Last week, I used to share with readers a posting that I read every Friday from the New York Times that focuses on books. While the book update from NYT gives the latest on books, it also hosts a mini-interview with a known writer, and asks the following questions:

1) What books are on your nightstand?

2) Who is your favorite novelist of all time? And your favorite novelist writing today?

3) If you could require the president to read one book what would it be?

4) You are hosting a literary dinner party. Which three writers do you invite?

5) What is the last book you put down without finishing?

At the conclusion of the posting, I asked readers to share with me their responses to these questions. My friend, Marion, was very quick with her responses to these questions.  Here are Marion’s responses, which I really enjoyed.

1) What books are on your nightstand?

My IPad is now the “books on my nightstand” and currently I have “Nothing to Lose”  by Lee Child, “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “Orange is the New Black” by Piper Kerman, and since I only read books I check out from the library, I would add “China Dolls” by Lisa See that I have on hold and arriving soon, I hope. 

2) Who is your favorite novelist of all time? And your favorite novelist writing today? 

Answer the same for both, Pat Conroy.

3) If you could require the president to read one book what would it be?

“Night” by Elie Wiesel.


4) You are hosting a literary dinner party. Which three writers do you invite?

Pat Conroy (he is the BEST oral storyteller ever! when he portrays his Bible-thumping relatives, it is hysterical) William Goldman (had such a crush on him long before “Princess Bride”), John Irving.

5) What is the last book you put down without finishing?

“To the Lighthouse” by Virginia Woolf. I tried, I really tried.


Marion and I go back to college days, 1968 to be precise, when we met and worked at Astroworld, a popular amusement park in Houston, Texas. We both worked the first summer of the first year it opened, and we both worked at the entrance to the park. I was a groundskeeper, which meant with a long-handled brush and trash container, I swept up every cigarette butt and piece of trash that hit the grounds of Astroworld, from the Astrodomain parking lot, which was nestled next to the Astrodome, across the walkway that rose over Loop 610 to the entrance to the park. Plus, I also covered “Main Street,” which is what Astroworld visitors first saw after they paid and made their entrance to the park. I had a blue and white-checked Sherlock Holmes hat and short-sleeved, button shirt, just like every other groundskeeper who worked throughout the park.

Astroworld when it opened in 1968

Astroworld when it opened in 1968

Marion was ‘the’ Map Lady. Just inside the park entrance, Marion had a very highly decorated cart. With her extroverted style and outgoing manner, she was perfect for this job. She sat at, or walked around, the cart throughout her shift and sold maps of the park layout to those visitors who wanted some information that would help them decide where to do what and where to go to get there.

We became friends that summer and stayed friends as we entered college after the summer was over. Marion went on to Texas Christian University and I went to Southwest Texas State University.

And, for years after we both moved on to other things, Astroworld grew and became more popular. In years after Marion and I left, Astroworld built an old-fashioned white wooden roller coaster, just like you might expect at Coney Island. And, it continued to grow in size.

In 1975, the original owner of Astroworld, Judge Roy Hofheinz, former mayor of Houston, sold the amusement park to Six Flags. Six Flags then ran it as one its popular and profitable theme parks. They were successful until October 2005, when they closed the park down. From late October through early 2006, the park was bulldozed and demolished.

Astroworld today

Astroworld today

Today, there is nothing but scrubland where the park used to be. The only thing that continues to exist that might remind people where the huge amusement park used to exist is the walkway that took visitors from the Astrodomain parking lot across Loop 610 to the entrance of the park.

Plus, the millions of memories people of all ages created when they visited the amusement/theme park during its heyday.

Marion, thank you for your answers to the questions, and for being part of the memories of a bygone era that I really enjoyed.

 As a reader, your action will be required below after the …

My Mom, Clephane Aldridge, died in mid-February at age 87. For someone who smoked about 65 of those 87 years, she had a full life. When my Dad was alive, he would tease her with the name “Cellophane,” after the kitchen wax paper.

Clephane Aldridge

Clephane Aldridge

She followed my Dad wherever he went for his job, an engineer for Sinclair Oil. Consequently, we lived in Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas while my sister, Dana, and I grew up. She idolized and loved my Dad dearly, except if the following story ever came up. She didn’t like it.

