On Thursday, September 20th, my mother Sylvia Sue Bass/Cate will be 70 years old.

Earlier this evening I walked into the living room to scan one of my favorite photos we found together while rummaging through my Uncle Sherman’s basement one last time on Christmas Eve.

My mom and I find ourselves spending quiet times together on the holidays. Our family has a satellite in Florida and the old home place is quiet since I don’t have any children. Regardless, we make good use of our time. It’s usually a peaceful union without a lot of noise and for some reason, these memories seem to linger more than I might expect.

The day we were rummaging through the old rags, mason jars and yard tools strewn across the basement floor in Jefferson City, a beautiful frame was beaming from underneath the rubbish. I was amazed to see the glass still intact and a gorgeous photo of my mother was beaming next to another frame of my Uncle Sherman in a proud posture doning his police uniform. Both of these amazing treasures sit on my mantle on my fireplace now and watch over me each and every day.

My mom is shown here probably around 1949 or 1950 and she’s cute as a button. There’s no doubt she was the pride of Frank and Francis Bass. I know she was especially protected by her brothers Bill, Gerald and Ronnie.

Sylvia whom people refer to now as Sue got married early. By 16 she was wed to Alvin Cate. By 19, she had a daughter who died at birth. Debra Kay Cate was laid to rest in a small cemetery near Strawberry Plains. That’s a fast and hard way to grow up.

As we drive through the streets of her hometown on those meaningful tours retracing her steps, we often talk about those days and it’s not easy. She pauses as she looks behind the doors that have been closed for years and I know there are memories she’s chosen to forget. She wasn’t even at her daughter’s funeral and those photos mean something different now that I know that detail.

I guess that’s why I’m so close to my mother. It’s hard for me to imagine how much she wanted to have a healthy baby and there I came into the world on September 10th, 1962. Born to a mother of only 20 years old, we had to have been of one spirit early on. There’s not a day that I don’t think about or check on my mother. Along with my friends, career and family – these are the main reasons I never left this little town in East Tennessee.

It’s hard for me to pick out a card, a cake, a bouquet or a box that demonstrates or resembles the treasure my mother will always be to me. It goes without saying that she’s always been there for me. No matter how much or how little we had – I always had the best of everything and a measure of love that will have no equal.

My wish on this day is for my mother’s happiness and there are many days where I wish she had someone who loved her as much as she deserves.

She’s given so much to those around her. She’s shown humility, patience, kindness and compassion more than any I’ll ever know. It saddens me at times to know she’s alone at times, but she doesn’t let that stop her. She has a faith and a strong family bond that lifts her up regularly, but I still long for her to fall in love, take a romantic trip, have someone surprise her with dinner, a weekend getaway, a nice outing, a simple surprise – but that never happens and I wish it would.

So the very best I can do is offer my love and to forever be here for her now that she turns seventy. There’s no hallmark phrase or gift card that will equal the love I have for her as she turns seventy so I offer a bounty of words, a shower of thoughts and declaration of how much she means to me.

Our time together has leaned into one direction and most of our memories are behind us k\now, but it’s important for her to know that on this day, she means more than ever.

Happy birthday Sylvia Sue, aka “Dolly” aka “SuzieQ” – I love you forever. You truly are a light to the world.

The sun never says to the earth,
“You owe me.”
Look what happens
with a love like that,
It lights the whole sky.

— Hafiz