The Promotion for which he wasn't ready.
The death of my Mom and a 65+ year love affair.
The average American male will live to be 75. By that standard my Dad has been married to my Mom almost a lifetime. In August it would be 69 years. Early this morning he said goodbye to her. He held her face in his hands and with tears shared by both of them he told her he loved her. Had always loved her. He prayed for her and shared in whispers whatever can be said to let go of the woman with whom he shared almost seven decades. Even with the rock solid faith of a Baptist preacher, which he was most of those years, I’m quite certain that my Dad is not entirely sure that she is in better hands than his own.
Theirs is a love story, but not an easy story.
It is a story in wh
ich they end holding hands, but spent many years apart. In addition to being a minister, my Dad was an Air Force Colonel with tours in Korea, Viet Nam, and months away from home in between. The Military is a demanding mistress which suffers no excuses and orders from the top fall on the wife and kids. My Mom was often essentially a single mom, Commander in Chief of seven kids and a household that had to be packed up and moved around the world every three years. In retirement they shared the management of the Air Force Security Police Association whose newsletters were edited by my Mother up until last Thursday. They also shared a Texas shaped hot tub which surprised all of us.
My Mom was brilliant. In the MENSA way. She was right and left brained. She could correct your grammar and do mathematical calculations in her head faster than a calculator. She earned a Doctorate at age 65 simply because people told her she couldn’t. She edited math books for fun. We never went on vacation, we went on field trips. We toured bread factories , newspaper offices, bottling plants, canning lines and funeral homes. I was the only fourth grader in Paris, Texas who knew what embalming fluid was. We went to Hawaii once. We couldn’t afford commercial airliners so we traveled in the belly of a cargo plane with no heat courtesy of the Air Force. We never saw the beach on that trip but dammit if we didn’t learn 100 ways to use coconut at the Polynesian Cultural Center. We tramped through the blizzard of ’66 to see Mount Vernon on the way to a duty station in Ankara, Turkey. My Mom thought we wouldn’t have a chance to visit the historic landmark again. We lived 8 minutes from it 7 years later.
When I was in my early 20's I was offered a job in Jerusalem, Israel. My friends warned me about terrorists and bombs on buses. My Mom warned me against missing the opportunity of a lifetime. Get on that plane, she said. You'll never regret it. I did and she was right.
My Mom loved books. She taught us to love books. While our friends went to the movies, we went to the library. We always checked out the daily limit and were back for more within days. We didn’t own a television until much later than our neighbors. I never remember seeing her watch television until she was in her 60’s. A college education was not debated in our home, it was just done. Seven kids, 5 degrees. (I’m one of the two who did not graduate from college, a fact that my Mom didn’t let go of until I was well into my 30’s and had a mortgage. I guess she figured I had enough smarts to avoid the bread line.)
I think my Dad always knew he married up. Not because my Mom let him think that. She was his greatest cheerleader, his best friend, confidante, and defender. I don’t think she ever forgave the Air Force for passing him over when it was time to be considered for promotion to Brigadier General. She promoted him. In her mind, in her heart, in her words, in her actions. He just never knew that in the final chapter, she would be promoted before him.
Rest in Christ. Velma Lucille Bullock August 10, 1934- April 20, 2022