Mid-June rolled around and I remembered that Mom’s birthday was coming up. She was born in 1941. I paused for a second, did the math and realized that her 80th birthday was in a couple weeks. I’ve never wanted to think of my parents getting “old.” My dad died the month after he’d turned 70. I never thought of my dad as old after he’d turned 70. Your age is just a number. I’m 45 and if I really think about it, I don’t feel much different than I did when I was 30.
No, I probably do. Things ache now. And my ankles pop whenever I walk. And my knees pop whenever I come up from a hunkered down position. And I’m tired more often nowadays. But I’m still spry. Spry is a word old people use.
80 just seems like a big number when it comes to age. But my parents both never really made a big deal of their ages. I remember when we still lived in Houston my dad had a 50th “over the hill” birthday party at our house. There were black balloons and streamers and a cake with black icing. But that wasn’t by his choice. It was the neighbors and his coworkers that did that for him.
As I’ve gotten older and now have a family of my own, I’ve been focused on my own little family ecosystem. Admittedly my mom and I aren’t as close as we were all throughout my childhood and young adult life. A lot of that is circumstantial and I don’t want to dwell on details. I love my mom and she means the world to me.
I don’t know if this is 100% factual, but the story in my mind is that my parents were on the fence about having a child together. You see, they were each others’ second marriage. My dad and his first wife divorced. My mom’s first husband died. My parents met in their thirties. My dad had two daughters from his first marriage and mom had two boys. Mom always wanted a daughter and so she talked my dad into having a child together. So they got a boy. That’s me.
Dad worked hard and provided. Mom stayed home, raised me and took care of all of the things that needed taking care of. I was a Mama’s Boy. She taught me most things about life. She talked to me. She took me everywhere. And I don’t really recall every bemoaning the errands we’d go on. Dad did well as a salesman in the food brokerage industry so, while modest, we didn’t really do without. So I remember running a lot of errands and going shopping with mom. We didn’t go on sprees, but I remember being on the go quite a lot.
After we’d moved out to Cat Spring a lot of our errand running meant we were on the road. Houston had been our home, so we’d go into Houston a lot. Or Katy. Eventually we’d stay a little more local and go into Brenham. Now that I think about it, I think a lot of times our errands were my mom just wanting to get out of the house. There’s only so much “homemaking” a wife and mom can or wants to do.
I remember so many hours in the car over the years with my mom. Just going places. And we’d talk. She’d talk mostly. I don’t remember what all we’d talk about. And I sure don’t remember what I would’ve said. I remember mom talking. I guess I was an okay conversationalist, otherwise my mom wouldn’t’ve just been talking into a void.
We’d go to Memorial City Mall in Houston. We’d go to Wal-Mart, Kmart, Best, department stores, the nursery. Mom has always had a green thumb. I never really liked going to nurseries but now, looking back on it, I have fond memories. I’d probably wander off amongst the plants while mom looked for whatever it is she wanted. And we’d always go somewhere to eat lunch. We never really went to a sit down kind of places. Usually it was fast food. It was the 1980’s.
I have an affinity for Chick-Fil-A because of those outings with mom. There was a Chick-Fil-A in the food court of Memorial City Mall. That was the mall that was closest to our house when we lived in Houston, and the mall that was closest to us when we moved to Cat Spring an hour away. Again, it was the 80’s (and early 90’s) and people often went to the mall. We always when to Chick-Fil-A when we went to the mall. We both liked it. Me probably more than mom. We’d sit in the food court and people watch, eat fried chicken sandwiches and waffle fries and talk.
We burned up I-10 driving back and forth to Houston running our errands and talking. I remember driving to Brenham with mom too. Driving around in Austin and Washington county was nice because it was rural. I remember the seasons. Especially spring. The country is so green in the spring. The Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes covered the roadsides and pastures.
I got a little older and started establishing my own identity, so I started getting into music. So we would often listen to whatever music I was getting into on the radio during our drives and errand running.
I have so many memories of doing little bits of nothing with my mom. Too many to document here. I like having them nestled in my long-term memory. I think they get fainter and fainter as I get older, but they’re there. And I treasure them. Mom and I always had a close bond. I’m sure there were some heavy conversations on the roads. Some life lessons were taught.
Since it was mom’s 80th birthday this past weekend, we went to visit her. She sold the ranch in Cat Spring two years ago and moved into a little house in Sealy. Elise had to work on Saturday, so Maly, Mara and I packed up after work and drove to mom’s on Friday.
Honestly we didn’t have much planned for an 80th birthday. I kind of thought we’d take mom to a nice lunch or dinner on Sunday after Elise drove up. I couldn’t think of some kind of present to get her because mom doesn’t really need anything and she, like me, isn’t really a fan of “stuff” for the sake of stuff. It just makes for mental inventory.