One of the stories that my Dad loved to tell was one that occurred when Dana and I were very little. We lived in Bowlegs, Oklahoma. Dad did his work, Mom raised us and Dana and I found fun and excitement wherever we could. Bowlegs was pretty much a company town full of Sinclair employees and families and the nearest regular town with shops and stores was Maud. Dad used to joke with his engineer buddies and to family members, since we had lots of family in Oklahoma then, that “the only way to Maud is through Bowlegs.”

When I was very young I never understood his story, but as I got older, yes, I did understand and for a few years would share with my friends occasionally for a good, shared laugh.

My Mom, on the other hand, helped me to develop a real love of reading. As long as I can remember, my Mom was always reading. Magazines, which were very popular in the 50s, 60s and 70s, were OK for her, but she really liked books.

Her fun teaching me to read was a bit lopsided. When other kids were reading Superman, Batman, Archie and Veronica comic books and Boy’s Life scouting magazines, she was encouraging me to read Swiss Family Robinson and anything by H.G. Wells. She gave me a copy of Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl and, for years, all I wanted to do was catch a ride on a small raft across the south Pacific. Years later, as a college student, I spent three months in Europe. One of the things I was so thankful to see was the original Kon-Tiki in a Thor Heyerdahl museum in Oslo, Norway. I wrote her a letter from Norway describing that experience.

On the other hand, Mom rarely disclosed what she was reading. After many years, I finally figured it out.

She liked romance novels. Oh my gosh, if it had a picture or a drawing of Fabio on the cover, she had to have it. She was voracious. Many times, I thought she was the solitary reason that romance novel genre was still alive.

Even though she never gave up her love of romance novels, she stayed current on the hot authors, the really good stuff to read across all the writing genres. When I was still a teen, she encouraged me to read James Dickey and I would. For example, even as I was reading the very real brutality of Deliverance, I was also reading his poetry. And, I still don’t understand why Dickey wrote poetry. It seemed to me that if you are going to really write to make a living, write what sells. To me, novels sell and poetry impresses. I’m sure if I spent any time with a poet, I could change my mind.

And, to try to be more versatile, I would occasionally read James Baldwin, Eldridge Cleaver, Irving Wallace and others. I loved the Irving Wallace books and he really shaped my commitment toward novels. I also loved just about anything that was the Old West. Once, when I was a kid and we lived in eastern New Mexico, tumbleweeds, desert and constant winds, she took Dana and me to Lincoln County, New Mexico. There you can see vividly and in person the story of Billy the Kid’s escape from the Lincoln County Jail. There are national monuments all around the very small town. I loved it because the story was very real and included gunslingers and sheriffs, good guys and bad guys. She made sure we saw the whole thing. Years later, she and Dad took me to the small town north of Lincoln where Billy the Kid was buried.

I will always be thankful that Mom fostered my interest in reading. Just a few years ago, the movie Toy Story was a real hit. The Tim Allen character, Buzz Lightyear, would say throughout the movie, “To infinity and b-e-y-o-n-d.” Whenever I watched that movie, I would think about my mother because my love of reading, that she helped grow and prosper, has taken me to infinity and beyond. I am forever indebted to you. Thank you, Mom.

Now, here’s where you, dear reader, get involved. Every Friday, I get a NYTimes book update. This electronic update lets me know the books that are coming out, what they are about and whether they are worth our time or not.The part of the update that I enjoy the most is a somewhat brief interview with an author. It’s called (NAME: By the Book).Last week, it was Larry McMurtry. But the questions tend to be the same week to week.

I won’t ask you to fill out all the questions, but I am going to add four-five questions that are in the By the Book section for YOU TO FILL OUT AND SHARE. So, once you read this posting, take the questions, fill them out and return to me. I will share your results with other readers next Sunday.

Here are the questions, and I have included my answers for fun:

1) What books are on your nightstand?

The Closers by Michael Connelly, Empire Falls by Richard Russo, These Days by Jack Cheng, Apron Strings by Mary Morony.

2) Who is your favorite novelist of all time? And your favorite novelist writing today?

My favorite novelist of all time is Irving Wallace because I loved all the topics he would turn into novels, like sex, Christianity, black presidents. My favorite novelist writing today is Pat Conroy, no ifs, ands or buts.

