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Warner, Romey Called For You
2003-10-22 - 9:47 p.m.

I have been thinking a lot in the past few days. Letting memories float in and out of my consciousness. I want to write it all down, but once again my inadequacies get in the way. I wanted to write something thoughtful and spiritual and beautiful to pay tribute to my father-in-law. I don't know how to do that though. I don't know if I can fully express just how much he meant to me, here on the computer screen. I don't know where to begin and I'm not ready for it to end. I know, the circle of life and how it must continue. It doesn't seem to make it any less painful.

I first began "dating" Robert at the ripe age of 15. I'd just turned 15 the month before. I believe you can have several soul mates because even your children are. I would have to say Robert was my first. Maybe someday I will share that story.

The first time I went to his house, I went to the back door by accident. There were bobcat paws tied with leather maybe, hanging from the overhang and I nearly walked into them. I was a bit freaked. A short, stocky man in a white t-shirt came to the door. He had these soft green eyes I could see through the door. In his southern drawl he told me to come in out of the cold and that Robert would be home soon. I sat down in the living room and instantly felt at ease. I remember looking at a poster on the wall. It was black and white with a young, good-looking man in jeans and a flannel. He was down on one knee and had this James Dean look. I shyly asked who the actor was. They laughed and said, "That's Warner!" I thought it was some actor from the 50s and that they were teasing me. It really was him though. They showed me the picture they had blown up. That was the first day I met him and I was family ever since.

Warner was the only person I ever knew who called me Lana instead of Alana. He treated me like one of his own. I remember one night going out with Robert drinking and we came home late and drunk and fell asleep in the living room. The next thing I know, lights come on, the TV comes on loud and Warner is shouting, “Wake Up! No sleeping all day. Its already 10 o clock! C'mon get up. Lois has eggs and bacon cooked" and we got up. Stretched and went to find food only to find it was 5 am! Yea, that was Warner’s way of teaching us. But I never once heard any of his children, who were mostly adults by then, back talk him or disrespect him. Never.

I remember when Robert took off with his brothers for a weekend and left me alone. I hated to be alone so I went and stayed at Warner’s house. Mommy, Boug and I were huddled up in the bedroom with Warner and Lois. It was summer and hot. Since it was nighttime, the windows were opened. It smelled like garlic and cut grass in the room. The moonlight was coming in through the window and shining on Warner’s face. He was telling us stories about when he was young. About the trouble him and his brothers would get into. One prank involved ketchup. Let's just say it was in the newspaper. Heh. He told ghost tales as well. He was a terrific storyteller, I remember that night like it was not so long ago instead of 16 years ago. I remember feeling like family when I was all alone. That summer night was soothing.

Warner liked to tease me a lot but I knew it was only his way of showing affection. I also, knew that he would stick up for me in a heartbeat as well.

When I was pregnant with Kelly, Robert and I moved into that old house since Warner and Lois bought the house down the road. Robert worked in oil fields out on rigs all day. I would go to their house and hang out with them. I spent many a day there because I honestly liked their company. Lois would make me coffee cold mornings and I'd sit and talk with them or we would just watch TV. Every Clint Eastwood Western I ever saw, I saw in that living room. A Fist Full Of Dollars, The Good The Bad and The Ugly, Hang Em High, High Plains Drifter, The Out law Josie Whales, and so on. I watched Two Mules For Sister Sarah and Rooster Cogburn. I watched Bonanza and the Rifleman. I know who Sheriff Matt Dillon and Festus are. I saw Roots in its entirety. I saw every episode of The Fugitive and knew he'd get away. I know whom Romey and Mary Call from Where the Lilies Bloom are. Warner used to tell every young kid who'd walk in the house, "Romey called for you". I got that one a lot.

Warner was always taking in orphan animals and raising them. Ever since I can remember. When I met him he had a baby tree squirrel he named Chico. I held Chico once but that was it. As he grew Chico would only respond kindly to Warner. He had a cage and he liked his little home. He'd go out for runs but then always run back and perch on Warner. I never knew anyone who had such a knack. I believe Chico lived well over 10 years. Over the years he had a raccoon, a potbellied pig, and numerous birds that fell from trees. That was one thing my children got to see first hand.

When we were out there this summer, two baby birds fell from their nest. Kelly cried and begged Warner to take them. He did and he fed them dog food on a little stick. They thought he was their momma after awhile. That grew very quickly in those 2 weeks. Kelly was touched to see her PaPa care for those birds. I was glad the kids got to see that side of him.

So, as I was saying earlier, when I was pregnant with Kelly I went into labor and Robert took me to Warner’s house. Warner freaked thinking I would give birth on his bed. I didn't. One thing that touched me is Warner came up to the hospital while I was in labor to see his first granddaughter and hopefully, me. It was the first time he went to the hospital for the birth of ANY child. When Kelly started to talk I was teaching her to say grandpa. Warner said, “She can call me Warner.” But I insisted he deserved the respect of grandpa. All she could say is PaPa. And so it began. All of his young grandchildren from that day on called him PaPa. I think he kind of liked it.

As years went by, my relationship with Robert took me down a different path and I left. I left Oklahoma but I kept all my pictures and memories to share with my children. Every so many years I would go back and visit. Every time I did, I felt like I'd never left. I was home in their house. They still cared about me and that meant a lot. I remarried and had a daughter with my currant husband. A few years back she came with me on one of the kids’ visits. Warner treated her just like the others. He'd cup his hand and "pet" the kitty. He'd tell Emily to come pet the kitty. And she'd look and look for the kitty. It was sweet. When I was there in the summer, seeing Warner and Lois was made the whole trip worthwhile. I thought, as long as I can hang out at their house I don't mind. Warner made me laugh so much. And I knew that he missed me and loved me. The kids were just starting to get to know him and understand why I still cared so passionately about this family. It's so hard to explain. But family is where your heart is and not necessarily where your blood runs.

Next summer, I thought we'd go fishing. I love to fish and Dylan does too even though he's a city boy. Warner was going to take him fishing. There is so much more I could say, so many stories I could tell, but I simply can't right now. I ...can't. I miss him because I know I won't get another chance. I miss the future Kelly and Dylan will never have with him. I ache for Lois, who was the most devoted wife I have ever known. I will miss all those westerns and stories that will never be voiced by that sweet stout man with the soft green eyes. I will miss Warner.

I almost didn't go to OK this summer since I had just moved to Vienna and money would be tight. I thank God I decided to go. I thank God for that last chance to see Warner and hear him say that I was always welcome and always loved. I thank God for having the opportunity to know him. He could be stubborn and set in his ways. He wasn't always right, but he meant well. He loved his kids and wanted to see them do well. I was one of them.

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