Category Archives: Friends-Family

Wishing You The Bestest Christmas 2014

A Heck of a Guy Christmas Tradition

Since 2007, Heck Of A Guy has featured Lady Lawanda’s1 account of her “Bestest Christmas,” a story that I found – and continue to find – touching, wonderful, uncomplicated, profound, gleeful, poignant, heartening, and exactly the gift to offer readers.

That Christmas Day 2014 finds me devotedly and delightfully married to the Duchess, a woman who could have done so much better, does not diminish my feelings for Julie and Lawanda, both of whom brought joy into my life and both of whom were lost in death. Instead, it invests those feelings in Penny as well – and adds Penny’s memories of Don, to whom she was married for 24 years until his death on October 12, 2009, to our shared treasury of cherishments. This story is part of that mutual dowry.

Lady Lawanda’s Christmas Story

The child of devoted parents and the youngest sibling, by several years, of a swarm of indulgent brothers and sisters, Lady Lawanda was the unwitting star of a long-running series of theatrical productions featuring her as ingénue of an ensemble troupe with family members simultaneously playing support roles, exquisitely and exhaustively stage-managing the shows, and serving as an enthusiastic and starstruck audience.

A seasonal favorite was the annual Christmas pageant, central to which was the assumption that Santa Claus was a dramatic, all-embracing, benevolent figure no less real for completing his seemingly impossible tasks accomplished out of sight of those whose lives he blessed – not unlike the first Mayor Daley.

While the script of “Lady Lawanda’s Christmas” varied somewhat from year to year, the most ancient of the recurrent motifs was the the discovery of evidence that Santa had completed his holiday visit.

In the service of that goal, sooty footprints were manufactured that began and ended beneath the chimney, partially eaten remnants of the snack left for Saint Nick and the chow left for his reindeer were strewn artistically, and sound effects congruent with a rooftop landing of a sleigh powered by flying reindeer rendered.

To the young Lady Lawanda, the cumulative effect was utterly convincing.

By her own assessment, Lady Lawanda’s most memorable moment from all these Christmas performances occurred in her ninth year as the juvenile lead in this intimate, long-running, and remarkable theater in an instance which crystallized and preserved for all time her dramaturgical talent for playing a role with absolute conviction.

Lawanda’s Christmas Vision

Running a Christmas Eve errand with her father, perhaps her greatest fan, Lawanda glimpsed something in her peripheral vision. Although whatever had caught her eye had vanished within the fraction of a second required to shift her focus, she knew, wholeheartedly and unquestionably, that she had seen Santa Claus soaring across the sky in his sleigh making his deliveries.

The remaining plot is anti-climatic. Lawanda gleefully informed her father that she had just seen Santa Claus making his rounds, her father acknowledged her report without any suggestion of surprise, let alone doubt, and, on their return home, she found, indeed, that Santa had already come, dropped off her usual bonanza of gifts, and departed.


Lawanda’s glance of that communal myth, made all but inevitable by the ongoing machinations of a family smitten with her, distilled and condensed the innocence, security, delight, unalloyed joyfulness, enchantment, affection, and all that is special in a childhood that was imperfect, which all childhoods are, but suffused with love, which is not true of all childhoods.

If the celebrations, ornaments, feasts, and traditions of Christmas over the generations have accomplished nothing other than that moment when a nine year old girl, to the delight of her loving family, was convinced she saw Santa flying through the sky, I would maintain the time, energy, and expenditures2 have been well compensated.

