Married at 17, three babies by 24. But in her early 40’s she found herself divorced against her will, her house empty of a husband and children, nothing left of value but memories.
She moved to a West Monroe trailer park, bought it, kept teaching school, started over, a good soldier.
Her college-aged son called her practically every day. A male voice to hear, a familiar face to recall, a thread back to good times, maybe a hope for more.
Then one day, the son couldn’t find her. Nothing but dial tones.
There was a reason: she was on the move again.
Seems one day she’d heard a knock on her trailer door. A high school friend she hadn’t seen in, what, 30 years? He, too, wore the outfit of a dude on the move, a man meaning business: blue jeans, windbreaker, Detroit Tigers ballcap. A West Monroe version of Tom Selleck. (Such were the ’80s: dial tones and Magnum P.I.)
They brewed a pot of coffee, started catching up. And apparently, started hanging out far from any landline.
I could not have been happier for our mother. Or for her guy in the ballcap.
That knock on the door led to 30-plus years of marriage and friendship, of travels all over the country and then some. From the press box in Omaha at the College World Series, I called her and Don in Carmel, California to wish them a happy wedding day. Through the years, my sisters and I got postcards from Montana and Maine and Canada, where momma was once ticketed for fishing without a license.
She’d gone international outlaw.
Don’s mother traveled with them often until she passed away. So did an ornery little Chihuahua named TJ, luckiest dog ever born. He passed too, God bless his loved-to-travel heart.
Mom and Don kept going.
It was a bum liver that slowed them, one Don had no part in damaging. Never smoked. Never drank. Ballplayer. A Marine and then a mail carrier for 33 years, he drew a bad card is all. No reason for it really. Nobody’s fault. They made the most of it, and that was a lot.
He adjusted. They adjusted. And most of the past 16 years were normal until they weren’t, until he died in August.
So proud of his grandsons and my nephews at his celebration service in November. They made us laugh, talking about Don and his camcorder at the grandkids’ ballgames, his photography and ham operator hobbies, Captain Drone, the weird flutes he played back in his room (these things were longer than bed slats), his fascination with the New England Patriots, his love of West Monroe’s Rebs and his love for Sweeter, the family’s affectionate name for our mom.
I appreciate the sentiment of Valentine’s Day, but when those Hallmark cards grow up and hit 80-plus, here’s what they want to be:
Part of a couple sitting in matching rocking recliners, splitting a chicken salad sandwich and Fritos, glasses of sweet tea on a shared end table, a ballgame or old movies on the big screen. Companionship forged by time and trust. Deep water.
The short story: the guy loved our mom.
For that and for many other things, a tip of the ballcap to a faithful old Tiger.
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