"He's a Texan." When I hear the word "Texan" I think 10 gallon hat, cow boy boots and a burly physique. He may have had the 10 gallon hat and cow boy boots, but he was not burly. He was of average height and slightly cherubic in physique. Not exactly what anyone from the North East would think of as a Texan. But a Texan he was. Born, raised and died in Texas.
He was the husband of my mother’s college roommate. As a result he has been a part of my entire life. Our family’s lives were not intertwined, but rather punctuated by ephemeral periods of warm memories. A talented artist and thoughtful friend he painted of a house with a for sale sign on the lawn. The for sale sign bore the name of the company for whom my mother had taken a job with after being home for 20 years. We had art of his throughout the house. The stories were almost epic. He went to college Baylor at age 15. He was a rancher and a compassionate and fair Judge. He raised three children and was married to his wife for 50 years. He drove her crazy. But isn’t that the way of a relationship that endures?
I remember when my parents divorced. He had business in Massachusetts, after his meeting had concluded in Boston; he rode a bus to the end of our street. I vividly remember watching him disembark carrying a laundry basket. I later learned that it was filled with drinking glasses from Mexico that were a favorite of my mother’s. I recall during that visit how emotionally raw I was and now in hindsight I can only imagine my mother’s pain. He was gentle and kind to her and as a result to us. I didn’t know him very well, but in that one visit I learned what kind of a man he was. A thoughtful, caring and supportive friend, for sure, but more than that, his soul and heart were pure.
When my mom’s roommate decided to get her best friends from each stage of her life together, he went along. He acted as gopher and chauffeur. He injected his humor whenever the opportunity arose, much to their amusement. When one of the four friends died, he was there to support all of them.
When KD and I decided to get married we knew that it was going to be a challenge, with differing faiths. KD didn’t want to marry in a church and I didn’t want to marry in a temple. So rather than hire a JP I asked my mother if she thought he would be willing to perform the ceremony. Being a Judge I knew he had had to have performed many a marriage ceremonies. He agreed! We were delighted!
We set about getting him authorized to solemnize in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I began working on our vows. I had many sources and incorporated language from both Jewish and Christian ceremonies. I emailed them off to him when the ceremony grew closer. I made some unexpected edits and presented them to him at the rehearsal dinner. Not a good idea to spring changes on someone the night before. Unbeknownst to me this late change unsettled him. The ceremony was lovely, truly. He only referred to KD by another name once. We all had a good laugh, although he was devastated.
Our wedding was 15 years after my parents divorce. It was the event at which they reminisced with my dad. Friends. Old friends. There is nothing like a friend who knows all of the history. The good and the bad. When we heard earlier this week that he was dying, I emailed dad to let him know. Dad called and spoke to my mom's college roommate. She needed to hear that the doctor's had done everything they could and done everything right. Much needed comfort for her. She was able to say good bye knowing it was the right time.
As I sit here pouring out my thoughts regarding this significant human I look upon a painting. A beautifully rendered bucket of snap dragons hand painted by him. It is without reservation or hesitation that I say that the world is a little less bright without this Texan in our midst.