3) If you could require the president to read one book what would it be?

The key is in the word “require.” I suppose you mean he would, indeed, read it. I’d suggest he read The Liberty Amendment: Restoring the American Republic by Mark Levin.

4) You are hosting a literary dinner party. Which three writers do you invite?

I’d invite Gore Vidal and Normal Mailer and watch the fireworks. I’d also make sure Philip Roth is there as referee.

5) What is the last book you put down without finishing?

Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose.  I know it is nonfiction, but I felt like I really wanted to read it. Then, as I read it, I suspected that there was a Candid Camera hooked up somewhere to watch me read this bugger, and every page of the book said, seemingly, the same thing; “Well, we got up, made camp, went a few miles up the river, made camp and went to sleep. After some mountains, we made it to the ocean.” I thought Allen Funt was somewhere ready to come in and surprise me as I threw the book against the wall.

1) What books are on your nightstand?

2) Who is your favorite novelist of all time? And your favorite novelist writing today?

3) If you could require the president to read one book what would it be?

4) You are hosting a literary dinner party. Which three writers do you invite?

5) What is the last book you put down without finishing?

So, now, dear reader, it is your turn. Take these five questions, complete them and send them to me at I will post your answers next Sunday. THANK YOU.




Please bear with me for this one.

Pop and I talk at Casey's wedding as Stacy watches the interaction

Pop and I talk at Casey’s wedding as good friend, Stacy, watches the interaction

This past March 7th, Patti’s birthday, her father, Andy, died after a three plus-year battle with esophageal cancer. He was 88. We were both diagnosed with our respective cancers on the same day in September 2010. He went through painful radiation and chemotherapy.

At his funeral ceremony in Florida, I mentioned that I had known my father for 30 years. He died of a heart attack at 56, when I was 30. I remember just after my father’s funeral, I was tucking my oldest daughter, Carrie, who was 3, into bed that night. I tried to explain that my Dad had died and he would not be with us, except in our memories. The concept of death was lost on her. She said, “Daddy, don’t worry. Grandpa is just driving around town in his Datsun.” Well, my Dad didn’t have a Datsun, but I smiled at Carrie’s statement and never forgot it.

Patti and I have been married 29 years, so I knew Andy about the same amount of time that I knew my own father. At the ceremony, I mentioned that my dad taught me the things that I needed to know to prepare for a successful life … and that, for the last 30 years, Andy was there to gently help me execute those principles, or provide an opinion of some sort. I became his third son, after Bill and Jim, when I married his daughter in 1985.

I was not what he and Virginia expected. They were strong Seventh-Day Adventists and believed hopefully that their daughter would stay within the flock. At the time, I was not much of a churchgoer. But Patti’s brother, Jim, introduced us and, for me, it was love at first sight. Patti, on the other hand, needed convincing. It became my mission in life and Pop watched patiently as our romance blossomed.

After we married, Pop and Virginia (Mom) were very accepting and always there for the small and large events we experienced, birthdays, anniversaries, births, etc., regardless of where we lived at the time. We played a lot of golf together and that was pure joy. I would ask him what he shot for each hole. In turn, he would ask me what I had scored on the hole and often replied that he had the same score.  One time I told him that I had shot a nine on a hole and that ended that practice.

I don’t ever remember losing my temper with him. His presence commanded respect no matter what. And, I also never remember Pop ever telling me “I had to do this or that.”

I loved him dearly and was so thankful to have him in my life to celebrate those things that a man wants to share with another man, and I would not have been able to enjoy with my dad’s early passing. He always answered any questions I asked with tenderness and respect.

Paul Newman as the stage manager in Our Town

Paul Newman as the stage manager in Our Town

For the last several years I carried a copy of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town wherever we moved. Since my mother had introduced me to this book many years before I ever met Patti, it had become a favorite of mine. The simple story of everyday small-town life with simple characters experiencing uniform joys and immediate dilemmas that affect us all resonated with me every time I picked up the book. And over the years, I had regarded Pop easily and regularly as the stage manager, a main character in the book. Within the family Pop had that simple talent of bringing things together, many times without you realizing it. He was the quintessential stage manager. His observations were keen and his pronouncements were true.

