My Father, My Son
by: Tom Borden

© 2000-2008 by the author


The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent. Comments are appreciated at...


When Maggie had completed the piece, she stood smiling at Homer. But Homer remained still, the smile only slightly faded on his face.

"Homer? Did you like it? I'm sure it wasn't as good as the way Roman would play it."

There was no answer. Maggie walked slowly across the room and, leaning over, took hold of Homer's hand. It felt lifeless. Kneeling beside his wheelchair, she whispered, "Homer. Homer." Looking at his face, she thought that she had never seen Homer look so relaxed and at ease. But he was gone. Maggie dropped her face into Homer's lap, kissing his hands, and wept quietly.


Chapter 29 

Homer Kesselring's funeral was held on the third day after his death. All arrangements were made by Maggie, with the help of Michael and Karl. The church was filled with mourners from both Goliad and Victoria. Maggie was amazed at the number of acquaintances Homer had garnered over the years who spoke of him with kindness and respect. Homer's son James and his wife did not attend the funeral. Maggie sat in the front row of the church, flanked by Michael and Karl and Jeff and Paul. Homer had told Maggie about a number of his loyal friends in Goliad who would occasionally visit him. Maggie contacted six of them to act as pall bearers. As they bore the closed casket down the aisle and placed it in front of the altar, the minister had already begun to intone the Order for the Burial of the Dead.

" . . . We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."

The service lasted about twenty minutes, ending with the minister saying, "Unto God's gracious mercy and protection we commit you. The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace, both now and evermore. Amen."

Most of the mourners followed the funeral procession to the grave site at the Goliad cemetery. It was raining slightly, and the grave was surrounded by a sea of black umbrellas. Maggie almost considered herself the bereaved next of kin. Rhapsody had driven down from San Antonio to be with her. They stood side by side with their arms around each other's waist. The two of them had fought with each other through the years, but when one of them was in distress or needed comfort, the other was always there.

Clayton stood with Michael and Karl. This was the first funeral he had ever attended, but was so moved by the somberness of the occasion that tears filled his eyes for most of the service. As he stood by the grave site, staring at the casket suspended over the grave, he imagined that the man inside was his father. The thought of watching his father being buried in the ground gave him a strange feeling of peace and finality to the long uncertain years of wondering and hoping.

As the casket was slowly lowered into the ground, the minister concluded the service. "Unto Almighty God we commend the soul of our brother departed, and we commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection unto eternal life . . . ."

The next day, Homer's son, James, called the ranch and said that he wanted to go there and search through his father's things. He insisted that everything Homer owned now belonged to him. Karl had answered the phone. He informed James that he would not be allowed to enter the house. In two days the will would be read at Nicholas Biddle's law office and the disposition of the property will be determined at that time.

The day after Homer moved onto the ranch, he took the precaution of having Power of Attorney given to Maggie. Therefore, Maggie was among those invited to hear the reading of the will.

The reading took about fifteen minutes. When it was over, Homer's son, James and his wife sat in stunned and horrified silence. Homer had left all of his furnishings and other personal effects to Maggie. Every item had been painstakingly listed with detailed descriptions. Included was Roman's violin with the stipulation that it be cared for and played only by Maggie. To James, the will gave the sum of five hundred dollars, to be administered by Mr. Biddle to help with Homer's funeral expenses.

Finally, Homer left to Maggie all of his bonds, stocks, bank account balances and other securities in the amount of two million, seven hundred thousand dollars.

As Maggie stared at the lawyer in disbelief, James rose from his chair in a rage.

"That's not possible! That goddamned old man gave all his money to that fucking music school long ago!"

Micholas Biddle stood up. "If you come out with another outburst like that, I will have to ask you to leave my office!"

"I'm going to sue this fucking queer. That money is mine. I'm the old man's son!"

"If you'll calm down, Mr. Kesselring, I'll explain. Your father did donate a little over one and a half million to the music academy. But he didn't give away all his money. You might as well give up any thought of suing to have this will overturned. Your father was of sound mind when he made his will and when the codicil was added."

James grabbed his wife by the arm and stormed out of the office. Maggie continued to sit almost as though she were paralyzed in her chair. "I can't believe this. Did you say two million and something?""

The lawyer stood over Maggie, smiling. "Maggie, it's true. My first suggestion now would be to hire a good manager of these securities. Some would probably need to be sold, with the money invested in other ways. You'll be able to realize plenty of cash out of this inheritance to buy whatever your heart desires and even travel around the world if you choose to."

The word of Maggie's good fortune traveled fast among all the people at the ranch. And as she drove into the yard, Maggie had a reception of cheering ranch hands like she had never seen before. The first thing she did when she got into the house was to call her friend Rhapsody and give her the good news.

