My mom and dad had known each other since high school. “We were meant to be together,” Dad said. My father didn’t show his emotions much, but you could see a sparkle in his eyes whenever he talked about Mom.
My older brother, Roland, and sister, Alma, and I always knew how much our parents loved each other. Long after they sent us kids off to bed they lingered at the kitchen table, talking and holding hands, just enjoying their time alone.
We lived in Midland, Texas, where Dad was a full-time CPA, and Mom had her own real estate business. In 1980 they bought 600 acres of land a few miles from town, the fulfillment of my mother’s dream. “I want my grandchildren to run and play on their own land,” she said, “just like I did when I was a girl.”
From a small start the ranch grew to 5,000 acres, and they eventually built up a herd of 200 cattle. Dad hired three ranch hands to help my brother and me run the place. But no matter how busy they were with their jobs and the ranch, my parents had lunch together every day for nearly 45 years—often some creative dish Mom made with ingredients from her vegetable garden.
“Your mother could whip up a meal for fifty people in five minutes,” Dad said.
Even after Roland and Alma had families of their own, we’d gather at our Midland house on Sunday evenings for Mom’s barbecued steak and hand-cut french fries and the best homemade ice cream in the world.
I would come back from the ranch, where I lived in a trailer off and on, and we’d be together around the kitchen table, laughing and enjoying good food, just like always. Mom was the meaning of home for us, especially for my dad.
Then one summer day in 1994 Mom had a stroke. She was rushed to the hospital, and later, while she was recovering, the doctors had even worse news: Mom had cancer. “It can’t be true,” Dad whispered. “She’s the strong one.”