~ 1 ~


Though I’ve been physically hit and emotionally scarred by some real scoundrels, it’s far more important to note and remember that I’ve been lucky enough to be loved by some genuinely good and decent men. Men who have more quirks than flaws. Men who are trustworthy, generous, kind, loyal, and caring. Men who want me (and every other woman, for that matter) to shine our own lives out into the world, dimming our lights for nobody, not a single person. Men who do much more good than harm. Men I wish I could clone because we all need more like them.


One of those men took his last breath Friday night (12/19/14), and while I know it means there’s one more guardian angel who has my back, it’s an awfully painful transition from . . .
feeling his arms wrap around me and his dry lips brush mine,
hearing him clear his voice and say “Oh, honey”,
seeing his beautiful mustached smile that stretched from his forehead to his chin
watching him shake his head as he begs me to get more sleep,
having his curved, bony hands wrap around mine
. . . to recalling these things from memory.


Walter Mashburn (my stepdad) was . . .
a good, fair, knowledgeable, and wise “big dog” at the Ford Motor Company
an interesting and affable friend to many
a loving, supportive father and grandfather
a tender, loving, deeply caring mate to my mother
an enthusiastic, never-wavering encourager, teacher, and friend to my daughter, Alison
a good example of how to suck the marrow out of life.


Walter will live on in stories, but right now, that feels a mighty poor substitute.

~ 2 ~


5 Dec 2014
5:47 a.m.

Dear Walter,

I miss you.

I woke up this morning thinking about all the things I miss about you – all the bright, shiny things that are absent in my life now that I don’t see you nearly as often – and I quickly realized it’s a list of all the things I love about you, so consider this a love letter . . .

