In 1979, Mom wrote me a letter. I forever cherish this letter and reflect on it often. I’d like to share it with you today.
Happy Birthday Son. I can remember very well that May in 1953, when your brother came home running all excited to tell me that Sister Laura had said, “that they could ask for anything on their Communion day that it will come true.” “I am going to ask (pray) for a baby brother.” And sure enough his prayers were answered by September, I was expecting a baby. As you know your brother went & told Sister Carisima, his second grade sister and his class that his mother was going to have a baby & by the end of the day he had told the whole school. From now & then Sister would ask Sonny how I was doing? Sister had told the class that God had planted a seed in my heart etc. It was not like TV & etc… children are smarter now.
It was like a miracle during my pregnancy I wasn’t sick at all. With Sonny I was very sick the first 3 months.
I went into the Nix hospital on Sunday afternoon, Feb 28, 1954, but first we went to Brackenridge park for a picnic. Grandma had come a month ahead so she could be with me, when the baby came. So we all went to the park. It was a lovely afternoon. I made some fried chicken, potato salad & lemon meringue pie. Sonny flew his kite.
It was around 5 pm when I went into the hospital. Next morning they took me to the operating room around 7 am. As you know I had to have a cesarean operation. Did you know there were four doctors in the operating room? My doctor, his assistant, the doctor who put me to sleep & a pediatrician baby doctor. Dr. Lundgren told me he couldn’t stop to check the baby, he would be very busy with the operation so he wanted a pediatrician to check you. I had to have a private room & also I had a private nurse for the first 48 hours. The doctor wanted me to have the best care. He didn’t want anything to go wrong.
That day the whole 2nd grade went to Holy Communion for you and me.
I remember when you were born the doctor said “it’s a boy”, the other doctor said “what a fine boy”. So when a day passed I hadn’t seen you yet (about 2am) I asked the nurse I wanted to see my baby. When they brought you, you were the prettiest thing I had ever seen. Every time they would bring you so I could feed you, you were the only baby that would drink all his milk. The nurse would say, “he is the winner!”. Tuesday night Sonny came to see me. Your Dad didn’t know children couldn’t come to the rooms. Sonny brought me a note. It said he prayed a Rosary for me and the baby. He drew the Rosary.
I stayed a week in the hospital. When I came home all the neighbors were happy to see us. They brought gifts. You had so many lovely gifts. Two days later my mother said look out the window. There was your brother with about 15 of his classmates, he had them all standing in line. “Mom, can my friends see my brother?” My mother being the nice person she was said, “let him.” So one by one came in to see you. Later they all were outside discussing what you look like, etc.
I had to have your bottle of milk ready before it was time to feed you because if I didn’t boy, did you cry and I mean cry out loud. Once my landlord came to see what was the matter. I always said I think he is going to be an opera singer. One day we took you to the doctor because you were crying & crying, you weren’t 3 months old yet. He said to give you more food. Before I was only giving you half jars of baby food of meat, vegetables & pudding. That was what the doctor had prescribed before. Boy, did you eat. I wish you would eat like that now.
We moved to Nolan St. I remember how Nina liked you. She would get after me if I scolded you. I remember the day they gave you Smokey. Smart dog. One Halloween you dressed him with your shorts & tee shirt and took him trick or treating.
I remember when I was a room mother when you were in the first grade, how many cookies I baked for Sister Laura & her parties. I remember when you made your First Holy Communion. You looked handsome in your suit. Remember when you were in a school play & you were a celery & Mario was a lettuce. So many memories of St. Michael’s, the school picnics. St. Mary’s was nice too. I remember one time you sang in a school program. It didn’t sound so bad. Remember the day you were confirmed? Sonny came to be your sponsor. I must not forget you & Sonny & the tree house. I will never forget when Grandpa came to visit us. Do you remember we went to Corpus Christi?
I could keep writing but I will continue this next year, for now I want to tell you, you are a very special person to me, so please take care of yourself because ten years from now I will probably be in a nursing home & who is going to come & see me or write & send me flowers?
So you see son I need you and I love you very much. Happy birthday.
God Bless You,
Mom never entered a nursing home, I made sure of that. Years ago Mom told me she wanted to die in the home her husband (our Dad) bought for her.
In 2007, Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I cared for her in the home her husband bought her.
At first it was difficult. To care for Mom I gave up a wife and an elected position. Was it worth it? Without a doubt, YES! It was the best part of my life.
Caring for Mom was a labor of love. I wish I was still doing it. Although I would not write her letters I would often give her yellow roses, especially every March 1st. Mom was my yellow rose from Texas. I’d sing to her like she sang to me when I was a child, I’d feed her like she fed me when I was child, I’d change her like the thousands of times she changed me.
Mom passed away peacefully in 2018, in the home her husband bought for her. She was surrounded by her 2 sons and she was clutching her Rosary.
My parents made me who I am today. I am proud to be the son of Joe and Carmen Melendrez. I am also proud to be a San Antonian who grew up Catholic in San Antonio.
If you know anyone with Alzheimer’s, love them with understanding, compassion and patience.
Thank you Mom, for choosing the most wonderful career in the world… Motherhood.
I love you, Mom.
I leave you with this thought;
“To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.” – Phyllis Theroux
Rick Melendrez, is a native San Antonian. Melendrez considers himself fortunate to have been born in San Antonio, just 3 blocks from the San Antonio de Valero mission (the Alamo) at the former Nix hospital on the riverwalk and to have attended Catholic grade school on the southside and on the riverwalk.
Catholic education is very close to his heart. Melendrez attended St. Michaels for five years (1960-65) and then attended St. Mary’s School on the riverwalk (1965-68) and onto Cathedral high school in El Paso, Texas.
He is the former publisher of the El Paso Citizen newspaper and former chairman of the El Paso County Democratic Party. He writes a page on Facebook titled “Sister Mary Ruler, Growing Up Catholic In San Antonio”. Everyone is invited to read about his San Antonio of the 1960’s
You may contact Melendrez via email at email@example.com or by phone, 915-565-1663 (landline).