"What are you going to do with all that money!" screamed Rhapsody.

"Well one thing I'd like to do is buy you a new drag wardrobe. With all your frayed hems and runs in your stockings and your dreadful taste in color combinations, you have become the tackiest looking queen on the block! For once, I'd like to see you in some high style."

"But what else are you going to do with that money?" said Rhapsody, still screaming.

"I'm not sure yet, ducky, but let's get together and talk about it. Can you zip down here tomorrow?"

Maggie and Rhapsody talked all day, and Maggie decided that she would like to buy or build a house for herself up in the beautiful Hill Country of West Texas where she and Rhapsody could live together. They also talked about a trip around the world and cruises to exotic places.

It was only two days before Thanksgiving, and Maggie asked to see Michael and Karl about her plans.

"You've been asking me what I'm going to do with all that money," Maggie began. "Well, as you probably suspected, I'm going to have to give you my resignation. That is the one unhappy thing about all this. But I'll stay for a few months while my new house is being built up in the Hill Country."

Michael said, "Well, Maggie, we did think that your leaving us now was a real possibility. But things just won't be the same without you."

"Well, Tony's a first class cook. And you won't have any problem on that score."

"I know, Maggie, but Tony isn't you. It's you we'll miss. Isn't it going to be a little lonely in a house all by yourself?

Maggie said, "No, because Rhapsody will be living with me." Then looking at the expressions on Michael's and Karl's faces, she quickly said, "I know. You're thinking, how can I stand to live with that old queen. But Rhapsody and I go way back. We fight a lot, but we've been close friends since we were puppies. Since I've worked down here on the ranch, we've just not been able to see each other or be together as much as we'd like."

"So what else are you planning," said Karl.

"Well, this is all tentative, you understand, but Rhapsody and I are thinking about a cruise up along the Canadian and Alaskan shoreline. Also, we both definitely want to go to Australia. But what I really want to do most of all is to go to Italy and be able to view all that marvelous art work and sculpture. I want to go to Tuscany and see all the great art I can in Florence."

"Tell me, Maggie," inquired Michael. "There's something I've always wondered about. Why is Rhapsody called Rhapsody? And why would anyone want to be called Rhapsody?"

"Well, that's not her real name, of course. But years ago she was a contestant for most beautiful drag queen. The contest was held in a gay bar, the El Jardine on Navarro Street in San Antonio. And, although she didn't win—she came in last—one of the critics from a gay newspaper in town was there and described her in his column the next day as 'a rhapsody in pink.' And the name just stuck."


On the same day, Josiah received a letter from the Admissions Office of the University of Texas. He was afraid to open it and waited until Brian came back to the room after his chores.

Josiah handed the unopened letter to Brian, saying, "Brian, would you open this and tell me what it says."

"No," said Brian, handing the letter back. "It's about your admission and it's addressed to you."

Josiah sat on the edge of the bed, and Brian sat down next to him. Josiah pulled the letter from the envelop and read, "The Admissions Committee of the University of Texas has considered your application for admission as a new freshman. We are pleased to inform you that . . . ."

Brian grabbed Josiah and, falling back on the bed, they hugged tightly, kissed deeply, and laughed and cried and laughed some more.

Brian shouted, "What a beautiful day! Everything is so beautiful! How could any day be more wonderful than this!"

Grabbing his cell phone, Brian called Paul's office in Austin and told him the good news. Paul informed Brian that he and Jeff would be back on the ranch the next day and will be there for Thanksgiving dinner.

Because of all the good news that was happening around them, Michael and Karl decided to have a major Thanksgiving celebration. Not only would Jeff and Paul be there, but Corky and Mark would also be invited. Josiah and Brian, as well as Jake and Enrique would also be at the table, and Adriano and Charlie would be asked to come down for dinner. Although both Tony and Maggie will prepare the dinner, they will also join them at the table. Clayton, too, will be a part of the celebration, and Rhapsody will be invited to come down to share the meal with them.

Neither the dining room nor the dining room table was large enough for the sixteen people who would be there. So Jake and Corky constructed a rough cut table that would be set up in the living room. Maggie sewed together several large linen table cloths that would be thrown over the table and would hide the rough construction. A large traditional Thanksgiving dinner was planned for the ranch hands and would be served at one o'clock in the rec hall at the end of the bunk house. Three TV sets would be set up in the room so that the hands could watch the various games being played that day.

