Biographical Non-Fiction posted April 21, 2023

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A Memoir

A Birthday, A Life

by Terry Broxson

On April 21, 1944, Zoe Ann made her first appearance to the Threadgill family. Her mother and father deemed her a surprise, a late addition.
Her brother Bill, 15, claimed amusement by the little bundle of joy. Oldest brother Charles, 16, promptly left home and joined the Merchant Marines. 

Zoe shared the same birth date as Queen Elizabeth. However, QEII arrived eighteen years earlier. In England, Her Majesty's celebration occurred in June because that's when the weather smiled better.
Zoe chose her birthplace in a town called Beaumont, part of the golden triangle of Texas. But her family had no gold.  Not being royalty herself did not diminish the need for festivities.
I had no responsibility for the first twenty-nine birthdays. And then we got married. 
Zoe told her friends, "I married a younger man." They smiled and said, "Good for you."
I told people, "I married an older woman. They know stuff." Guys gave that nod communicating, "Yes, they do."
Ten days after me being born, Zoe turned two.  
My birthday consideration had been only a bump in the road leading up to the auspicious day. Early in our marriage, I tried to make it special. That meant dinner with friends, a gift, and trying to keep the expenses below fifty bucks—a fortune for me.
When Zoe turned 30, Jean, her best budette, had a cake made for her. It had the naked kiester of a woman with "Happy Birthday Zoe, 29 my Ass!" A few hours later, she inquired, "So, what do you think of my thirty-year-old ass?"
Do you really need me to tell you what I replied?
Her 40th had significance for two reasons. First, she needed a hysterectomy, her only hospitalization. The day after the surgery, she asked the doctor when she could go home. He said, "When you are able to pass gas."
Zoe replied, "I need something to work with. Maybe a beer and some Mexican food."
I smuggled a Budweiser and a taco in that night. Her discharge occurred the following morning.
Her operation seemed quickly forgotten by the Rolex watch which I placed on her wrist. This signaled a step up the economic staircase. Over time she would add diamonds and a mother-of-pearl dial. I asked, "Isn't that watch getting a little gaudy?"
With a smile, she answered, "Think of it as jewelry. I don't care what time it is."
Birthday number 50 occurred a few months after we moved into her "dream house." The home had been built on a private cul-de-sac with two hundred trees. Zoe worked closely with the architect and the builder.
Zoe wanted the design of the house and backyard to accommodate a party atmosphere. Amenities included a long wrap-around porch, a pool with a waterfall, a large deck, and a gazebo.
Eighty-five people attended. The guests feasted on Tex-Mex, catered by a local restaurant, and were entertained by a couple of psychics, a tarot card reader, and a caricature artist who provided everyone with a personal portrait.
We also had a life-size cardboard, Bill Clinton. Several of Zoe's lady friends had their picture taken with the President. No social media in those days—a good thing. There were several embarrassing photos— with a smiling Bill.
Zoe's 60th birthday invitation announced a party for her "Second 30th birthday." I tried to find a cake that duplicated her first 30th, but I could not. Guests were treated to another outdoor party. Someone told Zoe, "You always have great weather on your birthday."
She would not have had it any other way.
By the time her 70th birthday rolled around, Zoe had become a Texas Ranger Baseball fan. Her best friend Linda and she went to several games each year. Zoe said, "I love those cute players." 
For that birthday, I invited fifty of her closest family and friends to attend a game. The giant scoreboard wished her a happy birthday. Prince Fielder, our power-hitting outfielder, hit a home run that almost landed in her lap.
Two years later, for Zoe and Linda's birthdays, I treated them to a VIP trip to Boston to watch the Rangers and Red Sox play at historic Fenway Park. They had a private tour of the old ballpark.
The ladies went to a reception with a player (Zoe gushed over his good looks) and had choice seats for a couple of games. Staying in the team hotel they spied on the players while drinking wine in the bar.
Zoe died of a heart attack on November 1, 2018.
My life has been quiet since that day. Here are a few things to know about her.
She began a career in banking at the age of eighteen. A college education had not been an option. She worked in the back room, helping to balance deposits. Her pay, a $1.15 per hour. She received a promotion, becoming a secretary for an assistant vice president ($1.40 per hour).
Zoe retired at age sixty-three as a vice president of Bank of America. She managed projects all over the US, South Korea, and Europe.
Her career in banking started in 1962 and ended in 2006. During those times, women faced prejudice in the workplace, making success difficult.  A male friend of hers told her, "You should not make as much money as you do. You are a woman." 
Zoe would not be defined by her professional life. She viewed it as a means to an end. She wanted to see and do new things. She loved to embrace life and enjoyed every minute possible. 
She traveled extensively in the United States, Europe, South America, especially Mexico, and, thanks to Linda, even Antarctica.
If Zoe found herself with friends, and the conversation work-related. She would ask, "Wait a minute, I want each of you to tell me about the most fascinating thing that ever happened to you." Whatever that turned out to be, did not happen at work. Her point—live life, not work.
Many wondered, including me. What did she see in me? Two things, so she said. I made her laugh. I let her be her.
Zoe often asked, "Are you trying to micro-manage me?"
"No, just offering suggestions." Managing?  Not a viable option.
A few weeks before she died. She had a chore to do. When she finally started to tackle it, she discovered it had already been done. "I see, like always. You had my back." 
"I remember that thirty-year-old derriere."
She laughed.
I did not let her be herself...I wanted her to be herself.



At the left bottom of Zoe's picture, she is holding a champagne flute. Happy Birthday, Darling. Cheers!

A few days ago, DPM, Debi Pick Marquette, wrote a poem honoring me on my birthday as she has for many others. Her poem got me thinking about all the special birthdays Zoe had and thus inspired the telling of this story.
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