Hazel was her name, an uncommon one even for her times. She was a Georgia Peach, having been born in Georgia in the summer of 1918, the oldest child of three. A younger sister and brother shared a lifetime of love with her until they passed a few years ago.
When she was four, her family moved to Houston, Texas. She was a teenager during the Depression and had such high hopes and dreams. The times, however, made it difficult and sad. Her father left the family, making it even sadder. Still, she endured the hard times, found strength in friends and family, and became a wonderful, popular, and inspiring woman, a natural leader with an irresistible kindness that was evident to all.
In 1940, she married my dad, Tommy, and over the next 12 years they had four children: three boys (I was the youngest of them) and then my baby sister. My mom was the epitome of the classic housewife and mother of the era, raising children, going to church, selling Beauty Counselor products to earn extra money for us, and then later helping my dad, once he quit the refinery work he was doing, run the business he started out of our garage, Hollywood Boat Works. The boats, fishing and ski boats, were a success and changed our quality of life drastically. We moved from our humble beginnings and were part of a brand new neighborhood, a new school, and a new life. But it wasn’t to last as far as their marriage was concerned. It was the 1960s by then, and the pending social revolution hit our family early and hard.
They divorced in a time when divorce wasn’t that common. It was even considered a social stigma. My older brothers had already gone off to college, and my sister and I were there to take the brunt of the dissolution of their seemingly wonderful marriage. It was painful, and the pain never really went away. They both remarried and moved away from Houston and went their separate ways. But I’m not sure that either one of them was really happy without the other. Sure, their lives continued. They had different families and in-laws and holidays and so forth. My mom picked up golf as a hobby, and she played cards and dominoes with the neighbors and sought solace in the church and bible study classes and grandkids.
She moved back to Houston when her husband died in the late 1990s, and eventually ended up living with my sister the last seven years of her life. The two of them reconnected and healed their relationship, and that was a good thing. And my mom was back where she could be close to her sister, her brother, and other family. They got together often.
With the advent of satellite communications and cable TV, she faithfully followed her favorite teams the Houston Astros, Texans, and Rockets through all their many games, win or lose, but especially enjoyed it when they won. She watched almost every game on TV, clapping her hands, and yelling, “Be there!” She was a true fan.
Above all else, Hazel enjoyed studying the Bible and going to church on Sundays. She found such solace in reading the Bible, underlining passages, and praying. In the last years when I would visit, we’d sit around the kitchen table and talk about old times, sometimes talking about the times when she and my dad were still married. Times before his alcoholism led him to make terrible decisions and then stay away from us even though she would have forgiven him if only he had come back. It was something that was hard to understand for both she and I all these many years later.
Now she’s at rest. She’s in a peaceful place, and I’m sure she’s with her sister and brother and mother and they’re having fun, just like the old days. I miss her. But I know I’ll miss her more as each day goes by.