Texas Tech. Her class mates were veterans home from the war. She did not graduate; her generosity got the best of her. Her brother needed a final project to graduate high school and my mom gave him her final project that would have allowed her to graduate college. She has always put her family’s needs and wants before hers, even when it’s to her detriment.
These moments and countless others have helped shape and make my mom. And me by extension. There is no person living or dead who has had more impact on who I am. The best of me springs from her. She is, to steal from Beethoven, my Immortal Beloved.
Happy Birthday, Mother! I wish you good health, a good night’s sleep every night, good food, great books and many more wonderfully happy, decidedly delicious moments!