The last 80th birthday I celebrated with anyone was my mother’s birthday. That was eons ago, it seems…yet it was just 2002. My Mom was a very active woman – she skillfully managed her own stock portfolio, volunteered several hours a week as a “Pink Lady” at the local hospital, and followed us around to all of our respective hobbies and kids’ activities. Our boys called my Mom “Lucy-Gran”. Elder Son and I lived with her for a while so Elder Son could go to the private parochial school my brother and I had attended in our youth. She never missed a kindergarten graduation, a dance, stock show, a roping, a ball game, or a play. My brother and I live 45 miles apart – and she was at every event, for every grandson. I will never forget how much she sacrificed for us. Where those grandsons were, you would find Lucy-Gran.
I think Mom knew every person in our home town. She stayed very active. And independent…very independent. She would drive from West Texas to Shreveport, to go gambling at the “Boats”, and call us after she arrived…"Janie, I’m in Shreveport, spending your inheritance. I’ll be home in 2-3 days, after I go see your cousins in Troup. Love you!” Or, she and my Other Mom would hop on the tour bus and head out to Niagara Falls, or north to watch the leaves turn – whatever trip came up, they were game. Mom would fly to Vegas or to Laughlin just because she’d had a dream that she was going to win…and did! I remember, on Mother’s Day, 2003, she even went to the hunting refuge to watch Zack work. Mom was, for every single day of our lives, simply amazing. She was both mother and father to my brother and I – as well as several of our friends!
To everyone else but us, she was Lucy. Everyone loved her. About two weeks before her birthday, I had a brain wave (thank you, God!), and started planning an “I Love Lucy” party. I still can’t believe we pulled it off. I sent out invitations, and enclosed were two questions to be answered by the recipient.
“What is your favorite memory of Lucy?”
“Will you please tell us a funny story about Lucy?”
I captured all the replies, and put them in an animated power point, and played it continuously at her party. My brother and I almost pulled off the “surprise” part. Mom had been gambling again in Shreveport, and we thought we could get away with putting a sizeable invitation ad in the local paper, which Mom never read. (Raised in the East Texas Piney Woods, she was a Dallas Morning News kind of girl.) The ad was styled something like this:
“Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Please don’t tell Lucy-gran!
You’re invited to a Surprise 80th Birthday Party for Lucy on June 26 at ...”
Mom returned to town a day early, and ran by the bank on her way home. Almost immediately, some old codger came up to her, and said, “Well, did you have a good time at your birthday party?”
Mom called me.
We. Were. Busted.
“Honey, I know.”
“Know what, Mom?”
“About the party.”
“What party, Mom?”
“Jane. You know. My surprise 80th birthday party at the church - the one that you and your brother are throwing for me.”
“Oh. Yeah. That party. How do you know, Mom?
“This stupid man at the bank told me. Then when I asked what he was talking about, he said “Oh, you didn’t know?” and, then, told me what the ad said. And I told him that if I was supposed to know, the ad wouldn’t say “Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Please don’t tell Lucy-gran!!!” Can you believe that stupid man?! I can't believe he's even smart enough to be in a bank!”
“Well, Mom, don’t worry, that just takes the stress out of it! We’re still picking you up for lunch at 11. Be ready, Mom, I love you!”
“Okay, sweetie...but honey, please don’t make me cry, okay? I don’t want to cry.”
“Okay, Mom. It’s all good.”
And it was. We had a blast. Tons of people showed up. Memories had come in from every part of the country – via fax, e-mail, and regular mail. And they were sweet, poignant, and funny. Every time she read a new slide on the power point, she would cry. And laugh. That party blessed her socks off.
Mom died September 29, 2004. I had been out in the field on one of those massive frac jobs. Mom drove 20 miles one way to meet me in Stanton that night for supper, to celebrate my birthday. Then she drove back home and around midnight, experienced a massive brain bleed, and went home almost immediately. She was never in pain, and for that, we are thankful.
And, I’m so thankful for my Other Mom. I love her. You would, too. She is a beautiful, Godly woman who loves her husband, her sons and their wives, and all of our children. She was a good friend to my Mom, and they loved each other. I’m thankful for that, as well.
I miss my Mom.