Night before last, while in Bogota, I got the call I’d been expecting for a long time. Don’s dad died on April 10 at the age of 101 years, four months and ten days. Reportedly, one of the last things he asked was if anyone had heard from me. I first met him in Denver in 1983. I remember him striding toward us in Denver’s old Stapleton airport, six-foot-four and looking very western in a leather jacket and boots. Was he wearing a bolo tie, or is that just my memory gone awry? I see he was on his 100th birthday.
Here’s a passage from one of the early chapters of For the Love of Mike, which is about Don and my first Christmas in Texas.
So I was in no holiday mood as the day before Christmas 1988 Don and I drove two-hundred miles down the coast to Corpus Christi. We stayed at a Best Western on the bay and the novelty of Christmas lights strung on the boats bobbing in the harbor eased some of the pain of being so far from what we still considered home. Don and I spent the last few Christmases at Copper Mountain, finding the ski resort the perfect getaway from all our Denver commitments. We burned prodigious amounts of wood in the fireplace, drank lots of wassail spiked with brandy, and watched a torch-lit parade of skiers on Christmas Eve. The next day, I skied a few hours before returning to our condo, warm and smelling of cinnamon and cloves, to put a duck – Don’s holiday bird of choice – in the oven.
Now, Don lit a couple candles and set them in the hotel window. “For Mom and Dad,” he said. While in Denver, we could never afford to spend the holidays with his folks in northern California. By next year we should be able to handle the airfare. There would be snow and mountains and I wouldn’t be so homesick. I added the trip to the mental to-do list I’d begun to justify the sacrifice I’d made by moving to Houston.