Thinking about my father this holiday season. He and I have our birthdays in December. He would have been ninety this year. After his funeral in 1999, I wrote a piece to tuck away in my memoirs, excerpted here:
My parents were grossly incompatible and had the good sense to divorce after only a few years. Daddy’s second marriage ended with the death of his wife and after that he lived alone, more comfortable without a woman around setting standards. He could spend his retirement lying on the couch in a super-chilled living room watching and re-watching his collection of old Western movies.
Ill health brought a woman into his life, a nurse named Wanda, who got him to write her several large checks before his myocardial infarction. I never met her–she didn’t stick around for the funeral—but when we went for the viewing, there was a red rose in his hand and a card that read, “I love you, Wanda.” As far as I know he’s still clutching that rose, lying there in his chilled mausoleum drawer next to his long-dead wife.
My father owned two pairs of footwear, cowboy boots, his old ones and his new ones. He was buried in his jeans and a Western shirt that snapped shut. He revered John Wayne, tales of the Old West, and believed in a mythic Texas. He played the guitar and mandolin. He was sentimental about women and children, and he could remember hundreds of bad jokes he picked up from his days driving an 18-wheeler across the nation’s highways, though mostly between the Port of Houston and Lubbock.
Every Christmas season when I listen to John Henry Faulk’s “Christmas Story,” I hear my father’s voice and I bawl my eyes out.