Our Christmas wish is for each of you to be
likewise blessed, today and every day,
with signs and emblems that you are loved


  1. Lady Lawanda is the blogonym (and, I hasten to add, the self-chosen blogonym) of the woman in my life for the too few years before she died from breast cancer in June 2008. Lady Lawanda was a profoundly important and positive force in her close-knit neighborhood and the school where she was an especially effective and innovative teacher and leader. She was also a central, vital element in the lives of her family, her friends, and, not least, my children and me. I miss both Julie and Lawanda every day. []
  2. Including those aesthetic affronts committed in the name of commemorating the holiday [] Goes On Quasi-Hiatus Status With Arrival Of Prodigal

samdance2 Wedding of Very Very Good Girl & SportsBizPro (2008)

Wedding of Very Very Good Girl & SportsBizPro (2008)

Because of the impending visit of DrHGuy’s elder son, Prodigal (aka Sam), the Duchess has prepared not only a fatted calf with all the fixins but also a schedule chock full of fun. Consequently, posting on and will be limited for the next week or two.

Julie, Sam, & Max

Julie, Sam, & Max

Video: You’ll Carry Me Down On Your Dancing – “Take This Waltz” By Leonard Cohen

DrHGuy Note:

And I miss you so much

The Duchess is away on a business trip and has consequently been much on my mind so this seemed an auspicious time to repost the video featuring her and Leonard Cohen’s Take This Waltz.1

It’s Yours Now. It’s All That There Is

This video, set to Leonard Cohen’s “Take This Waltz,” was constructed as a gift to the Duchess2 and features dance sequences taped during ballroom competitions in which she participated as well as other scenes from her life and mine.

The intent was that the video would be circulated only among family and friends, if at all. The response from these admittedly biased folks, however, was so positive and enthusiastic that we have decided to make the video public. The video embedded below is identical to the original version except for a wording change on a title card and the addition of the closing credits I’ve used on all my Heck Of A Guy videos.

Because of the evolution of this video, it is indeed more sentimental than most of the movies produced here and it is studded with the type of indulgences lovers not only allow but encourage in one another.

Nonetheless, I’m proud of the final result which is true to the tone of Cohen’s “Take This Waltz.” As for the specifics, well, I’m not even going to try to explain the role of the bearded dancing partner, the shots of a house where I lived a few years ago that is hundreds of miles from where we live now, why I’m wearing orange-tinted glasses in one scene, how the Beacon Theatre in New York appears in a cameo as a concert hall in Vienna, the alligator’s allegorical allusion, …

You’ll Carry Me Down On Your Dancing


  1. This video was originally posted on this site April 4, 2012 []
  2. aka Penny Showalter, aka my wife []

Remembering Don’s Excellent Ski & Tea Adventure


By Penny Showalter

On October 12, 2009, Don, my beloved husband, died.

His death wasn’t dramatic – we talked one last time and then he was gone. That was atypical for Don, a man whose life was a collection of passions.

On October 12, 2013, I am still in love with Don and miss him every day, but things have changed. I am also deeply in love with Allan, who became my husband just over two years ago.

Now we both miss Don, and we’re not the only ones.

Eighteen years ago, Don and I took our granddaughters Jennifer and Sarah, skiing with us so Don could teach them to ski as he had his daughters Gwen and Kelly.

Even now, my heart fills as I recall how Don, an accomplished skier whose runs made people stop in their tracks to stare at this 6’5” figure streaking downhill over the roughest terrains, patiently and gently led his girls down the slopes for the first time.

While the entire trip was wonderful, the event that stands out in my memory is Don’s knee injury, sustained in his effort to prevent Jennifer from falling, that forced him to stay in bed the next day, which, in turn, led to Jennifer and Sarah’s decision that a tea party was the most efficacious means by which to heal Grandpa’s knee and elevate his spirits.

That’s the kind of guy Don was, and that’s why he is still part of their lives as these little girls have become beautiful, compassionate, competent women.  Sarah and Jennifer both work at UNC, taking care of others.  I am so proud of them, and I know Don is, too.

And, I know that Don will be a part of Jennifer’s wedding in three weeks, present in the minds, memories, and hearts of those who knew and loved him.

That’s how I remember Don – passionate about his work, his play, and, most of all, his family.

Video: Don’s Excellent Ski & Tea Adventure

My Mother Always Hoped For Snow


About Snow

Mom was a big fan of snow, and her hopes for that particular form of precipitation were frequently and fervently directed to the heavens – and to anyone she thought might have influence in that sphere.

