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“You know what today is?” my mother asked in a recent phone call.
“I do,” I replied without hesitation.
She didn’t have to ask.
I needed no reminder that July 11 was the fifth anniversary of my father’s death from cancer.
I try not to dwell on the pain of his last days and the suffering which he handled with dignity.
Instead, I try to focus on my fondest memories of him.
And so, on a recent evening, I eschewed the usual offerings on TV and, to honor my father, settled down in front of a good Western.
Dad loved Westerns. In this fading movie genre, the lines between the good guys and the bad are usually as clear as the turquoise skies the films are shot under.
The film I watched was “The War Wagon,” a John Wayne movie where the heroes were not quite as squeaky clean as the typical Western.
The movie was no classic, but I particularly enjoyed the scenery.
I recognized that much of the film had been shot in the Chiracahua Mountains in the southeast corner of Arizona.
I’d camped in the area several times; it was one of my favorite areas of the state.
I left Arizona to come to Tennessee primarily because of my father.
He was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and although we thought his prognosis was more promising than it actually turned out to be, I still decided to move as close to my parents as was possible.
I’m glad I did. Those last few years of his life were trying for all of us, but I got to be there for my father — and my mother, too — in a way that comforts me in his absence.
I miss my father. But on a warm summer evening, watching men on horseback galloping full tilt between towering rock formations in an arid landscape makes me feel closer to him.
Life isn’t as simple as it is on most Westerns. The good guys, like my father, don’t always win.
But sometimes it’s nice to believe that they can.