He’s good to my mother. And in my book, that qualifies him for Catholic sainthood.
You’d like him. He has a silver mustache, blue eyes, works with his hands, and when he talks he sounds like Birmingham.
The first time we met was at his home in the sticks of Mossy Head, Florida. My mother sat on the sofa, watching us sip beer and talk baseball. She smiled—she smiles a lot when she’s around him. We hit it off.
Later that night, my mother told me, “I think I might love Mike.”
I looked at my five-foot-two mother and my eyes got blurry. For twenty years after my father left this world on purpose, my mother wouldn’t even date a Dorito. She’d sworn off love altogether.
Instead, she worked. She served food, cleaned houses, or threw newspapers. There was no time for anything but raising kids.
After my baby sister left home, my mother became seriously ill. It felt like the greatest tragedy of the twenty-first century. I visited her in Atlanta and hugged her frail body. The Emory Doctors forecasted the worst, and I cried for weeks.
But the worst did not happen. She got better. It was a genuine miracle. In fact, I considered it to be the biggest miracle I’d ever seen.
But I was wrong. Heaven was only warming up. Because then she met him.
He built a sewing room for her in his house. There, she quilted, knitted, and used her old Singer sewing machine like she’d done long ago. My mother can sew the pants off the Pope.
They made a life together. She decorated his place; he built her a fire pit. She adopted stray cats; he worked outside.
He’s a quiet man—he won’t speak too loud. And this makes him very different from the hot tempered man who raised me.
And he tells a good story. He’s quick to laugh, cry, or do both—if the story calls for it. There’s a lot to be said about a man who isn’t afraid to let his eyes leak.
He is Alabama football to the bone. A Paul Bryant disciple. If you cut him with a pocketknife, you’ll see crimson and houndstooth spill on the floor.
He can look you in the eye and tell you about the ‘82 game against Georgia Tech—Bryant’s farewell season. Or the ‘79 Sugar Bowl against Penn State—Alabama took the lead because of a 62-yard punt return.
He is a “good ole boy.” And if you don’t know what that is, you owe it to yourself to find out. Take me, for instance, I aspire to be a “good ole boy.”
Anyway, I just had breakfast with him. It was a crowded place. My mother was there. We sat together, talking over coffee. My mother wore a smile. He did, too. And I couldn’t help but grin.
When my mother is with him, she looks younger than the hard-working widow she once was. She looks like a woman who never suffered a day in her life.
She has become the woman she was always meant to be. The woman she couldn’t be after grieving for a man who nearly ruined her life.
And after our breakfast, I felt something. Something good. It’s a feeling I can’t explain in words—even though I deal in words.
I think what I’m trying to say is: I believe that no matter what happens, and no matter what sort of private hell you might suffer, I believe it’s going to get better. I believe you’re going to get your turn. I truly do.
My mother is getting hers. His name is Mike, and he’s a good man.
No. He’s more than that.
He’s my family.