Given that longstanding preference and Mom’s record of getting her way, it was no surprise that the day her memorial services were held, March 21, 2013, the second day of Spring, the Ozarks were visited by a unseasonable snowstorm, as evidenced by the above photo taken from the deck of her home on Table Rock Lake following the funeral.

About Mom

A week after my mother’s death, there is much about her I still don’t know.

I don’t know, for example, why my mother, who lived alone, kept four heads of lettuce and three packages of pie crusts in her refrigerator, more than a dozen sacks of beans, seven cans of sauerkraut, eight cans of fruit cocktail, and three cans of water chestnuts in her cabinets, and fourteen large boxes of cereal on her shelves.

I don’t know why my mother amassed a collection of several dozen kitchen towels, all new, with the sales tags still attached.

I don’t know why my mother accumulated enough yarn to knit scarves for every man, woman, and child living in southwest Missouri – with enough left over to make mittens for all the children currently enrolled at the Shell Knob Elementary School.

I don’t know why my mother kept the bill of sale for the Chevy Fleetmaster she and my dad bought in 1951, why she stashed away 60+ empty envelopes that once contained house payment checks received by my parents in the 1970s, or why she stored both the original & amended 1994 financial reports of the Eagle Rock Missouri All Faith United Methodist Church Women’s Group.

And I don’t know why my mother, who kept the walls of my childhood home pristinely bare, free of decoration other than the obligatory portrait of Jesus with the eyes that follow you wherever you go, moved to a log cabin and filled every wall with meat grinders, trivets, flatirons, two man saws, butter churns, china sets, hay hooks, augers, toys, cooking utensils, china, brass buckets, ceramics, decoys, …

I do know, however, that my mother was tremendously important to many, many people.

I do know that for a number of individuals my mother was a stabilizing force – and sometimes the only stabilizing force – in an dangerously unstable, chaotic world.

And, I know, with absolute certainty, that my mother always loved me – without reservation, without conditions, and without end.

Mom’s Collections

The best photos of my mother’s impressive collection of Ozark artifacts had gone missing for the past two years. I have recovered and posted these at .

Credit Due Department: The photo was taken by Gwen Stockton.

Never Again In My Mother’s Arms


About My Mother

In 2011, I wrote a Mother’s Day post, In My Mother’s Arms:

I don’t recall a time when I wasn’t in my mother’s spotlight.

Standard psychoanalytic theory holds that one’s sense of self originates in the infant’s awareness of the mother’s unconditional (and, indeed, unreasonable) empathic care radiating from her eyes. The mother provides a nascent identity for the child, which, if all goes well, is, during one’s childhood, adapted and internalized as a psychological element independent of the external world.

When the photo atop this post was taken in 1950, the young woman had recently become a mother while living in a tiny, poorly insulated, inexpertly constructed home in rural southwest Missouri, helping her husband try to make a living tending to the remnants of their failed farm and selling used cars on the side. She should, by rights, be as upset as the squalling child (that would be me) in her arms. Instead, she gazes upon him with undiluted, unmixed approval, acceptance, and love.

I grew up knowing intuitively that, regardless of my mistakes, errors, or misbehavior, my mother continued to gaze upon me with undiluted, unmixed approval, acceptance, and love.

And Now My Mother Is Gone

Bobby Ruth Showalter, my mother, died in her sleep at her home in the Ozarks last night after many years of worsening health.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Doyle Ray Showalter, two decades ago and by her younger son, Bobby Lynn Showalter, 45 years ago.

She was a caring, smart, forgiving, funny, altogether delightful woman, who was beloved by family, friends, and community.

She will be missed.


Because of my mother’s death, I will be away for an indeterminate period. If any posting takes place at this site (and that is a possibility) over the next week or two, it is likely to be sparse and sporadic.

Finally, I occasionally wrote about my mother. These posts, especially, the first couple listed below, are (in my judgment) some of the most interesting entries I’ve published.