Birthday Wishes

My son – the college freshman – and I text each other several times every day: about school, about what’s happening with the family, about the demise of the Texas Longhorns football program. On the other hand, in the five weeks he’s been away, we’ve spoken on the telephone exactly once. (He has reached out to his mother several times with questions about laundry, to add money into his bank account and to discuss classes. Dad? Nada.)

That’s a change from when I was a freshman in Austin in 1978. Every Sunday without fail, I picked up the black rotary phone in our dorm room and dialed my parents. It was a tradition like no other, and I have fond memories of those calls. I’ve forgotten all the conversations except one. It will forever remain sketched in mind.

On Sunday, October 1, 1978, my mother had news. “You’re an uncle,” she told me. My oldest brother’s wife had given birth two days earlier to a baby boy. “There’s something else,” she said. “We buried your Aunt JoFay yesterday.” My mother’s oldest sister had suffered a stroke and died at age 57. She was the first close relative I’d lost.

I’ll always remember that strange feeling of life coming and going within seconds. Happiness. Sadness. It didn’t seem right. Yet it seemed natural. That might have been my first step toward growing up.

For the first decade of his life I always asked Justin, “Who’s your favorite uncle?” – competing with my other two brothers for his affection. That little boy is now a 6’3″ man. It hasn’t been a straight line. He had to deal with the death of his father at too young of an age and lost a job during the downturn. Yet, he persevered and is a terrific person… someone my son, 16 years his junior, considers a role model.

Happy 35th birthday, Justin. Here’s wishing you get to experience five more decades of everything life provides.


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