From London With Love


I had never seen this particular photo of my brother Garrett until it arrived via Gmail last week, a trans-Atlantic bullet train back to the summer of 69.


Gary D. Ft. Worth, TX May '69

Gary D.
Ft. Worth, TX May ’69


“I was looking through albums and boxes of photos last week and came across Gary’s picture from all those decades ago. I started thinking of him again – as I have from time to time…”

Forty-five years later a lady in London had Garrett on her mind. So she Googled him. Don’t we all? Whether searching for restaurants, plumbers, prospective lovers or those from long ago, we Google.

“ … to see if there was any trace of his journey through the years. I am so glad I did, because this is how I stumbled across your terrific book.  Took me right back to another time and place.”

This woman, who was part of a broad Ft. Worth posse of budding hippies in a provincial Texas town in 1969, had wondered from time to time, whatever happened to that rascal she was so smitten by.

I only went out with Gary a few times but fell pretty hard. He was irresistibly gorgeous and charismatic. I still remember his voice and his laugh and his wit. One Saturday he invited me over to some wild house in Arlington Heights. By the time I managed to finagle use of my dad’s car to get over there – arriving late – Gary’s attention had been captured by another girl. I sloped around hopefully, and shamelessly, for the rest of the party, and then departed, despondent, carrying a brightly burning torch.”

Clearly, the lady in London is a writer. She went on to tell me a little bit about her life post-Gary. On the rebound, she met the man who would eventually be her husband. She was widowed at a very young age. After that, she chucked it all — packing her belongings in a bag “smaller than the purse she lugs around now” and backpacked alone around Europe for few months. Cheryl Strayed ain’t got nuthin’ on this Cowtown chick. She lived in New Mexico for a while, drove around the countryside with her dogs ( can you spell k-i-n-d-r-e-d spirit ? ) and landed in London in 1978 where she’s been ever since, in guess what? The publishing industry.

In soggy London, (as she described it) in the first week of July, my brother’s photo made this sweet Texas girl stop and think. She wondered, like so many of us have, “what ever happened to…?” Instead of brushing it off like a headache, she took the time to honor the offering of her young heart on the altar of love, or at the very least, the pursuit of it. She took the time to investigate.

“But I was so very sad to learn of  his death. I am just so sorry that his time came so early.”

So am I. My brother Gary has been gone for twelve years. Twelve years! It catches in my throat to say it. It shocks me. I remain in denial.  I cannot believe I was robbed of his company and it makes me angry.

But, we see. We see that stories are worth telling. The sacrifice, the mania, late night tears dripping over inanimate computer keys to resurrect the dead. We see that it means something. Lives are not forgotten.

And we feel the everlasting presence of one sweet soul.

About Jean Ellen Whatley

Writer. Dreamer. Sometimes schemer. Journalist/memoirist/observer and sometimes constructive irritant. Prisoner of demon muses. Mother to four humans and two dogs. In my spare time, I delete phone numbers of former boyfriends.

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  1. Jean–Have you considered that your second book could be a collection of your posts?

    This post was so sweet and so poignant. Yes, writing (and talking) about loved ones keeps their spirit alive. Gary was obviously one helluva guy.

    I’m sorry for your loss–twelve years ago–but it sounds like you were gifted with his presence while he was still alive…Some people aren’t graced with people like Gary in their lives…

    • Wow Sioux !!

      You may be on to something! Thanks for the idea. I’ll include you in the acknowledgements.
      And you are absolutely right. One of my most thrilling moments as a writer was when I was doing a book group one night and I overheard these two women talking about my mom. And they were saying stuff like, “remember when Beverly said such and such….” and I recall thinking, I have created this character and she is alive in people’s minds now…and it was something so dear. We’re lucky to be story tellers.

  2. Beverly says:

    We miss all those Whatley boys. I am just so glad I had mine for as long as I did. Would be 50 years of marriage this year. Yep! 1964

    • Wow, hard to believe. Long live the rest of us Whatleys.

      • Connie Dunavin says:

        Jean, I had to wipe away the tears. Love this one.
        The message that ‘lives are not forgotten.’ That we resurrect the dead – what a great connection thru the cosmos…. Garrett said hello, again. (-:
        # London Calling….
        Your friend,

  3. Such lovely writing you have here. This is a great post- the last paragraph really hit me hard especially. I know I’ve spent countless late nights at the keyboard, recounting the memories of those lost, telling myself it was not in vain. And so you are right- the stories are worth telling, and the lives are not lost.
    Keep it up! Wherever Gary is now, rest assured that he is still with you and you carry his spirit on in posts like this one and so many others.