Happy Birthday Mom

Friday 12 February 2010

Dear “Mom” Nadine

Thirty-five years ago, in 1975, you adopted, through Rotary, another eighteen-year-old son from South Africa.

Simple arithmetic will tell us, therefore, that you were 45 years old at the time. Thinking back on it now, I had thought that you were much older at the time – certainly much older than I am now at 53! But then, I guess, we as the younger generation definitely age much better than the generation before us!

That was the start of a relationship that has now spanned almost four decades. For a long while, when I lived with you and “Dad”, I avoided giving you a name – Mom and Dad didn’t seem quite right and Nadine and Bill seemed too familiar.

There are so many things that stand out from that year – playing in the snow in the middle of the night, homemade ice cream on the back porch, you changing the channel on a Sunday night from Sonny and Cher to the Disney channel, walks in the woods, the huge fire (so I thought) that had destroyed your trees, lying on the plush shag carpet watching TV (a novelty for me then), the Lake of the Arbuckles, … the list continues ad infinitum.

I have had the good fortune of returning to see you in the United States on a number of occasions. In 1989, I spent a month in Sulphur with you. In 1999, we met briefly in Atlanta. In 2001, just after September 11, our whole family was privileged to spend time in Atlanta and Missouri. And then, there was the last visit to you in March 2007 to attend Dad’s 80th surprise party.

Unfortunately, as we all remember, that was not to be and we spent the time with Dad in the hospital. How grateful I will forever be that I got to see him just before he passed away.

I had considered coming over for your 80th birthday, but was scared that another surprise visit from me would send you to the hospital, too!

Nevertheless, my heart and thoughts are in Oklahoma this weekend. I would so dearly have liked to be there with you and the whole Whitley family to celebrate this major milestone in your life.

We will raise our glasses to you and celebrate your life here in South Africa. As the sun sets in the west here tonight, it rises in Oklahoma – a new day, your 80th birthday!

May your days be filled with good health, prosperity and love. Enjoy this time with your very special family. God bless you all!

Thank you for the memories.

We wish you a very happy 80th birthday and many happy returns of the day!

With much love from your African American son, Ed, and Pera, Sean and Phillip.