I had kept the book for many years because I thought that when he passed, I would be able to provide a quote from the book that summed up the tremendous impact he had on my life. And, it didn’t hurt that my favorite actor, Paul Newman, played the stage manager in one of the last productions of Our Town on Broadway.

But when the time came, I passed on Our Town and focused on the impact of his loss on his family and friends.

But for me, Pop will always be the stage manager every time I pick up Our Town. One of the messages the stage manager says to the audience I can very easily hear Pop sharing with anyone who would listen:

“We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars … everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.”

What Pop knew was that a life in the Lord is eternal. Pop, we will meet again and there will be no tears, only love, joy and eternal happiness, and then we can read Our Town together as we drive around in a Datsun!

I went to college from 1968 to 1973. While I was at Southwest Texas State University (LBJ’s alma mater), I met a very interesting fellow. His name is Bill. Bill was a Vietnam veteran, using the GI Bill to finalize his education. He was getting his degree in journalism, just as I was. As a Viet vet, he was very conservative and, at the time, I was a little progressive. Yeah, I know. Things change. We had lively discussions. Bill was tall, lanky, lacking in hair (which at the time I did not expect that curse to befall me, too), energetic and outspoken. On many days, Bill would wear to class some portion of the uniform he had in Vietnam.

Every spring break, Bill and I would take a trip. On one trip we drove from San Marcos, Texas to Cheyenne, Wyoming and back. Great fun.

But not near as much fun as one spring break, when Bill and I decided to hitchhike. We had 10 days for the break and we would hitchhike for five days and then return. We decided to head west out of San Marcos to see how far we could get in five days, and what fun we could have along the way.

We got some very interesting lifts. One guy had a truck with wooden paneling in the truck bed. That’s where we rode. He didn’t want anyone in the cab. He dropped us off in Fort Stockton, Texas. Nothing against the people or the location of Fort Stockton, but after getting some sleep behind a store, Bill and I grabbed our sleeping bags and knapsacks to leave. Fort Stockton was a bleak-looking place. A few red lights, wide highways and loads of West Texas sand and tumbleweeds blowing across the landscape. Back then, no Walmarts, just local shops and businesses.

It took an entire day for us to get out of Fort Stockton. We tried every road out of town, INCLUDING the one we had used to enter town. We were getting desperate Bill wore part of his Viet uniform, thinking we would get some sympathy from a West Texas driver. I wore his cap that had some U.S. Army markings on it. ANYTHING to get out of town.

Having fun ... really

Having fun … really

Finally, we caught a ride. When we got into the car, we mentioned that it had been hard finding a ride in Fort Stockton. The guy told us that the movie The Hitchhiker was at the local drive-in and that may have worked against us. “Duh, ya think.” As I recall, that movie had loads of bad incidents where people are killed or maimed as part of the plot. And we were trying to get out of town … by hitchhiking!

On the way out, we took baths in a stream underneath a bridge on the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation near Cloudcroft, New Mexico. We pitched our sleeping bags in the hay loft of a lumberyard in Ruidoso, New Mexico; and, we had drinks with a prison parolee in a cinderblock bar skirting the road just outside of a very small New Mexico town. He had been released that morning and his first stop, before going home to family, was the bar. He drank a lot and had loads of stories about his life in prison.  We also climbed up and rolled down the sand dunes of White Sands National Monument.

We made it all the way to Tucson. We attended a frat party in Tucson the night before we began our return.

On the way back to San Marcos, we were hitching along a desolate road that cradled the Texas-New Mexico border. It was turning nightfall, we had had only a scarcity of rides (so a lot of walking that day), and we were approaching a very small town that looked like it was just a smidgen of Archer City, Texas as that town was shown by Peter Bogdanovich in The Last Picture Show. It was not too windy, only a few tumbleweeds scooted across the road, but our skin was getting a bit pelted by blowing sand.

We decided that we had better get some rest undisturbed just outside town BEFORE heading in the next morning.

So, we stepped off the road, crossed over a fence and began walking into a field of someone’s farm or ranch. Because we were away from what lights there were in town, the stars were amazing. They looked so bright that it appeared they were only about 25 feet into the sky. Just plain beautiful.

When we felt we had taken enough steps onto the farm or ranch from the road to be safe, we plopped down our sleeping bags and fell asleep very quickly.

