My mom would have been 71 today. Seventy birthdays…there should have been more. One of the best ones she ever had was her 60th, when my brother, Mark, flew in from L.A. to surprise her. I picked him up at the airport and he and I went to shoot some pool downtown until Momma got off work. There was an old building across the street with a big sign that said, “Are you looking for someone?” which prompted my brother to tell me about our other brother. Wha? News to me. Turns out that my parents had a child before me and “without benefit of clergy.” Her birthday celebration was great, limousine, stripper and all. It wasn’t until much later I got the rest of the story…
The Other Brother was given up for adoption; in 1957, a 16-year-old girl didn’t keep an “illegitimate” baby or finish high school. She lived in a home for unwed mothers until the baby was born, and given away. That was that. Nobody ever spoke of it again. Momma got her GED and worked as a bank teller for the next 42 years. Every January 19, she’d bake a cake and cry, and my father would hit her. About 5 years ago, she found out where her son was, quite by accident, and got to meet him before she passed away.
All her life, Momma made sure my brother and I had great birthdays. Her last ones, thankfully, were spent in sunny Mexico, with her gang of gringo friends. How I wish she were still there, sipping a margarita and playing dominos. She said she never enjoyed life more. Happy birthday, Momma.
Photo: Momma with my brother Mark’s daughter Baillie.