For all those who would be eating in the house, dinner would be served at four o'clock. The out-of-town guests, Mark, Rhapsody, and Adriano and Charlie arrived earlier in the afternoon. It was arranged that drinks would be served on the front verandah starting at two o'clock. Everyone seemed to want to gravitate toward Mark and sort of rub up against him. But Corky kept a watchful eye on them. Since the dinner was well on the way in the kitchen, Maggie and Tony also mingled with the guests for a time on the verandah. When Maggie felt she should return to the kitchen to check on the dinner, she looked about for Tony. Tony and Clayton were standing alone at one end of the verandah talking. The two looked rather cute together, and Maggie decided not to disturb them.

Not long before it was time for Maggie to ring the bell for everyone to sit down at the table, she looked out of the kitchen window and saw that Tony and Clayton had walked together out into the fields and seemed to be very engrossed with each other. She stepped to the edge of the veranda and called as loud as she could, "Tony! Clayton! It's time to come back for dinner."

Tony and Clayton stopped and slowly turned around and walked back. When they came close to the verandah, Maggie said, "I'm sorry to have interrupted your talk. You looked as though you were having a very good talk. Both Tony and Clayton looked at each other, smiled, and very visibly blushed. Maggie thought to herself, "Oh how I do wish those two would get together. They look so cute together. If I dared bet on it, I would say that love is very obviously beginning to blossom between those two. But I'll just have to wait and see."

The traditional Thanksgiving dinner prepared by Maggie and Tony included, two large roasted turkeys, ham for those who prefer ham, candied yams, creamed onions, a fruit salad, stuffing, cranberry sauce, spiced peaches, the dreaded Brussels sprouts, and a variety of rolls. A choice of red or white wine would also be served. And for desert, of course, along with coffee, was pumpkin pie with real whipped cream. For those who didn't care for pie, there was ice cream.

During the desert course, Michael tapped his fork on his glass as a signal that he wanted to speak.

"I'm so glad that all of us are together. There has been so much good news for some of us, Karl and I thought that it would be appropriate to celebrate it on Thanksgiving day. First of all, I would like to formally introduce Mark. He's a former Texas Trooper—can you just picture him in that uniform? The news is that Corky has accepted a position to work with Mark in his job as a private investigator. Corky will be leaving the ranch on December first and moving to San Antonio, where they'll be working and living together.

There ensued applause, as well as envious looks aimed at Corky.

"Just a couple of days ago," continued Michael, "Josiah received notification that he has been admitted as a freshman at the University of Texas in Austin."

This news brought on more applause and smiles and congratulatory remarks.

"As you know, Brian is having to return to school in January, and this means that Josiah and he will be able to be together in Austin for sure." More congratulatory remarks.

Then looking at Maggie, Michael said, "Now we come to our friend Maggie who, with Tony, prepared this wonderful dinner. We all know what good fortune has come upon him. I've been given permission to announce that Maggie will be leaving us in January." Many groans. "He and his friend, Rhapsody here, have booked a month-long trip to Australia. They'll be leaving on the trip in mid-January. When they return in February, they will live in San Antonio while Maggie's new house is being built up in the Hill Country, where they will both live eventually. He has promised that he will have us all up there for a grand housewarming when it's completed."

Michael then reached down into a brief case that he had sitting next to his chair and drew out several sheets of paper.

"Now I would like you all to hear something that is very special. It is a letter that Homer Kesselring wrote and had his lawyer attach to his will. Maggie hasn't seen or heard of this letter yet, but I would like to read it to all of you while Maggie listens to it for the first time.

Picking up the paper, he reads,

"Dear Maggie:

When you get this letter, I will have passed away after spending some of the most cherished days of my life. Those precious moments with you and the joy that you brought me in my last days were more than any mortal could hope for or expect. You taught me so much. After a lifetime of prejudice and not understanding, I had the privilege of learning, before it was too late, that we are all—no matter who or what we are—in this life together. I cannot adequately express my regret for the cruelty of my remarks to you early in our friendship. How could I not know then the hurt and the pain I caused you? I am so ashamed. Your touch is gentle; your heart is warm; your tears are as salty as mine, and our blood is interchangeable. Your human compassion and concern, your unselfish charity and love for me and others can never be repaid, not even by what I am leaving you. Feel my love, Maggie, my son, even after my death.

Yours forever, Homer"

As Maggie looked at Michael with tears in her eyes, Jeff leaned over and put his arm around Maggie's shoulder. "Maggie, Homer's message is really a message from all of us. We've all been touched by your humanity, and we're all the better for it. This letter from Homer is probably the best Thanksgiving message that any of us could have heard today."

Raising his wine glass, and signaling for the others to do the same, Jeff said, "A toast to Homer's memory. And a toast to the success and happiness of those of you who will soon be leaving us. And finally, I propose a toast to the greatest and most wonderful spot on Earth, and may it exist and flourish forever, the great Walker Ranch!

To be continued...


Posted: 09/05/08