I took my friend Willie over to meet my neighbor Don. Don is ninety-one . He drives over to the Community Center every day to serve coffee and talk to the old folks who hang out over there . He has lunch there and then he comes home , often to do some yard work . Today I saw him with an electric leaf blower ready to do the front yard . Don goes to bed about 5 pm , so I had to bring Willie over there earlier .
We talked about music . Willie makes his living as a musician . The conversation wandered over to autograph collecting . It seemed to go from a discussion of music and the music business to the Navy and then to Don’s childhood experiences with the boy scouts and then to a discussion about the Midwest and then it went , somehow , to autograph collecting . That’s how conversations go , sometimes . It seems Willie used to collect autographs . He liked to collect them from politicians, he said . When he heard that Don is from Independence , Missouri , he said he would have liked to have collected one from Harry Truman . He tried once , he told us , and got a response from Bess , but not from her husband . He had Bess Truman’s signature on a short note addressed to him .
” I knew Truman ,” Don said . ” My folks were friends with the Trumans .” Well , I was thinking , maybe yes and maybe no . Don likes to talk . I take some of his talk with a grain of salt . ” Wait a minute ,” he said . ” I have some letters from him . ” And he hurried off to a back room . We could see him going through a pile of papers .
In a few minutes he returned . He showed Willie a letter written by Truman , then a senator , to the Navy Department , recommending Don to the Navy as a fine young man , etc. , etc. Don had finished a year of dental school at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack . He went into the Navy soon after that as a naval medical officer .
” You can have it if you want it , ” he told Willie .
” I don’t collect them any more , ” Willie said , and thanked Don for the offer .
We each had one of Don’s lite beers and talked a little about this and a little more about that , and then we had to go , partly because it was getting to be Don’s bedtime . Don’s wife , Marie , had come home , greeted us , and was rolling her eyes as Don bragged about his once-upon-a-time violin playing . She caught my eye and shook her head back and forth slowly . ” Oh , my , ” she said , as she always says , as Don continued to chatter . There had been just over seventy years of ” Oh , my ” moments shared between them .