A very special ‘Happy Birthday’

Rick Phelps
Rick Phelps

Depending on what dictionary used and what definition being searched for, there are literally dozens of ways to interpret the word “sacrifice.” For me, practical application stems from experience, and there is no substitute for experience, particularly when discussing sacrifice.

For a period of time during my formative years, it was just me and my mom, who will be referred to as mom from this point forward. Mom managed a convenience store on the edge of the small town where I attended high school in Missouri. Her schedule was never what could be described as normal. Anyone who has ever held a management position can relate. Mom could tell me she would see me when I got out of school, but on many occasions, I wouldn’t see her until several hours later. Even as a teenager, I understood that she was not working countless hours of overtime because she enjoyed standing on her feet 12 or more hours per day, but she was wearing herself out to take care of my needs, and on occasion, my selfish wants.

I have always found the human memory fascinating. Some of us can’t remember dinner from the night before, but can recall experiences from 20 years prior. I cannot offer absolute specifics, but there was some important school event that I did not want to miss. Friends were going to be attending and I did not want to be the one guy who was unable to be part of whatever it was. One day after school, I headed to E-Z Stop, the store mom managed. This was not an uncommon occurrence.

I would go to “the store,” get a free fountain drink, mom would ask me about my homework situation for that specific day and I would either ride home with her or I would catch a ride with a friend.

It was a small town. It would only take a few minutes for a friend or acquaintance to show up and take me home. Of course, this was before I got my driver’s license.

Anyway, back on topic, I told mom about this school activity and how it was the most important thing that would ever happen in high school and I needed the money to be able to go. Mom’s response. “Honey, I don’t have that kind of money right now.” Although I understood why she worked as hard as she did, I was angry that I wasn’t going to be able to go, and I blamed her, and quite frankly, I acted like a spoiled, entitled jerk because I was not going to get my way. I pouted for a few days, and looking back, mom could, and should have, put it to me for my ridiculous behavior, but she didn’t do that.

This is where the fascination with memory becomes a part of this story. As I left the store that day, I remember looking down and seeing mom’s shoes. They were faded, coming apart and obviously not comfortable for someone who spent half of any given day in a standing position. However, my judgment was clouded by my own selfishness and self-imposed anger, so I didn’t give much thought to the shoes. And then it happened.

A few days later, mom came home and handed me the money I needed for the oh-so important school event. That’s right. The same activity that I cannot recall today. She handed me what I wanted, not what I needed, still wearing the shoes that should have been replaced months prior. Ladies and gentleman, that experience is the true meaning of sacrifice. Mom sacrificed her absolute need for my unnecessary want.

There are very few in this world who know this story. I chose to share this with everyone today, because this Monday, mom will celebrate her birthday. Because I value my life, I won’t divulge her age, but because of that one sacrifice, I learned what is truly important. Happy Birthday mom. Thank you for everything.

Rick Phelps is the news director at KOXE-KBWD radio and a former staff writer for the Brownwood Bulletin. Comments may be e-mailed to news@brownwoodbulletin.com.