“A Life Well Lived”
In April, we celebrated my father-in-law Bill King’s 90th birthday. Born on a ranch between Ft. Worth and Wichita Falls Bill lived through the Depression, serving in the infantry in World War II with one hundred days in combat in George Patton’s Third Army, has been married three times, fathered two sons, and has found enormous happiness in retirement for the last thirty-five years.
Ranch life depended on everyone working very hard including the children. Every year Bill and his brothers worked to move yearling bulls to another part of the ranch, a twenty-one hour cattle drive on horseback. At the end of the trip all the boys had boils which burst when removing their jeans causing them extreme pain. At seven years of age Bill was the hunter in the family and brought food to the table in very lean times. He also had to buy the shells (twenty cents for a box of one hundred) and the only way he had to get the money was the bounty of five cents on jackrabbit ears.
Although Bill was an outstanding student, he left home when he was nearly fourteen with twenty-five cents, two shirts and two pair of pants. Bill can still recite the Prologue to Canterbury’s Tales in Middle English which he learned at the Truce School. In a memoir Bill wrote, he said that at this time his heroes were Charles Lindberg and Clyde Barrow. Practically everyone liked bank robbers because of the feeling that the banks had stolen everyone’s money when they closed. We weren’t too strong on government, he said.
Bill got his draft notice in 1944 when he turned eighteen. Unlike some in his generation Bill shared stories of the war with his family and friends. Most of the stories were designed to remove the glory of war and make fun of him. Up until his eighties though, Bill still had nightmares about the war. After the war was over and he was back in the states, he was still so hyper alert that he would wake up if someone walked across the lawn of his house.
Bill has been an active healthy person throughout his life. As he has aged his vision and hearing have declined. He has continued to find things he enjoys, things that challenge him as he is no longer able to do other things. Bill has demonstrated aging with grace to his family and those who meet him. He continues to connect with people he meets even under less than ideal situations. A nurse he met recently in the emergency room, for example, came to see him twice after he was released.
During Bill’s long retirement he has mixed learning new skills such as flying and sailing with time thinking and discussing philosophy. He loves to fish in the ocean at South Padre Island and enjoys the companionship of people there from all over the county. Bill is a happy man, content in his life, and an example to all who know him of the value in knowing yourself and living the life that matters to you.