By Donald Wright
On Sunday, Mother’s Day, I drove to the house we’re having renovated to rake leaves, which seem to fall year-round in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.
When I got there, I realized there was a person inside, sanding the walls. We had been pressing the builder to finish, now six months along, and this person had apparently been sent to prepare for the next day’s painting.
After I’d raked for a while, the guy emerged from the front door, covered in white dust from the sanding and went to the hose to wash off. He was about 5-foot-6, stocky, Hispanic. We exchanged pleasantries.
“Sure is hot, isn’t it?” I said.
“Yes. Sure is.”
“Working on Sunday, eh?”
“Yes. Most Sundays. Seven days a week, I work.”
He turned the hose on his head and washed the dust and grit from his face, as I returned to the raking.
Then, after a minute, he asked, “It is a special day, no?”
“Yeah,” I said. “It’s Mother’s Day.”
“You know,” he said. “I have not seen my mother in 15 years.”
“Fifteen years,” I said in surprise. “Where is she?”
“Where in Mexico?”
“I know where that is,” I said, not wanting to ask why it had been so long since he’d seen his mother.
I sensed he was in the country illegally and knew that one trip to Vera Cruz might mean he would never return to the United States and a job offering decent money, part of which he could send home to his mother.
“Aw,” he continued. “My mother, she worked always to keep the family. My dad, we never knew him. My mother worked every day; even when she was eight months pregnant (holding out his hands to indicate a round belly), she worked. Then she came home and cooked and took care of us.”
“It’s nice that you can help take care of her now,” I said.
“I do,” he said. “I send money to her every week. I did just this Friday.”
“That’s good,” I said.
Then, after a pause, I felt like talking.
“My parents died a while back,” I said to him, “but my mom also was special. My dad always seemed too busy when I was a kid, but my mom had time — we played, talked, went on hikes. I’ve never stopped appreciating her. None of us ever helped her around the house. She had a job, but none of the rest of us ever cooked.”
A pause ensued.
Then he said, “You know, I really miss my mom.”
I thought I saw moisture forming in his eyes.
“Yeah, I know,” I said. “So do I.”
My vision was getting blurry, too.
“It’s tough,” he said. Then he shrugged and walked back inside the house. I raked a little more, filled a bag with leaves, hauled it to the curb, packed up, and drove back to our rental.
On the drive, I wondered if any subject besides mothers could bring two guys, who don’t know one another’s names, come from different cultures, and are probably 40 years apart in age, to talk so personally and share stories.
Maybe not, I thought.
Donald Wright has been a Beaufort resident since 2014. Retired, he has authored several books.