Mom had made sausage, beans and rice for dinner on Friday night when the girls and I got there. We had dinner together in her little kitchen. After dinner I put myself on kitchen duty. I rinsed the plates and started putting dishes in her dishwasher. Mom stopped me and told me that the dishwasher didn’t work.
So I told mom I’d buy her a dishwasher for her birthday if she wanted it. She liked that idea so we decided we’d go to Katy the next day and pick out a dishwasher for her. We’d burn up I-10 like we did in the old days.
Katy and Houston and practically indistinguishable nowadays. And that sprawl is creeping out into Brookshire and Sealy in recent years. Getting onto I-10 from Sealy is a complicated mess of construction. We had to detour west for a few miles on I-10 in order to go east into Katy. I told mom and the kids that this outing was going to be an adventure.
We made it to Lowe’s on Fry Road to learn that they don’t carry much appliance inventory so we couldn’t just pick out a dishwasher and load it up into the back of the truck. The Lowe’s employee told me that he was showing they had a couple models of the dishwasher mom had picked out in Cinco Ranch. When he told me that, I was coming to the idea that procuring a dishwasher was going to become an all day affair.
We decided to drive across the street to Home Depot. There were learned that they don’t carry appliance inventory at all. We’d have to order what we wanted and have it delivered. I wanted to buy a dishwasher that day and install it for my mom that afternoon.
I reminded the ladies that today was an adventure. It didn’t help that it’s late June in Texas, so it was hot outside. And mom now had a bit of a bad knee, so doing a lot of walking isn’t her favorite thing to do. We were getting a bit hungry at that point, so before the pangs set in, I decided we’d drive down the road and get barbecue and Rudy’s. My treat.
Lunch was good and we were all well-fed. Our adventure couldn’t be over just yet, so we decided to make the trek to the Lowe’s in Cinco Ranch to see if they had dishwashers in stock. Thankfully they did, so that made for short work in our dishwasher-seeking adventure. Maly and I loaded up the dishwasher into the back of mom’s truck and it was time to head home. Instead of heading north to get on I-10 and deal with the backed up traffic from Brookshire to Sealy, we stayed south and took FM 1093 west all the way to 36.
That was a nice drive. There wasn’t frustration from having to drive all over Katy or Houston in search of a dishwasher. Having to stop at three stores wasn’t that bad. And we’d only been out for 3 hours, and that included lunch, so it was the right amount of time to be out on this errand. The girls were fine and behaved, so it was just a nice afternoon. And the drive through Cinco Ranch, Fulshear, and Wallis was nice. It was kind of rural. It was like a mix of those days when mom and I would drive to Houston and Brenham. I don’t know how to describe it. It was just nice. It reminded me of those hours in the car, just mom and me. But this time I had my mom’s granddaughter’s with us.
It took me most of the evening to get the old dishwasher out and the new one in. Elise drove in to mom’s house on Sunday afternoon and we had an early dinner for mom’s birthday. We didn’t do the fancy lunch or dinner outing. In fact, mom made dinner for us on her own birthday. She made a sirloin roast with potatoes and carrots. Elise brought a rich chocolate birthday cake that we ate after dinner.
Six o’clock rolled around and I needed to head back to Austin so I could be at work on Monday morning. The girls stayed back to spend the rest of mom’s birthday and the next day with her. I really wish I didn’t have to come home. I guess I didn’t have to, but I didn’t want to have to wake up extra early and drive the two hours home in the morning. Then I’d have to wake everybody up.
The drive home was nice. It had rained quite a bit between Sealy and Austin during the day, so there were a lot of clouds in the sky. The rain had dried up, but things had cooled off a bit. And the clouds were covering most of the sun in the west, so I wasn’t blinded the whole way home. And the clouds were those nice purple blue clouds that seemed like they had some rain and lightning stored inside of them. Not those Texas summer big cotton ball clouds that hang out high in the sky and don’t move very fast.
The landscape was green because of the unusual amount of rain we’ve had so far this summer. And the sun behind the clouds just kind of painted a nice scene in the landscape high above. It was a pretty drive home. It was hard to leave mom’s. And once I got on the road I got a bit depressed if I’m being honest. I thought about all of those memories mentioned above, and a lot more.
I thought a lot about how the past 45 years have just kind of slipped by. I’ve built up a lot of memories over those years and when I was driving those 120 miles home it seemed like those memories were endless. I’m thankful for those memories and there’s a great level of comfort in having them.
It’s just sad to think that the sources of those memories won’t always be here.
I wish I would’ve thought to take a photo of mom, the girls and me eating lunch at Rudy’s or shopping for dishwashers or combing through the garden section of Lowe’s in search of a plumbago. I guess I wasn’t supposed to. Perhaps this past Saturday was part of a new legacy of memories. Maybe my children will look back on that day with fond memories. And maybe they won’t. But it was a nice day for me.