“Chris, don’t worry about anything. I’m paying for everything I can. Whatever you need, call me,” Olivia told her son before leaving her hometown to attend college. She had finally landed a well-paying job.
However, for most of her life up until then, she couldn’t afford much. Her gifts were always secondhand, as she raised her son alone and studied in the evenings. She never lacked food or shelter, but Olivia always felt guilty for not being able to give him the things his friends had.
Finally, she got a decent salary and was ready to give him anything he wanted.
“Thanks, Mom,” Chris said, hugged her and said goodbye.
Years later, the things of love changed Chris’ life.
“Mrs. Torres, you should come visit me! My belly is huge now!” said Rosalia, Chris’s fiancée, to him through the computer screen.
Chris had met her during his junior year and they were both about to graduate. However, Rosalia discovered she was pregnant and they became engaged. Unfortunately, Olivia had not yet met her in person because they were both studying hard and Rosalia could not travel much in her condition.
Meanwhile, Olivia couldn’t visit either because she was working so hard. Over the years, she took on more and more hours of work despite her excellent salary because she was paying for Chris’s college, his housing, his expenses and hers. However, she lived as frugally as possible.
“Soon, Rosalia! I hope to meet you soon. When I have a free moment,” Olivia nodded and finally Chris appeared on the screen. He told Rosalia that he needed to talk to her mother and she left the room.
“Mom, I wanted to ask you something,” Chris began, scratching the back of his neck. “Since Rosalia and I are graduating soon and having a baby, I was wondering if you could help me with a house. We already looked at one on the outskirts of town, because they’re so expensive in the metropolis. It reminds me of home.”
Olivia looked at her son for a moment and thought hard. “Well, I…I don’t know,” she mumbled, thinking about her savings and hard work. Finally, she was planning for retirement.
“Please,” Chris pleaded and talked about the cost of the house and how much they would need for a down payment. He also said Rosalia had nothing because she had no family to help her.
“It’s okay, Chris, it’s okay. I think we can work something out,” Olivia finally said. She would have to deplete all her savings and, perhaps, live more modestly. But it was possible.
“Thank you! Thank you, Mom! I don’t know what I’d do without you!” said Chris, almost in tears over the video call, and Olivia smiled, knowing it was worth it.
More years passed and the holidays were approaching.
“I wish you could come this Christmas,” Olivia commented in front of her computer, as she did many times over the years.
Her son had left home seven years ago and had not returned to his hometown in Santa Fe. All they did was video chat. She wanted to meet her granddaughter in person. But his son and wife were busy.
Olivia was working now more than ever because she still helped her son often and had used up her savings for the second time when he wanted to start a business. She never asked him for anything in return, but she wished they could at least visit her, since she couldn’t.
“We can’t, Mom. Not this year,” Chris said, shaking his head. “But thanks for the gifts you already sent Malena. She loved them. You’re an amazing grandma.”
“Put her on the screen,” Olivia requested softly and looked at her granddaughter longing to hold her in her arms.
Little did Olivia know that Chris was finally planning to visit her. He couldn’t buy plane tickets for Rosalia and Malena to accompany him, but he was finally happy to see his mother.
However, his cab pulled up in front of his house and Chris frowned. It was 9 p.m. and the lights were completely off. Chris told his driver to wait a second and got out. The porch furniture was gone. The plants his mother loved were also missing. The yard was overgrown with weeds, and even the welcome mat was absent.
He knocked on the door. No answer. He looked out the window and couldn’t believe it. There was nothing inside. Did Mom move out? Why didn’t she tell me, he wondered, worried.
“Chris? Is that you?” a female voice asked.
He turned around and saw Mrs. Tovar, an elderly woman who had lived next door to them all her life. “Mrs. Tovar. Hello!”
“What are you doing here, boy?” she asked.
“I’m here to see Mom. Do you know where she is?” he asked, frowning.
“Oh, dear. Your mother moved out about two years ago. She sold that house, but the new owners only moved in a few weeks ago. I don’t know who’s moving in now,” the former neighbor said.
“She never told me,” Chris murmured. “Do you know where she is?”
“Sure, I have her address written down. Come with me,” Mrs. Tovar went to his house and handed him a piece of paper.
Chris read the address and frowned. The address pointed to a side of town that wasn’t too pleasant.
“Do you know why she moved there?” he asked the older woman.
“No, honey. But I know she has a roommate now,” Mrs. Tovar shrugged, and Chris was even more puzzled.
Finally, he returned to his cab and gave her the new address. He arrived at an apartment complex with deteriorated paint on a poorly lit street. It was terrible. He quickly entered the building and went upstairs easily because there was no security either.
“Chris? What are you doing here?” asked Olivia, surprised when he opened the door.
“Mom! What’s going on, why did you sell the house?” questioned Chris, dismayed and bewildered.
“Oh, Chris. Come in,” she sighed and led her son into the small living room.
Olivia explained that the first time he had asked her for money for the house, she had some savings and depleted it to buy them the house. However, when Chris asked her for money for his business, she had nothing saved and decided to sell her house and give him almost all the proceeds.
Chris was shocked by this news and by the fact that he hadn’t realized it. He had been very careless and felt like a lousy son.
“Why didn’t you say anything, Mom! I wouldn’t have taken that money if I had known,” he muttered, breathlessly.
“But I wanted you to succeed, honey. I failed to give you so much when you were younger, I just didn’t-” she tried to explain, but Chris interrupted her.
“Mom, you gave me everything I ever needed. I only asked you because I thought you had it. I shouldn’t have asked for it. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t come to visit you sooner. I’m so sorry you have to live in this part of town and with a roommate at your age, for crying out loud!” Chris apologized, tears of frustration welling up in his eyes.
Olive also cried and hugged her son lovingly as Chris made many promises to her. He called Rosalia that night, explained everything and they both agreed it was time to bring Olivia closer to them. Fortunately, she quickly got a new job in the same town where her beloved son lived.
Eventually, they built a suite so Olivia wouldn’t miss another second of her granddaughter’s life. And slowly but surely, Chris paid his mother back for every penny she had given him for the house and the business, which took off exponentially and allowed them to live comfortably. But most of all, Chris never allowed Olivia to sacrifice anything else.