In the middle of the night, the earth began to shake — violently, and there was a mysterious roaring. In our sleeping bags, the shaking bounced us up and down roughly. It became very difficult to shed the bags to find out what was going on. An earthquake? A meteor land nearby? What the hell could this possibly be? And, that noise?

It became clear quickly. Once we were awake, we could see the boxcars of a train. Apparently, it was a long train and as it chugged across the farm, we unknowingly were so close to the tracks that we were affected much like being at the epicenter of an earthquake. Because it had been dark when we pulled out our sleeping bags, and because we were so tired, we didn’t check out the surroundings. The tracks were nearby and we didn’t even see them. For the rest of the trip, we hummed Carole King’s  I Felt The Earth Move Under My Feet.

We made it back to San Marcos uneventfully, but, to this day, many years later, I don’t think I have ever been as afraid as I was that night the earth began to move. But, I will cherish the memories of trips such as these forever.



A short time after the holidays I needed to buy some replacement blades for my Gillette Fusion razor. I don’t give you the brand name to promote the product but to give you an idea what kind of razor I had. And, if you know what kind of razor I had, then you have an idea how much replacement blades cost for this razor … a small fortune.

The safety razor

The safety razor

I decided to take the road seldom taken and get back to the basics. I started looking for a safety razor, the double-edge kind that our fathers used to use. The decision to do so came after going to Walgreen’s, Wal-Mart, Costco and just about any other retail place you might think you could find razors, only to discover you just can’t find a safety razor in a store. I could get a Schick 5-blade, or a number of other 5-blade brands, but could not find an old-fashioned safety razor. My dad would be shocked.

What happened next could be called a mission. Patti is probably more accurate when she says it became an obsession. I started researching online looking for the safety razor. I found loads of them on all kinds of sites. I found out about the differences in brands, costs, comments from other users, what company offered a razor at a fraction of the cost of the same razor at another site. Hey, I was a consumer. I saw just plain common safety razors for as much as $140 and some for $9. There was everything in between.

That’s when I succumbed to the cult.

As I went from site to site, I kept noticing comments from other buyers much more committed to safety razors than me, who were using terms like “wet shaving,” who used the acronym DE for “double edge” or the term “open comb” versus “closed comb” for the way the razor slid across your face and even how shave time each day was “individual” time to not be in any hurry, to celebrate slowness and accuracy and enjoy the personal time with your razor. Ok, so obsession may be more descriptive, after all. Once I checked out the websites and their offerings, I settled on a nondescript safety razor and some extra blades from Amazon.

I placed my order on January 27, 2014.  Just before I placed my order (for a whopping $11), the delivery information showed on the screen. “Delivery between February 27 and March 11.” Huh? Really? From Amazon? Again, really? I thought there must be a mistake, but it was just a razor and some blades. No big deal.

I started letting my beard grow, so I wouldn’t have to buy a Fusion blade ever again. I’ll just wait for the razor and blades to show up. Couldn’t really take too long. It’s just a razor.

On or around February 22, a small shipment from Thailand came in the mail. I got the blades, but no razor. Again, really?

And, March 11 came and went, still no razor.

I wrote a message to Amazon, warning other customers to be sure and check the shipping and delivery information before ordering a razor from Amazon, well, from a “provider” to Amazon, MMA Sales.

In my message, I told Amazon that I had to make some assumptions about the delivery of my razor. I said that MMA Sales must have had to build a gravel road to the most desolate area of Outer Mongolia to send a guy on a donkey, so he could use a shovel and dig some metal out of the ground with his hands. After traveling back with the metal, the donkey rider had to find a one-armed blacksmith to mold the metal into a razor and precision razor blades. Once the blacksmith completed his work, MMA Sales must have found a three-legged burro to take the razor/blades from Outer Mongolia to the eastern edge of the Pacific Ocean, somewhere in China. Once at the ocean, someone had to build a replica of Thor Heyerdahl’s 1947 Kon-Tiki raft, to carry the razor and blades, against the prevailing currents, to the West Coast of America.

Once at the West Coast, somewhere near San Francisco, someone put the razor and blades on the backs of several ants to make the journey from the West Coast, across the Rockies, the desert of New Mexico and west Texas to my home in Austin.

To this day, March 26, I still do not have the razor I ordered from Amazon.

