My teetotalling old Texas mother is 87, Lord love her, and has spent a lifetime worrying that I will never attain respectability.

There was a time when I worked as a second-banana politician-a trade she thought ungentlemanly-and proudly introduced her, at a fund-raising dinner in my hometown, to House Speaker Sam Rayburn. She shook the famous man's hand and said, to his astonishment and mine, "I sure hope you and Lawrence will watch your drinking tonight, my minister's here."

In 1972, I called home with the joyous news that my book, "Confessions of a White Racist," had been nominated for the National Book Award. Mother said, "That's fine son, and I guess you like that writing business. But Lawrence, can't you find yourself something steady?"

Once she said, "oh, Lawrence! Every time I read that new book of yours, I want to take an eraser and rub out the dirty words." I told her to go ahead, that it was her book to do with as she pleased. She sighed, "Yes, but there are all those others."

In her old age, my mother occasionally suffers memory gaps. In a recent telephone conversation I mentioned my 6-month-old baby daughter. There was a puzzled silence. Then mother said, "You have a baby?"

"Yes, I said. I had written her and told her about it a dozen times. Another pause. Then, perhaps a shade fearfully, she said, "Lawrence, are you married?"

Happy Mother's Day anyway, Mom. CAPTION: Illustrations 1 through 3, no caption, O. Soglow; Copyright (c) 1932, 1960 The New Yorker Magazine, Inc.