I wish I had a good photo to go along with this story. I know I have some in my stacks of photos from Mom and Dad’s, but I don’t have them scanned where I can use them.
Our old family friend Bob Mathias died yesterday and I got the word today. It makes me sad because he was a very good friend to my father for 50+ years and while Daddy was sick that last year, I would send out group emails and Bob was on my mailing list.
Bob and Daddy both worked for Colorado Interstate Gas Company–Â CIG. In the mid-fifties, Mom and Dad and Mackie moved to Beaver, Oklahoma, for a short time. No, they didn’t leave me behind, I wasn’t part of the family yet. Bob and Marge Mathias and their daughters Debbie and Dee lived there and they all became good friends.
Once Mom and Dad came back to Amarillo, the friendship continued. They were more than Christmas card friends. I know Daddy saw Bob a lot through work and Mother would see them at company functions, but we also sharedÂ family friendship. When we lived in Colorado, we sidetracked over to Beaver on our way back to Amarillo and spent the night with them. I remember watching TV in the living room with Debbie and Dee while Mom and Dad and Bob and Marge laughed in the kitchen, Dad and Marge’s cigarette smoke clouding the room and the smell of Bob’s pipe wafting our way.
I even have memories of them that go back before I was 5 years old. I can pinpoint them because we moved to the country when I was five. It’s a memory more of after their visit… They left behind a little boy’s pair of underwear and Mother explained it was their son’s. I have no memory of Tim, but he was their child that was slightly younger than I was, and he lived in a group home so I never got to know him. I was always curious about this “other child” that they had that I didn’t know.
Debbie and Dee were grown up and wonderful playmates. Debbie was the oldest and had fabulous long black Priscilla Presley type hair. Since Dee and my sister were closer in age, they paired up as friends and Debbie was “my” friend. I guess nothing more was involved in being my friend than defending me from my sister and her friend, but Debbie must have done that well, because I adored her.
I remember the excitement one night when the Mathias family was coming down to see us, but we had to go to church or a school function or something that night. We just left a long note on the door for them and telling them to come in and make themselves at home. I was so excited to come back and find that they were there, already settled and watching television. I guess we just never had company like that, because it is a fond memory. I even remember watching King Kong or some creature movie like that with the girls. I think that was when a family joke began, too. They had not been to our house in the country, so Daddy gave them directions and told them to come to some certain point and they would see our house because it would be “the only light you can see” or the only light our there. Of course, when they got to that point they could also see our neighbors and the stock yards and a zillion other lights that you see when you don’t know which light is the “only” light. We truly were the only house IN the section of land, but there were plenty around that section and beyond.
Our history and companionship with the Mathias family might have just faded away over the years, with just Christmas cards and wedding invitations, except for an interesting coincidence. Debbie and Dee had both grown up and had families. Debbie, in fact, married a Dallas Cowboy football player and that was always fascinating to me! (though I’ve never met him!). They had a son we called John-John. I met John-John once when he was about 5 years old. He was mostly blind from birth, but he would play and run and ride a bike and take on the world.
Years go by and Marge Mathias died. Mother and Daddy went to the funeral. While they were there, Mother visited with “John-John,” who is now just “John.” He is working on a post-graduate degree in Iowa and he asks about what my sister and I do now. Mother tells him I work at ABC Radio. Surprised, John tells her that he has been in radio, too, and is working on a thesis related to ABC Radio and he has been looking for a contact there! One of those serindipitous moments. Mom put us in touch and we talked on the phone many times about radio before I met him again.
A few years ago, after we had moved to Austin, John, now living in Houston, came to Austin with a friend and we had a great visit and he toured my station. I was so glad to finally know him face-to-face. A couple of years later, he was teaching at Sam Houston State and I went up and spoke to his classes about radio and how to get into it (and why not to!). I haven’t seen him since then, but he has married and is now in Houston again. He is still “blind,” but it is hard to think of him that way when he still rides a bicycle and does all the things that he does. He’s a computer whiz, too. He rides that MS Houston-to-Austin bike ride each year to raise money for MS. I couldn’t ride a bike to the corner, and he is riding 250 miles in a weekend each year.
After Marge died, Bob remarried a lovely woman that Mom and Dad and John and the rest of the family really loved. It was nice that he found another woman that made him happy. I’m glad I’m still in touch with John-John and heard about his death through him or we might not have known for a while.
Bob had a wonderful deep resonate voice and talked very slowly and was always teasing in a nice way. I still associate pipe smells with him. He was a sweet man and had a great family. It makes me sad when these pieces of my past slip away.
Thanks for reading, if you stuck with me this long. This was just a personal stream-of-consciousness that I wanted to get out.