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Missing Clovis

We lost Clovis, our alpha tom cat, Friday night. He was terribly ill, and after much discussion with the vet and soul-searching, we had him put to sleep.

We keep missing little things. Clovis was large & in charge—a benign despot over the other kitties. He checked up on them and licked them regularly (except for Swann, who didn’t get along with him). His best friend was Ruffian, our 65 lb. dog. Clovis used to stalk, crouch, and jump on her, then roll around together play-fighting. Sometimes he would bring her string or ribbon to play tug-of-war. They also napped together regularly.

Anytime you were standing at a sink or counter, you were likely to feel a velveted paw on your hip, and discover a hip-level cat head ready for petting. Clovis was also incredibly relaxed. We could flip him over onto his back in a lap and skritch his belly, grab his paws and shake his leg gently without concern, pick him up under the arms and just look him in the eye without a whiff of tension. He’d just stretch out his nose to touch yours. Plus, being the founder of the Merovingian dynasty (yes, he was named for that Clovis), he was death on Aryan heretics (a.k.a. bugs). I’m guessing it was a spider Aryan that did him in.

Below is a slide show of Clovis photos, including his “lion cut” when he needed a shave; his fascination with Demetri Martin’s Important Things; his love of guitar playing; and of course, hanging out with Ruffian.

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Ema Bozena Reif

Ema was my grandmama, on my mother’s side. Born August 27, 1911, she died April 5, 2005, after a brief bout with pneumonia and failing kidneys (she had kidney cancer). She was born in Prague, Czech Republic, and married for over fifty years to Gustav Nevenko Reif. First date in Prague, early 1930s(This picture was taken by a street photographer on their first date.) Together they hid Jews in their home during World War II, faced down Nazis, escaped Communists, and started building a new life in Australia. After two years they moved to Texas, and later lived in Italy and Thailand before settling permanently in Texas.

Grandmama had a wonderful wit, and an elegantly inclusive "such as we make manners" attitude that charmed friends and strangers. She taught me sewing and embroidery, and contributed significantly to my stubborn streak.

Like my mother-in-law, Billie Page Odom, she was a strong woman with a great sense of style and self. She also had a sly sense of humor, and was not above using her age for humorous effect. When she was a little over eighty, and still moving around pretty easily, a friend of Grandmama’s fell and broke her hip. After surgery she used a walker, and finally a cane. Grandmama was living with my mother at the time, and got Grandpapa’s old cane out of the closet and started using it. Mother, concerned, asked if she was having trouble with her leg. Grandmama said no, she just wanted to practice. After Mother put up the cane, Grandmama spent the next couple of weeks cheerfully complaining about how her daughter took her cane away. Of course the entire thing was a joke.

She loved animals, and found one of Mother’s cats, Mitzy, particularly intelligent and multilingual. "No matter what language I speak, Mitzy understands perfectly."

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Billie Page Odom

Billie Page Odom was born Billie June Page on April 16, 1926, in Italy, Texas. Italy is a tiny town about an hour south of Dallas, full of green fields and trees. The eighth of nine children born to Rufa Emma (née Adair) and Collintine Page, Billie was old enough to remember the Depression and worked hard to provide for herself Billie Page Odomand her family all her life.

Billie began her career in the radio and film business in Houston, Texas, working for Gordon Barton McLendon (my husband’s namesake). Gordon is known for his pioneering work, and is credited with being the inventor of format radio (all news, easy listening, top forty, and so forth). Billie did everything from editing films and working as Gordon’s executive secretary to hosting her own radio spot. Her work eventually brought her into frequent contact with celebrities (including George Carlin, whom she and Gordon discovered), and migrated her to Hollywood, San Francisco, and eventually back to Dallas, Texas.

Billie married WWII Marine veteran Homer Hugh Odom sometime in 1958, and their son (my husband) Barton Page Odom was born March 23, 1960. After a few years Billie realized that life with Homer was not the best situation for her and a small child. In the early ‘60s she divorced him, and became a single mother, which was unfashionable at the time but which she managed wonderfully.

Billie was generous to friends, family, and charity, and despite working full time was closely involved in Bart’s youth and education. She loved word games (she was unequalled at Scrabble) and cards, particularly bridge. She had fabulous taste and a ready, sharp wit, tempered by innate kindness.

Perhaps because of his portrayal of strong, fabulous female forms, as well as his Art Deco sensibilities, Billie collected Erté serigraphs. And perhaps to keep her personal focus on her motherhood, she collected Madonnas in various forms.

I first knew Billie through my friend Cynthia, who had been close friends with her since the early 80s. I met her in the early 90s. In 1994, when I was considering joining the Episcopal Church (being interested in the priesthood and being female do not work in the Roman Catholic Church), Billie kindly went with me to the Foundations of Faith classes at the local parish, and gave me a copy of the Book of Common Prayer. She had inscribed it herself, a difficult thing for her at this point, since she had grappled with crippling rheumatoid arthritis since her early 40s.

Billie passed away of hospital pneumonia on May 16, 2002. We miss her keenly, but are grateful to have known her. I am particularly grateful to her for giving me a husband that respects and loves strong women.


*Mildred, Jewel, Juana, Marguerite, Vivian, Mary, Carl, Billie, and Ray