On New Year's Eve, with the ringing out of the old year, my family and I said goodbye to my beloved Dad, as he left this world.
He lived a long life, a varied life.
When he entered this world, his grandfather, my great-grandfather, saddled up his horse and rode 20-odd miles to see his newborn grandson. My great-grandfather, a rugged old Confederate Army veteran and ex-Texas Ranger, was then already 78 years of age, and very active. But perhaps the ride was a little too much for him at his age, because not two days later, he died.
So my father's lifetime reached from the era of horse-drawn vehicles in rual Texas to the brave new world of 2010. The world underwent tremendous changes during his 90-year life-span.
My father was a constitutionally strong and stubborn man, very independent in both mind and spirit. But toward the end of his life he developed Alzheimer's Disease.
Alzheimers, as those who have dealt with it know, is a very cruel disease. It takes its victims mentally from us and leaves us but a shell of the person we knew and loved. I actually grieved my father several years ago, when it was clear that he no longer knew me or other loved ones. Then I had in fact already lost my father.
His ability to converse and communicate was very greatly diminished. There were fleeting moments of lucidity, in which he seemed to know us. In one of our last real conversations, as his cognitive abilities faded, he was 'in and out' of lucidity, but just at the end of the conversation, out of the blue, he said to me, ''Remember, I love you very much." It was a very moving moment for me, especially considering that he was never a man who wore his feelings on his sleeve, at least not the soft and sentimental kinds of feelings.
His love was mostly shown in action. Looking back, I remember a series of moments that are no doubt trivial to others but which I recall fondly. He was the one who taught me to read when I was very young, about age 3. That started my lifelong habit of reading, and my love for books and learning. My father, while not a scholar by profession, was very knowledgeable about a great many things. I admired that about him. Perhaps he inspired me to want to learn and to know.
He sat patiently at the kitchen table with me when I was seven years old, teaching me long division. I was never much at math, but he persisted until I finally caught on.
He was a habitual singer; he had a good voice and loved to sing around the house as he went about his activities, singing anything from old popular music, such as Bing Crosby tunes, to old Texas ''play-party'' songs with nonsense lyrics, songs like "Old Joe Clark" or "Ida Red." As a child I was delighted by those old songs, and to this day I can sing them.
Despite his rather serious exterior, he had a wonderful sense of humor and loved to laugh. He and his family and old friends spent many hours retelling anecdotes of their earlier life, of an older and more colorful Texas, full of larger-than-life people who had larger-than-life adventures. My cousins and I loved to sit and listen to these stories, and we would all be in stitches laughing, as was everybody present. My father's distinctive laugh was unforgettable, though his illness had robbed us of all those wonderful stories he told, and the laughter which accompanied them.
My father was a man who was loyal his people. He loved his family and his extended family, his fellow Texans, fellow Southrons. He was an unreconstructed Confederate, proud of his Confederate ancestors and his Texas patriot kin, who fought at the Alamo and who were among those who fell at Goliad.
He was a man who loved this country, and who was troubled to his core about what he saw happening in the world. He was a man who hated injustice, and who hated seeing wrongs go unchallenged. I know he would want me to go on fighting the good fight and speaking out about what is happening, and I will carry on as best I can in his honor.
He will be laid to rest in Texas soil, in the little country graveyard which is our family cemetery, along with generations of family members.
Rest well, Daddy.
"...the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD."
- Job 1:21