“Is the Moonlight Tower still up?”
Random questions and comments had become the norm for my eighty-four year old mother. Every now and then a spark would jump a synapse, igniting a memory that she hadn’t thought of for years. This time, it was a memory about the Moonlight Towers in Austin, Texas.
They must have been an amazing sight when they were first switched on in 1895 — 165-foot tall spires of wrought iron shining down their bluish, carbon arc light on various parts of the city of Austin. This was before streetlights. There had been thirty-one towers in all, but I know my mother was asking about one in particular.
Only once and quite a long time ago, she told me how, in 1955, Father proposed to her under the Moonlight Tower in Emma Long Memorial Park and she accepted. Though the marriage ended after ten years, and ended badly I would add, I recall how precious that singular memory was to her. I could imagine how happy she must have been at that moment; how special she surely felt. The future would have seemed as if anything were possible. My father would have been so handsome beneath the bluish light on that spring evening; on his knee, holding out a modestly adorned ring.
I had my own memories of the Moonlight Towers as well, though they involved a keg party and a free-spirited girl I met named Sunni who laughed at my dopey jokes. That was in 1983. Since then, all but seventeen of the Moonlight Towers have been destroyed. The one in Emma Long Memorial Park was gone.
The last five years have been hard for my mother. Many of her longtime friends had passed away. In the last three years, she had become so frail that she could no longer live alone and now lives with my wife and me. Her memory has been slipping but she’s still sharp enough to realize it and I know that saddens her. She senses the dusk in near and I only want to make these days as bearable as I can.
So I lied. “Yes. The tower is still there in Austin.”
She smiled. “Thank you, son.” After a pause, another synapse fired and she asked, “Have you seen Jingles?”
Jingles was our cat that died over twenty years ago. It will be harder to lie convincingly about that, but I’ll try.