However, just a week ago, I ordered an inexpensive  safety razor and blades from an online Canadian company called Fendrihan. They arrived today.

One man’s toiletries is another man’s obsession.


Mississippi River Bridge at Baton Rouge, La.

Mississippi River Bridge at Baton Rouge, La.

For 29 years I worked as a communications consultant with several human resource consulting firms. If you are not familiar with those firms, the bulk of the work is completed for companies by actuaries, health & welfare consultants, consultants specializing in other benefits and compensation, IT systems consultants and communicators.

Throughout my consulting career, there was ALWAYS this unwritten rule: Actuaries are revered like gods, don’t bother them with trivial requests.

At some time or other, my peers and I would come up with terrific questions that we would want to run by the actuaries, but didn’t because of the unwritten rule. But these were the folks that worked on questions similar to these. My favorite “odds” question has always been: “If I were to launch a rocket in my front yard that would escape the earth’s gravity, what would be the odds the rocket would hit Mars?”

And, I’ve heard other “odds” questions that my friends always wanted answered, but never approached the respected actuaries.

And what follows is related. Trust me.

So, Monday, my wife, Patti, and I were traveling from Austin, Texas to a little town north of Tampa, Florida to spend some time with family. We were traveling down the east/west/east racetrack called I10. Our car has XM/Sirius radio and we were listening to the channel called Prime Country.  Lots of Reba McIntyre, Garth Brooks, Clint Black, Trisha Yearwood and other country artists that don’t currently rank in the top 10.

Charley Pride

Charley Pride

We were traveling east and just at the moment we began crossing the huge bridge over the Mississippi River near downtown Baton Rouge, country artist Charley Pride began singing “Roll On Mississippi.” I kept staring straight ahead, but looked at Patti out of the corner of my eye. Unbeknownst to me, Patti was giving me the very same look.  So, what are the odds that just as we are traveling through the bridge over the river, Charley Pride would , at that moment, sing “Roll On Mississippi?” I haven’t a clue, nor would I know how to even try to calculate those odds.

We both knew right then that something unique was happening, but in the whole scheme of things, didn’t quite know how special that moment truly was. It’s not like that radio channel plays lots of Charley Pride music. Occasionally, but certainly not randomly. No doubt, Charley Pride has had his share of hits over the years. He’s the singer of “Kiss an Angel Good Morning,” “Just Between You and Me,” “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone?,” “Burgers and Fries,” and “Kaw-Liga.” But rarely do you hear these songs on the radio any more.

So, in conclusion, I am glad to be retired from consulting, because if I was returning to work after this trip, the temptation to “ask an actuary” about the odds of that moment would be outrageously phenomenal, and I am absolutely certain that I would break the unwritten rule.

This past Saturday, my daughter, Casey, and her fiancé, Rick, were united in marriage. My brother-in-law, Jim, presided over the ceremony, which took place at sundown in a rustic setting on a ranch in Dripping Springs, Texas.

Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters joined long-time friends in celebrating the union through dinner and drink, the cutting of the cake and dancing. There were more smiles in the room than the number of paparazzi stalking ALL the Kardashians.

Casey and Rick

Casey and Rick

Ok, those are pretty much the basics, but, in no way, does that capture the emotional side: the love, the passion and feeling that encompassed the entire event, from the months-long advance preparation, the setting up of the venue, the getting ready, the vows, the picture-taking and the celebration of friends and family united in encouraging and supporting the effort of both the bride and groom to include as many as possible in the event itself.

For example, simple statistics showed the likelihood that I would be able to attend the wedding was not high. I was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer over three years ago. Every day is a blessing. So, Casey fashioned the color purple (pancreatic cancer awareness) into just about every aspect of the event. Bridesmaids wore purple dresses. Casey wore purple shoes and carried a purple bouquet. Patti wore a lovely purple dress that accented her beauty and her smile.

Rick’s father, Bob, is a rice farmer, so, in preparation, the bride and her attendants made purple rice and included some in every lantern on every table and up and down the aisle where they exchanged vows.

Under a fold in Casey’s wedding dress, she fashioned two hearts — one blue from a business shirt of mine and one white lace from her mother’s wedding dress. The hearts were sewn into the dress and Casey included my father’s wedding band that I wore, and a wedding band from her grandmother. So, she had the something borrowed and something blue, but these were not visible for anyone to see.

