She and I were sitting in the living room. It was well past 10 pm and everyone else had gone to bed, that is, except the cat who was perched on the coffee table cleaning herself.
Mom was 80 years old.
When you have a challenging life, you hope to make it to 60, maybe 70. But here we were talking about how she had left home as a young woman with my father, and all the changes she had navigated in the decades that followed.
I'm the oldest son. I was conceived in a duplex in Chino California and raised in a home with a $500 down payment and a mortgage of $80 a month.
"We sold that place for $13,000," my mom said. "Made $3,000 that we put toward the new house. That was a pretty good deal."
Every time I sit with my mom, usually on hot summer evenings with the air conditioner rattling in the background, I learn something new about my life. How a mom can keep a family together through sheer will.
And how a world often seems determined to tear it all apart. Yet there she sat, still in her pretty dinner clothes, a great grandmother with her family intact.
All of this comes at a time when my boys are getting ready to leave home. My wife is going to give them each a hug while standing at the threshold of their dorm rooms, then cry as we walk back to the car.
But her sons will come back, just as I've done year after year. And they too will probably sit with their mother on hot summer nights and discover just how powerful a woman can be,
when there are children to be cared for and dragons to be slain.