Grief and the Actor

I lost my father-in-law a month ago. Over Labor Day weekend we had a memorial gathering at our house. He was living up in his Canadian hometown, and didn’t want a funeral or formal memorial, but my wife and her brother as well as my mother-in-law (they were divorced a long time ago) needed closure. So we put together an informal memorial.

I spent the week before deep cleaning the house. I pulled all the furniture in each room away from the walls, exposing cat hair and dust balls, and made even the spots nobody would see immaculate. I cleaned up the backyard, mowing the lawn and taking out the dead lemon tree and re-painting the wood patio furniture. My wife put new flowers in the various beds around the backyard to give it an extra touch of beauty. We bought a bench to add to our patio, and my brother-in-law bought a plaque to attach to it. The plaque has my father-in-law’s name, the date of his birth and passing, and a phrase he always said when he parted ways with anyone: “Good-bye for now.”

We initially considered just making it a gathering for family, but my mother-in-law felt we should invite all his old work buddies to the gathering, so we did. My father-in-law was a television director. He worked in the heyday of variety television. He directed shows like Hee-Haw, The Smothers Brothers, and Solid Gold. He won an Emmy for The Julie Andrews Hour and another for a special with John Denver. He worked with legends like Frank Sinatra, Steve Martin, and Michael Jackson. He had quite a storied career.

His friends and creative comrades were quite a fascinating bunch. The stories they had to tell were many and fascinating. The era of variety television was quite a thing, and I found myself wishing the era had never ended. We watched a video about my father-in-law that took us through his show biz history. I had seen it before, and thought it was amazing the first time, but now it had a deeply touching quality to it. He touched a lot of lives, and he was so well liked by everyone who worked with him. He was a model director. He was friendly and kind and respectful to everyone he worked with, and turned in great projects. It became clear while we watched the video that all these strangers in my house would miss him, and they missed that wonderful period in television history.

I will miss him, too.

Good-bye for now, Bill Davis.


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