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  • Zina

A 60-year-old story

Updated: Jan 2, 2023

January 1958.

My parents are married almost 5 years. (I am not even a gleam in Daddy's eye - yet.) They are almost 4 years out of the Army (Korean War era, though Daddy never had to go overseas). Daddy is in college (what would become the University of North Texas.) Mother is working at Texas Woman's University where she would finish her career in the 90's. They are happy. They are surrounded by friends and family.

Aunt Bunny's (mother's sister's) good high school friend has married Daddy's brother, my Uncle Bill. Uncle Bill is just 23 years old. This happy, young couple has a bouncing baby boy (my cousin Larry). Uncle Bill is a happy, friendly guy. Each Sunday, he leads the singing at the country church where all these happy characters' lives intertwine. Much of their social lives happen in this tiny, country community that is dominated by 5 or 6 patriarchs and matriarchs, including the parents of all the characters.

That night in January 1958, Uncle Bill's wife gets a call. She in turn calls my Daddy. The gist is that Uncle Bill has been in a terrible oil field accident at his work site a county to the West. During drilling, the well-drilling block dropped and he fell into the wreck below. That is all the characters in the drama know. Daddy, who has worked on water wells and has seen the oil field equipment, has a deep dread that he doesn't share. They pile into a car. My daddy at the wheel; his mother (Uncle Bill's mother) by his side; my mother and Uncle Bill's wife in the back seat. Mother (my Mother) holds the baby Larry. They race to Decatur in Wise County. Then, they race North to Bowie in Montague County. They arrive too late. There is only a trip to a funeral home where Uncle Bill's body has been taken.

To this day, I do not truly know how they felt during that drive (except that baby Larry threw up on my Mother). Nor do I know clearly what happened when they arrived in Bowie. My mother (the young wife holding her nephew in the back seat) does not enjoy talking about this night. I have pressed her on only 2 or 3 occasions to hear the story. Each time, she dutifully tells the details that she can bear to recall, but duty can only get her so far and no more.

When I try to coax the details out, she quickly turns to funnier and happier tales. Tales such as the time that Aunt Bunny went over to the widow's house to try to coax her out of her grief by helping her clean the house. And, they found a mouse. And, ended up tearing the house apart trying to capture and kill the mouse. Or, the monumental times that the 3 of these ladies had, tearing up the bowling lanes in the coming years. Or, how the 2 single ladies met and married their lifelong loves. Turning the conversation back to the night in January 1958 is difficult (like finding needles in a haystack). I might learn one new fact. So, I don't try. I don't really think that one new fact is worth the pain I inflict by asking her to try.

I can't imagine what it was like for Daddy and I don't try. I also can't imagine what it was like for Uncle Bill's mother (my Granny). I also don't try to imagine this. I also can't imagine what it was like for my Aunt (Uncle Bill's wife). And, I don't try. However, I can imagine what it was like for my Mother because I've been in this situation. Watching the people you love grieve the unbearable griefs is, in and of itself, unbearable.

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