i will never love again

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Michael K. McMahan

i will never love again

I won’t, I won’t, I swear I can’t

I wish I could, but I won’t

i will never love again

– Lindsey, Germanotta, Raitiere and Hemby

Look in the Southern Dictionary of Hilarity under the headline “sit on the back porch with family and friends and laugh out loud,” and there you will find the name, Evon Houser.

On hot summer afternoons when our kids were 9 (David) and 14 (Anna), we often drove to Dallas, NC to my wife’s sister, Carla. They had a nice pool and a screened-in back porch. David and Anna swam and enjoyed their cousins, Anthony McGinnis, Keith and Eric Newton, and Monica Jenkins, and the boys next door, John and Evon Lee Houser.

Houser’s older brother, Chris, occasionally made a cameo but was normally busy with other activities.

As the six boys tormented the seriously outnumbered girls, the adults sat down and listened to humorous stories told with energy and conviction by postman Evon Houser. Like my mother, Evon could make a fence post laugh. But in his case, the fence post might also blush as he regaled us in colorful language with one crazy story after another.

After an extended time at the pool, children, other friends and adults would often go to the front yard to play softball. Parents were still young enough to bat a bat and lead the bases. Then back to the porch and pool and more Evon stories.

Evon’s wife, Betty, sat quietly next to him with a wry smile and the occasional roll of eyes. Betty was a serious person, a professional nurse whom older doctors still remember with great esteem. She lived in a male-dominated household, but she was a strong and guiding force, supporting them all and overseeing the lives of her sons with her husband.

Evon died far too early at the age of 51. The boys were old enough to leave and had done so. Chris was a naval officer on his way to a military career. John and Evon Lee had jobs and other lives. Betty was alone.

She spent her time with her large family which included two sisters and three brothers who loved and supported her, as well as her friends and her work and the Lutheran Church of Holy Communion in Dallas. Over time, she began to spend evenings and afternoons in stadiums, gymnasiums and auditoriums watching grandchildren play.

She cooked and entertained a growing family. She had a deep and lasting relationship with Evon’s sister, Gail Gribble.

The life she lived after Evon’s death reminds me of Lady Gaga’s song, “I’ll Never Love Again,” quoted above. But this is hardly true. Betty liked it again. She loved the beach. She loved her church. She loved her colleagues and her patients.

She poured out her love on Chris and John and Evon Lee and their grandchildren: Ethan, Carolyn, Taylor, Chelsea, Evon Blair, Rankin and even a great-grandchild, Kenneth. She loved Gail and Gail’s husband, David and their children, Anna and Blair, and Anna’s son, Davis and nieces and nephews and her surviving brother, John Moose. She filled her life with love and love filled her life with joy.

Our daughter, Anna, met Carla and I recently on our way to Ocean Isle Beach for Labor Day weekend. Anna’s husband John Houser, who once teased and splashed her in that backyard pool, stayed on to sit with his brothers next to Betty in the hospital. He joined us on Saturday evening.

On Monday, Carla and I sat by the Atlantic Ocean in a tent to read our books and chat with our granddaughter, Jordan. Anna and John were nearby. I saw them talking softly under the shade of their umbrellas. John told her that he needed to return to his mother and Anna agreed.

He drove straight to the hospital, arriving in time to spend time with Betty that evening before heading home. At 4 a.m., a nurse called to say it was almost the end for Betty. John returned to the hospital, arriving in time to join another family and be with them in her last moments.

John called Anna at 7 a.m. to say her mother was gone.

During her funeral, her beloved sister-in-law Gail Gribble spoke about the woman her older brother loved. Gail opened a window on Betty’s life after Evon’s death. It was full, fun and good, but there was still a hole in the middle. There, at the heart of her being was the man with whom she built a family that would grow and grow and grow.

He missed it so much. But Betty kept her presence inside her. She wouldn’t allow another relationship to alter what Evon meant to her and her family. She never loved again, but the love that she had grown widens and deepens every day of her life.

Gail said she had lived without Evon longer than she had lived with him. I doubt. I’m sure she lived with him everyday and in my heart I think she still lives with him.

Michael K. McMahan is a resident of Gastonia.Betty Moose Houser passed away on September 7, 2021, aged 83.

Mcmahan


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