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Paper: HOUSTON CHRONICLE
Date: SUN 02/24/02
Section: LIFESTYLE
Page: 4
Edition: 2 STAR

Son follows road to love

By Melissa England

My son carried the ring his father had given me 29 years ago in his back pocket. For six months he weighed the possibilities of what asking the ultimate question would mean.

He had moved away, a job opportunity in Dallas. Money and position. At 26 he knew what he wanted. He made the calls that connected Dallas with Austin. Phone calls that were never long enough, never close enough. Every Friday night, he drove or she drove the distance that separated them.

First it was fun, the change of scenery, new things to learn. It wasn't long before his voice changed. The calls to Houston were laced with questions. What is important, Mom? Why do we choose these roads? Was I wrong?

I found his questions amazing; it's usually later in life we wonder at the enormity of decisions that place love and family second. My mind raced at 26: I had two children; I thought I owned the world. We worked, we saved, and we planned. We would live tomorrow. At 46 I would have reconsidered.

In Dallas the wind leaves his voice. "Mom, I want a wife, children, a home with a flat-screen color TV. I want my kids to play basketball with nuances only I can teach them. I'm in Dallas making money, and I can't sleep; all I'm really sure of is that I can afford the flat screen and suddenly it doesn't seem so important."

"Mom, I love her."

Silence.

I'm smiling with tears. I know, my heart answers. I know about your love. "Chrissy." I can't help but call the young man on the other end of the line by his childhood name. He's 6 feet, 5 inches tall and 185 pounds, but I still see the precious child I raised.

"Chrissy, follow your heart, the money will come."

"Ah, Mom, that's the trouble with being raised by a woman; that's a woman's answer."

"Does that make it wrong?"

"Mom, what would Dad have said?"

I smile more. I tried to be Mom and Dad; let me think. "Stay in Dallas, make all the money you can, another woman will come along."

He laughs, "He wouldn't have said that."

OK, let me try again. "Look, kid, jobs stink; marry a woman with money."

More giggling. "OK, he might have said that."

Let me try again. "Son, I started with a good idea: I was going to shoot the perfect game of pool. But the truth was, the most important thing I did with my life was to be a husband and a father. The most important position I played was to be their protector and provider. No one acknowledged my life more than the family I built; nothing brought me more joy. In the end, you were all that stood by me."

Silence.

It was on one of those 200-mile weekend drives, the miles between Dallas and Austin, that Chris announced a change of plans. He had given notice. It would cost him. The details of a move, reletting fees, a resume with only a six-month commitment, health insurance and benefits left behind, and beginning again in Austin, the city of less opportunity.

On the side of a road, the road that connected the two cities, Chris got out of the car and on one knee he asked the love in his life to make it forever. From his back pocket he took the red velvet box shaped like an apple and offered the white gold ring that sparkled his intent. She didn't have to answer, but she did; her heart had been waiting; her heart pounded now.

"Yes, the answer is yes. It has always been yes."

"You know I won't have a job."

Before he could say more, she shared the answer that she had always felt.

"Everything else will work out; as long as we're together, everything else will be fine."

On the side of a road, two hearts beat against each other, and tears of anticipation, joy and the unknown were shared.

Back on his feet, his hand in hers, he smiled. He took a deep, delicious breath. His heart was finally headed in the right direction. Everything else will work out just fine.

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