I’m sharing this with Debbie’s Six-Word Saturday.
Early Tuesday morning, I was puffing on a Macanudo Gold, reading Andrew Robert’s biography of Winston Churchill, and thinking of my Dad. This happens a lot when I read Churchill, and smoke cigars. It something the two of us had in common, because of his interest in both.
My love of Churchill began back in the 1960s, especially around the time of the great man’s death. I remember seeing footage of Churchill’s funeral on our black and white television on the 5 o’clock news one night in January 1965. At 4, almost 5, I vaguely knew the footage was showing us the passing of a great man. Hearing my father talk about the man and the funeral, helped me to remember the event.
I can still remember my father telling some of the funny stories about Churchill to his friends. He told one story of how Lady Astor was upset with Winston, and told him that if she were his wife, she would put poison in his tea, to which Churchill replied, “Lady Astor, if I were your husband, I would drink it.”
Churchill was very quick witted. But there are a lot of men who are quick witted who do not rise to the level of greatness that Churchill did.
His greatness didn’t come about because he was perfect. He wasn’t. He had many failures politically in his career, but he was right on what was most important: his warnings against Hitler and Naziism. He was one of the few who read Mein Kampf, and understood what Hitler was about. No amount of appeasement would stop the dictator. Hitler was set on conquering the world, and when foreign nations tried to appease him, he let them.
Churchill knew better. There was no appeasing the man (and we would do well to learn from Churchill, you cannot appease a dictator). This is why it was so important to fight on in the face of great adversity, even fighting alone, as Britain did at the beginning of the war.
As for my father read a great deal on Churchill and owned his six-volume series on The Second World War, first edition. (I have that series now). So you can see his love for the man. Churchill was clearly worthy of admiration, for had he not stood up to Hitler, who knows what the world would look like today. Yet, he stood alone, when others were busy trying to capitulate to the madman who has become synonymous with the concept of ultimate evil.
When I had grown to be a man, my father gave me a paper-back copy of the Last Lion, the first in a biographical trilogy by William Manchester. It took me almost a year to read that book. I admit, my reading pace is quite slow. Nonetheless, I finished that great tome about Churchill. Then the second in the series came out, and both my father and I read that one as well. Due to Manchester’s death, the third and final in the series took years to be completed. When it finally did, I sent my father the hardback bound set for his birthday, and bought another set for myself. He finished the third in the series much more quickly than I did. He was a much faster reader than I was. Finally, he read Andrew Robert’s biography, and I’m slowly working my way through it.
I didn’t gain a love for cigars until I moved to his ranch back in 2013. It was there, on his front porch after work, that we would smoke a cigar together and talk about the world. He wasn’t an avid cigar smoker, but liked the occasion to sit and solve all the world’s problems without the addition of the barroom atmosphere.
When he came down with his illness, he had to give up cigar smoking and drinking alike. His body couldn’t handle it. But he still loved talking about Churchill and a host of other things as well.
I think as I sat there on Tuesday morning, smoking that cigar, reading Roberts, knowing that both Churchill and my father have died, it hit me how much of life is like the smoke that drifted away around me. Life is quick. It is like a vapor, as the writer of Ecclesiastes says. Or more specifically, “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher. “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”
But that’s not my point in writing, although it is a fine point to remember. I think I just wanted to share with you my love for cigars, Churchill, and my Dad. I guess you could say I miss him.
All photos are copyright © Timothy J. Hammons, 2022.