When I was working, I liked wearing bow ties. Still do. For me, there is just something therapeutic in taking the time to tie them. Bow ties are just not easy to tie, but I enjoy it. Consequently, Rick and I wore purple bow ties. Groomsmen wore purple ties. And there were other purple accents as well.

Casey and Cancer Boy

Casey and Cancer Boy

We should have invited the author Dan Brown because there was so much symbolism taking place that Robert Langdon would have understood it.

On the wedding day, after all the last-minute details were complete, family and friends were seated and the groomsmen had walked to their place in front, I was standing in the barn before double doors. I had not seen Casey all day. The photographer and an attendant told me to turn around. I was not prepared at all for what I was to see.

Seeing my daughter in her wedding dress, everything immediately became slow motion. She was radiant, glowing, every Shakespearean sonnet’s definition of beauty. I kissed her on the cheek through my tears and I could hear her say what seemed to be slow motion, “Dad, are you ready?” But, as I stood there and looked at her, all I could hear were melodious sounds of small voices: “I will not wear diapers again! Dad, I’m learning to play softball, and it’s really fun. I didn’t think I would like learning to drive on snow, but I do. I did it — I gradumicated! Dad, there’s a guy I would like you to meet!” All these swirled around her like winged white doves perching on the cascading music notes of a scale. She was just beautiful and her smile was exhilarating and illuminating.

After I had a moment to compose myself, and brush away the tears, the doors opened and we walked down the aisle to the song Over the Rainbow. Beside my own wedding to Patti, this was the most beautiful day of my life, and I am so grateful to God for allowing me to be there.

After the vows, we all moved into the barn for dinner and dancing. Rick and his mother, Debbie, had a dance, which was glorious. Then, Casey and I had a dance to Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World. I kissed her on the cheek several times, told her how proud I was of her and how beautiful she was on her special day.

Then, a very special part of the evening occurred. Patti and I danced to Diamond Rio’s One More Day. Most of the people in the room knew about the cancer, so there was not a dry eye in the house. Sorry, folks! But I so enjoyed dancing with my wife, it just made me think of our wedding date 29 years ago and how much our love has grown over the years. Patti is truly the best thing that ever happened to me. I can only hope to give her half as much joy as she has given me.

After the initial dances, dinner was served, followed by people visiting with each other and more dancing. Rick and Casey cut their wedding cake, and after everyone had their dessert, there was more dancing. Well, I think it was dancing. Shortly before the wedding, Casey asked me to siphon through my iTunes account and come up with some songs that would be good for dancing and the event. So, I did. Came up with three pages, single-spaced list of songs for her to consider and discuss with the DJ. Van Morrison’s Have I Told You Lately That I Love You, Frank Sinatra’s I Get a Kick Outta You, several Alan Jackson songs, just a myriad of romantic songs. When the night was over, I think that I had heard only about three that I had recommended. I believe what played was more a decision by the DJ than anyone.

When I think back to the wedding and reception, there is one paramount feature that surrounds and triumphs all others: the room was just filled with smiles of lovely people all around, everyone positive, enjoying themselves, smiling, touching and encouraging each other to embrace the love in the room. I found that to be so overwhelming, it was incredible.

And, I danced. I had my cowboy hat on and truly felt like dancing as if no one was watching. I danced with my niece, Ciara, my former neighbors Kelli and Hallie, Patti and as many people as I could. I wish I could have danced with everyone. It was thrilling.

Now that the event is over, I want to thank Rick and Casey. For as our children learn from us, we can also learn from them. On most occasions of big groups or meetings and such, I tend to watch and listen. I interact, but sparingly. Casey, like her mother, is more social, more engaging. But on Saturday, I felt like i stepped into their circle and realized there is plenty of room in that circle to be not only who we are, but who we want to be. I enjoyed being more social, I enjoyed engaging others and listening to their stories and catching up with them about their kids and latest doings. I like being more personable and want to experience this more on a larger scale as I move forward.

So, to reaffirm my toast to the new husband and wife, may you live long together in each other’s arms. As for me, I will never forget this day and look forward to experiencing more of an extroverted self.

God bless you all.

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