It was out of necessity, and a significant measure of pride, that the sleek black slipover golf wind shirt emerged from the travel bag. Winter dies hard in Missouri.
The Longhorn baseball team wrapped up a three game series in Columbia last weekend, and a cold north wind had ushered in cloudy, blustery conditions. That's when I remembered the shirt. Emblazoned on it was a simple logo: a replica of a radiating sun and the words "The Rise School of Austin."
Spring in Austin seems to sprout charity golf events, and an active and giving community usually responds. The Monday before the trip to Columbia, however, was extra special.
The Rise School in Austin is an outgrowth of one started in Tuscaloosa, Ala., by former Dallas Cowboy and Alabama coach Gene Stallings and his wife. It has spawned others around the country, all of them dedicated to the nurturing and the training of children with Down Syndrome.
It is a challenge which has touched many, many lives. And when Mack and Sally Brown learned about Stallings' efforts, and a similar one to begin a school in Austin, they jumped on board. So did James Street, whose family also has been touched by Down Syndrome.
And so the Browns and Street lent their names to a charity golf tournament for the school in Austin, which is rapidly growing and is now aligned with The University of Texas.
Mack's friends R. C. Slocum and Spike Dykes came. Coach Royal was there. Twin Creeks Country Club donated the use of its golf course, the Four Seasons Hotel provided all of the food, and good folks gave lots of money. And a school that is based on love gained from it.
All of that brings us back to the wind shirt. American Airlines still maintains a direct flight from St. Louis to Austin, a remnant of the old TWA routes picked up in the merger. And the lady in 14A broke into a huge smile when she saw the shirt.
"My son," she said, "goes to that school."
Max is a blond-headed little boy whose life is all about love, the giving of it, and the receiving of it. And when I met his Mom on the flight from St. Louis, I knew what this column would be about.
For this day is about mothers.
The bond is something all of us men can never really fathom. We watch, we hug, we help, but however long we live with a son or daughter, mothers have a nine-month head start on us.
In the good times and the bad, they serve many roles.
Once, while traveling through the state of Montana, I took a side trip on a tour boat on the Missouri River. Lewis and Clark explored that river more than 100 years ago, and as relentless as the migration of humanity has been, there are pristine parts of our country that still belong to nature.
It was on that river that I saw, from the highest cliff northeast of Helena, an eagle fly. I had heard the stories of how, in a storm, eagles fly. Small birds run for cover. In researching that recently, I also found out why. The eagle uses the force of the turbulence beneath it to rise.
Coach Royal's friend, the highly talented Gary Morris, now runs a lodge in Montana, and he knows all about eagles. In fact, he wrote a popular song about them called "The Wind Beneath My Wings."
In a male chauvinist world, that song usually casts the eagle as the guy, and the woman as the wind. And if you sign on with that stereotype, let me help you with something: The wind beneath the wings isn't always a gentle breeze. It takes a persistent storm to make that eagle soar to new heights.
That is what we know about mothers, and what we celebrate about them on Mother's Day. What I know about mothers is that every one of them, a lot better and some worse, is the best mother they know how to be. They do the best they can with the information and the tools that they have.
They come in all shapes and sizes, with varying degrees of training. Some learn on the job, others struggle to find the truth. Too often in today's world, the problems of the individual weigh so heavy it is hard to handle their own issues, let alone those of a child.
But what doesn't change, I am convinced, is a Mother's love. The outside world may get in the way, and the path to enlightenment may be too tough to traverse, but somewhere, deep inside, there is love. In today's world, there is no harder job than being a parent.
We don't live in the days of June Cleaver anymore. We do know, however, that in sports, Little League moms still cart kids to and from the games, and deliver the cookies for the bake sale. They also are executives, doctors and lawyers.
In today's world, 50 percent of the kids have more than one set of parents, or are a product of a single parent home. And in most cases, it is the mother who is the rock, the stability in a world that sometimes seems to turn in a crooked pattern.
Mack Brown recognized that long ago, and after Sally came into his life, he has stressed even more the value of the family in his football program.
That is why Mother's Day is so important.
It is a time when we can pause to say thank you to those whose purpose in life is to make every effort to see that their kids have a better life than they did. It is for all of those trips and days in the stands, the meals on the run, the scrapes and cuts, the rescues and the reprimands...and the times when just listening was the most important counseling they could give.
That is why the lady on the plane was so important. She asked me to be sure and say "hi" to Mack and Sally. And when she walked away, I realized that I didn't remember if I ever caught her name.
What did stick with me was her parting words:
"Tell them that you met Max' mom," she said. "Sally loves him." For mothers everywhere, for that lady and for Sally, it has never been about them.
It is about their kids.
Happy Mother's Day.