He died while I was attending college. He missed my graduation. He never got to meet my wonderful husband, Michael. He did not get to read my first novel but I think he would be pleased.
I still remember his laugh; loud, his scent; Old Spice and cigarettes. He taught me to tie my shoes and laugh out loud, like him. ("Don't hold it in and just tee hee hee, throw your head back and laugh.") He gave me my love of reading, books, classical music and John Wayne.
Daddy was a mass of contradictions. He was not educated. He only made it through the 8th grade. But he was a voracious reader of Western novels, historical fiction and non-fiction, classic literature, Reader's Digest, encyclopedias, and my college textbooks. I majored in English and minored in History and he devoured my textbooks like dime novels whenever he got the chance. His musical tastes were just as varied. He loved old country music. Slim Whitman and Dolly Parton were a couple of his favorites. He also loved classical music. He adored the Blue Danube Waltz. I learned a simple version of it for my first and only piano recital. (The music in my head never quite made it to my hands. My musical career was short lived.)
Daddy was fond of dirty jokes and could cuss up a storm. He had a terrible temper and thought fart jokes were hilarious. He was also funny, sweet, kind, and charming. He was a big man. Everyone called him Bear (or Mr. Bear). He could seem imposing,
He enjoyed a walk in the woods, a cold glass of strong sweet tea, baking bread, singing in church, mowing the grass, and children. He loved babies. His loud, deep voice should have scared them but he could soothe a crying baby in the checkout line at the grocery store with a few words, a wink and smile. He used that same charm to make waitresses blush when he called them "darlin'" or "sweetheart".
As I near the age he was when he left us, I realize just how young he was and how much he missed. He never owned a computer, saw a cell phone, or heard of a hybrid car. He missed the birth of several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The greater tragedy is that we all missed many years of his bad jokes, foul language, singing, and laughter.
Today, I think I'll take a walk in the woods, have a little cry, and then throw my head back and laugh out loud.
Luther James Boutwell