  • I love your quick laugh and constant smile.
  • I love that you love to dance.
  • I love that you love music and know the words to more songs than I can count.
  • I love that you sing along – right out loud, even in the grocery store.
  • I love the stories you tell of working at Ford. Stories about Mr. Cannon’s support. Stories about outsmarting and working around the union. Stories about giving people a second chance to prove their worth or prove you right.
  • I love your knowledge of cars.
  • I love how when we visited the car museum in Asheville, you paid no heed to the “Please Do Not Touch the Cars” and placed both hands right smack dab on each car so you could get a better look.
  • I love that when Andy asked what was the best built car ever, you answered without a moment’s hesitation: a Packard. And you recounted that their slogan was “Just ask the man who owns one.”
  • I love how you unabashedly love to shop. Do you have any idea how rare that is and how much fun Mother had shopping with you?
  • I love that you love your birthday as much as any 6 year old I ever knew.
  • I love that story about the hard-top convertible pace car at the Atlanta Raceway – how when the early morning call came, you knew just who to call to get it fixed and how you always end that story by saying that top was “one of the worst mistakes Ford ever made.”
  • I love that you love dark chocolate. And Maker’s Mark.
  • I love your foot-stomping drinks.
  • I love talking politics with you.
  • I love that you love Georgia Tech.
  • I love that you owned a Jaguar.
  • I love that J3 now loves owning and driving your Jaguar.
  • I love how you take such good care of Mother. You let her be herself. You accept her as she is. You love her without conditions or strings attached.
  • I love that you take such care, take such an interest in your appearance.
  • Though I find it baffling, quite honestly, I love your willingness to push your plate away and turn down desserts.
  • I love that you and Mother are on a first-name basis with so many waiters in so many different restaurants.
  • I love that you were my elf last Christmas when I bought Alison your floor radio. I love that she went to the estate sale and bought one of your leather jackets.
  • I love that I can’t think of your face without seeing your smile.
  • I love that you won’t wear a hat from any place you haven’t visited yourself.
  • I love how you listen so deeply, so attentively, and without interrupting.
  • I love hearing you say “Oh, honey” to Mother and Alison.
  • I love being hugged and kissed by you.
  • I love remembering you coming out in Alison’s Christmas pajamas, something a lesser man would never have done.
  • I love the way you speak up and speak out.
  • I love how you love life and suck the marrow out of it.
  • I love remembering you dancing at the World War II Days event.
  • I love remembering how you loudly (because, really, your volume control button got busted a long time ago) said “There’s no way he can be that old” about the one veteran who beat you out of the oldest veteran in attendance recognition at the World War II Days event year before last.
  • I love how you know all the female singers, actresses, songs, and movies from the 40s, and how you share your stories and knowledge with Alison.
  • I love how you once told somebody that Alison is your best friend. Obviously I wasn’t there.
  • I love how you took my shoulders in your hands, looked into my retinas, and thanked me for giving you a second chance after you and Mother divorced. I mean, really, Walter, how could I not have given you a second chance?
  • I love how easily, frequently, and sincerely you say “I love you.”
  • I love how your ringtone on Mother’s phone is a car horn. Ford, obviously.
  • I love talking with you about leadership and management skills, something we both agree is sorely lacking in today’s world.
  • I love how you share your opinions on matters large and small and always give others a chance to voice their opinions, too, knowing that differing opinions diminish neither person.
  • I love how tirelessly and enthusiastically you supported Alison when she ran for political office.
  • I remember this one lovely spring day when Andy and I met you and Mother and Alison for lunch at Planterra Ridge. I remember the feel of the warm spring day on my skin as we sat outside and enjoyed a leisurely lunch with libations. It was one of many such lunches, of course, but this particular day stands out in my memory.
  • I love how thoughtfully and carefully you shop for cards, taking the time to read every card on the rack until you find Just The Right One.
  • I love how you sold your car to pay for The Twins’ birth.
  • I love how you and Jim have lunch every Thursday.
  • I love that you called Mother every morning at 9.
  • I love that you religiously went to the gym.
  • I love that though you spent most of every day together, there is still space in your togetherness with Mother.
  • I love that you attended the Daytona 500 when it was run on the beach, and I love that when a car would flip over while making the turn, y’all would run down, set it right, and it would get on back into the race.
  • I love your hands and how carefully and deliberately you use your fingers.
  • I love the rituals you and Mother created. I love that they were every day ordinary rituals.
  • I love being out with you and witnessing the respect you command just by your demeanor, by the way you carry and conduct yourself.
  • I love that you tried to learn to use the computer and send emails.
  • I love how you feed Jason and Clyde and Phoebe, too, when she’s there, a treat just before you go home every night.
  • Even being the feminist (of the woman’s libber variety) I am, I love how you never fail to appreciate a pretty woman.

  • I love how I make you laugh when I channel Vickie Lawrence’s character on the tv show Mama’s Family. (It’s not all that hard to channel her, really, since I think there’s a big ole’ streak of Mama running through me, don’t you?)

And that story about the Daytona 500? Of all the stories you’ve told me over the years, that one is my favorite because it typifies how you walk around this earth : You do things that interest, entertain and delight you, and when something goes off track (as it invariably will), you don’t hesitate to offer assistance, then you get on back to your seat to enjoy the rest of the race.

Nothing much gets past you, does it Walter Mashburn, and I love that because it means Mother didn’t get past you which means that you are a part of my life. An important part of my life. You’ve a man who teaches me, by example, how to spend time on earth filled to the brim with living, loving, and laughing. I must’ve done something good in another life to have had you be a part of this one.

I love you so much, Walter. More than I could ever quantify for you.

[kissed and signed by JHC]

~ 3 ~


I’ll be seeing you
In all the old familiar places
That this heart of mine embraces
All day and through.


In that small cafe
The park across the way
The children’s carousel
The chestnut trees, the wishing well.


I’ll be seeing you
In every lovely summer’s day
In everything that’s light and gay
I’ll always think of you that way.


I’ll find you in the morning sun
And when the night is new
I’ll be looking at the moon
But I’ll be seeing you.


I’ll be seeing you
In every lovely summer’s day
In everything that’s light and gay
I’ll always think of you that way.


I’ll find you in the morning sun
And when the night is new
I’ll be looking at the moon
But I’ll be seeing you.


(“I’ll Be Seeing You”: music by Sammy Fain and lyrics by Irving Kahal)