I knew my car needed gasoline (you know… that expensive stuff a vehicle can’t run without) so at the end of Friday errands, I breathed a deep sigh of relief that the Buick and I made it home. Yes, I had watched the gas guage because for three days in a row Dear Heart had asked me to leave the old Buick at home so he could gas it up for me. He routinely does things for me like filling my car with gas so I have a little time to write.
Too willful to drive the big, bulky, hard to park van, I put him off. But, on Friday afternoon, with errands done and only fumes left, I gave thanks I had not been stranded due to my stubborn nature and said, “Please.” And “Thank you.”
Gus and I called our black Lab, Ava, who is always up for a ride in either vehicle. She snuggled down in the floor of the back seat while we two humans—with rare time alone together—caught up on odds and ends of life that swirls too quickly around us.
At the gas station, we pulled up to a pump behind a pickup truck and my dearly beloved got out and began the slow process of adding 14.5 gallons of gold to my tired, old carriage. While Dear Heart pumped, Ava sat up on the back seat to check out our stop and I noticed the Purple Heart notation on the license plate of the pickup. I leaned out my car window and hollered (a normal mode of communication in Texas J) “Hi! I’m a Marine Mom. Thank you for your service.”
The dog in the back of the pickup (another normal occurrence in Texas) peered down his nose at me. The pup's buddy, busy pumping LOTS of gold into the pickup truck, tipped his cowboy hat and said, “Thank you, Ma’am. I was Viet Nam.” As if expecting me to turn away.
I smiled. “I know something about Viet Nam. I lived through it as a kindergarten teacher to lots of students whose dads were there. I’m glad you got out in one piece. I’m still grateful for your service.”
The cowboy turned his head to check the pump and his long, white, ponytail flipped to the side. His best friend yawned and licked a couple of paws. The tall, lean cowboy stroked his dog. “Us ‘Nam guys don’t git many thanks.” After a bit, he grinned. (You may not know what I mean, but Texans understand those slow, can’t-guess-what-I’m-really-thinking cowboy snickers.)
He put the nozzle back into its place, shoved the cowboy hat down tighter on his head, then ambled over to my car window. “I hope you never need it, but I’m growin this white stuff to donate for wigs for – some nice older lady. Who might git cancer. It’ll be comin off in ‘bout a month.” He tipped his hat, did that cowboy grin, and ambled off to pay his bill, boots clicking on the hot concrete.
- I didn’t tell him about the bomb injury my Marine son sustained in Iraq.
- I didn’t tell him about another ’Nam vet who loved me the best he could through his alcohol glaze and war nightmares.
- I didn’t tell him about my three sweet friends whose hands I held so many times and the prayers we shared and how they lost their earthly cancer battles—unafraid and eager to meet Jesus—even without beautiful white wigs.
- I didn’t ask him if the long, slow process of growing out white hair was to honor a lost love.
- I didn’t tell him that I would reflect on our conversation and wonder if a wavy, white wig from a cowboy’s heart would have made the lost battles more fun for my friends.
Thank you, Cowboy, for the joy your white hair will give to some courageous lady… and for whatever unknown price you paid to keep me safe so I can write words of my choice and pray with my friends.
Blessings to all cancer fighters - -
And to war vets everywhere .