Does anybody remember Casey Kasem’s long distance dedication segments during his American Top 40 radio specials? Kasem would read a heartfelt letter from a listener who would name someone to whom they wanted to dedicate a song.
Well, borrowing from that theme, this goes out to Billy, in West Covina.
“When I was in the third grade, my brother Billy bought me THE coolest orange plaid Barbie doll suit. It even had a real-life looking orange button. I never got to go to his swimming hole, but he let me pet the salamanders he brought back, and he always let me watch Isis, Shazam and the New Zoo Review. I’m sure it really sucked having a little sister with one TV in the house.
In fourth grade, he bought me a full length mirror from Wacker’s, his after school job in West Texas. It made me feel VERY grown up. In sixth grade, he let me borrow his, “If-you-lead-a-good-life-say-your-prayers-and-go-to-church,-when-you-die-you-will-go-to-Texas,” T-shirt, which I wore to my first basketball game for the Ozark Hillbillies. I felt very cool and confident wearing it.
When Billy left for the Marines, my mom and dad were very sad. In fact, nothing was ever the same again. They were both sad for a long, long time. They never got over him growing up and moving away, and looking back, I don’t know how they remained so composed during certain times, like when those barracks blew up in Beirut or that fire broke out in the barracks in Japan or when helicopters full of Marines crashed into the sides of mountains. His letters on that Iwo Jima paper were better than ice-cream, Christmas and Shazam. We all missed him so much, and the dinner table was lonely. We’ve never stopped missing him. Even dad, even now.
When Billy was stationed in Okinawa, he sent me an 8-track tape player for either my birthday or Christmas. Along with it he sent two 8-track tapes. One was the soundtrack to Grease, which was my introduction to sex education. The other was Tom T. Hall, which informed me of the only three things in the world that were worth a solitary dime: Old dogs and children and watermelon wine.
I’ve been hoping for 30 years that Billy would come home, which means – live wherever I live. He has been in California most of all these years and I’ve been in Oklahoma for 25. At some point, we all just begin to hope for enough money to SOMEDAY retire and buy a big RV and travel around the country seeing all the people we’ve been missing half our lives. Hopefully, by then, we’ll all still be of sound mind enough to remember each other.
So, tomorrow morning, Billy will have surgery, and when it is over, he will no longer have the left kidney with which he was born. I wonder how much a kidney and it’s big stupid tumor weigh? I pray for complete healing, because I really want that RV and that someday.
So, this is my dedication song to Billy. Thirty years after hearing it play on the 8-track tape player that sailed across the ocean and to our house on Schley, this is my Sully’s favorite lullaby.