Out of the blue, an old friend, Randy, called me. It was a couple of days before Mother’s Day, and he seemed to have been thinking about his mother and mine, who had both passed away. He didn’t say so directly, but the topic turned that way.
I knew he was overseas and wondered what time it was there.
“Oh,” he said, “it’s two o’clock in the morning.”
“You’ve got to be kidding,” I replied. “What are you doing up at this hour?”
He laughed. “I’m retired, unlike someone else I know. I can do anything I want.”
He said he had been working on something and hadn’t noticed the time. But then he got thinking about home. He couldn’t find a phone number for any friends from our childhood days, but he knew we were connected on Facebook, so he called me on FaceTime.
We kept it to audio only, and even that pushed the boundaries of understandability, but it was fun to hear from him and consider old memories.
“Do you remember growing up and all the work we had to do?” Randy asked. “There were always cows to be milked, pipe to move, and hay to haul. I think we had the meanest parents in the world.”
“I remember,” I replied.
“While all of our friends were off having fun, we had to work,” he said. “I think our parents were afraid that having a little fun might ruin us.”
I laughed. “Well, you know, some of the supposedly fun things our friends did weren’t all that good.”
“Yeah,” Randy said, “I got in on a few of those. I probably would have been in on more if I hadn’t been so busy.”
“I know it kept me out of trouble,” I replied. “My dad always said, ‘An idle boy is a boy getting into mischief.’ I know my dad didn’t plan on that happening to me.”
“There was one big problem with all the work,” Randy said. “I didn’t do very well in school.”
“Because you didn’t have time to study?” I asked.
“No. It was more like not seeing how book learning was going to help me with milking cows or changing pipe. I couldn’t see the value of it. But you excelled in school. Why the difference?”
“I didn’t mind the physical work,” I said. “But I didn’t want to do manual labor all my life. I saw education as a means to move up into a career. I would say it was the hard work that motivated me.”
“The difference in our attitudes is interesting,” Randy replied. “It did have that effect later in my life. But didn’t you just wish you didn’t have to get up at five to milk cows, then grab breakfast on your way to the bus?”
I laughed. “But you’ve got to admit, those cinnamon rolls your mom made while you were milking were the best. Remember how we’d all scheme to get some away from you?”
Randy chuckled. “Oh, I remember. Lenny was the worst. He had more tricks up his sleeve than anyone I know.”
“Do you remember how, after a hard day of work, sweaty and tired, we’d go to the river for a swim?”
“That always felt good,” Randy said.
“Do you remember the horse riding for cattle drives, the late-night cooking around the fires, or the times we slept out under the stars?”
“Oh, I remember,” Randy replied. “You know, when I called you, I wanted to commiserate with you about what I thought was the worst growing-up in the world. I thought about how tough we had it. But now I realize it made us what we are.”
“I hope that’s a good thing,” I said.
“It is,” Rod replied. “Now that I think about it, I wouldn’t trade how we grew up for anything in the world, mean parents and all.”