Friday, January 16, 2009


"Sometimes we'd wonder if he ever took anything seriously, then we'd see his class rank."
Steve Bettner, class of 1964, from the West Point Eulogy page.
Thanks Steve.

My brother has been on my mind recently.
He was born Feb. 1, 1941 and fell to Cancer January 4, 1997.
His Class rank I believe was 1st Academically and 2nd Scholastically.
He is the father of Dave Mows Grass.
He was a hero to me.
I can not write about my father without writing about Don.
I was proud to know them both.

There's an old magic Eight Ball
Right next to my plate
When I ask it a question
Regarding my fate
It says "reply hazy, please try again"
It wont say where I'm going
It don't know where I've been
….but I'm right here now…
james mcmurtry

I have heard it said that the bond between a Father and Son is a fragile bond, full of mistrust and fears and failures on both sides. By the time I graduated High School, the bond between Dad and I had been severely tested.
On Friday nights as I prepared to go "carousing" around, Dad would give me $10, and say "Don't spend it all in one place!"
Every week the same conversation would ensue.
"Right Dad"
"What are you getting into tonight?"
'Nuthin' I can't handle Dad"
"Well, just remember… that Wisdom… is the greater part… of Valor."
"Fer shure' Dad" and within the hour I would have a $10 bag of trouble, which would greatly enhance my other pursuits, chiefly Sex and Rock and Roll.

I didn't realize back then that Dad was really being kinda cool about the whole thing. Those mornings years later, when we would talk as we ate breakfast, he referred to them as my "Wild Bill Cody" days. I definitely had the hair for it.

It took a some years, after the Diagnoses, after considering the years he spent severed from his family, splintered from even himself, living an unimaginable existence that could not be foreseen, that I came to realize what a problem I must have been.
Dad was a man of few words. He told good natured stories, clean bone dry jokes and used the ever present cigar for punctuation. He had a slow and steady cadence to his pattern of speech that allowed every word to sink in.
He met and married my Mother after returning from WWII.
She had a 4 year old son, Don Lynn, and Dad legally adopted him, giving Don his name and his love.
Don told me a story about the first time that Dad was going to discipline him, and give him a spanking. Don could not recall what the infraction was, but this he vividly remembered:
"Mother, not wanting her child spanked, jumped to my defense.
'You are not going to spank my Boy!'
Dad turns and faces Mother and in his slow methodical way, says softly but firmly;
'We... are going... to start right now.
You are my wife…and this is MY son…and ..I am going to…to raise him as best… as best as I know how"

My first memory of Don was the day he snatched me off the front porch as I was taking a piss and spanked me pretty good. I was about 3.

Don came out all right…he graduated from West Point in 1964.
In 1982, Mom had a stroke. After a few weeks she seemed to be making progress, and I had been keeping Don advised, but he was able to come home from his station in Saudi and I was glad to have him there.
During a late night conversation , I expressed regret at having been such a problem for Mom and Dad through the years.
You know what he said?

"Steve, we were all problems."

Pretty Smart, my Brother.


cornbread hell said...

great story.

MikeTheWaiterDotCom said...

hey dude...
giving Don both his name and his love ... you have a good way with words, bullet.

Barbara said...

He sounds like a great guy. Too bad he had to die so young. Sometimes it doesn't seem fair.

e said...

That was a fabulous story, I'll bet you have many more. Ever thought of writing a book?

kissyface said...

that's really touching.

i have to say, i'm with your mom on the spanking thing.

red dirt mule said...

I love it when you share stories about your family, emotions ...this one melted a bit of my red dirt mulish heart.

as Barbara said: too bad he had to die so young. life just never makes sense. i bet he's near-by, watching over you, cowboy. i mean look - how many close calls have you had? and you're still with us, keeping us laughing until we (I) pee in our panties ...


petra michelle; Whose role is it anyway? said...

This post moved me to tears, Es!
A beautiful account. Most times it takes years and much reflection to appreciate it for what it was.

Anonymous said...

There's a lot of guilt in everyone's life, from S, D & Rock 'n' Roll maniacs to parent-pleasing prudes. I'm no exception. Your Mom find the perfect answer for it!!! 'We were all a problem' is splendid.