|Ross Bowlin Lea in Army casual, c. WWII|
While Herb and I were engaged and he was away at seminary, I often stopped by the house on my way home from nursing school. Herb's Mom traveled a lot with his sister, so I would call Dad and see if he was up for a visit. He was always there and always glad to see me. He loved to take me to their country club for dinner on Sunday, and he always said it made him happy to see me enjoy my meal. He hated to see a girl waste a good meal!
I sometimes got him to tell me about his days in the Army, fascinating to me because he joined the Cavalry when they still rode horses. If I had known what the future held, I would have spent so much more time with him and asked him many more questions.
|Ross Bowlin Lea, 1977|
He was a true Southern gentleman. On two occasions when I was out to dinner with the extended family at one of the fancy restaurants they frequented, I embarrassed myself in my inexperience. Probably no one noticed, although I felt glaringly obvious, but dear Dad saw my embarrassment. Both times he drew me into conversation, avoiding any mention of my faux pas, but nevertheless coming gallantly to my rescue.
Dad may have been my father-in-law, but in my heart he was my father. I hope and believe he knew how very much I loved him.
When my own father tried to stop me from keeping my engagement to Herb, Dad gave Herb a pistol and insisted he take it with him to go see me. "Take that girl up to Oklahoma and marry her," he said, "and don't let anybody stop you! If you have to use this, do it!" Fortunately, Herb just put the pistol in his trunk to pacify his father. He took a more peaceful approach with my father
We lost him on Feb. 12, 1979, at 64--too soon after only three years of having my dear father-in-law in my life. We buried him on Valentine's Day, and thirty-four years later, I still miss him deeply. Dear Dad, I hope that you can look down from heaven and see that you are still loved.
And I hope some day when I have been gone for so long that someone will miss me as much as I still miss you. Thank you for being a true father to me!