Billy's dad, Thomas Truitt Knowles, was one of five boys who lost both parents in a car wreck. They were taken in by their aunt and uncle (who happened to be the brother of Ernest Tubb's father, making Thomas and Ernest cousins) who raised them to adulthood. We know very little about the Knowles boys - just what Billy's Granny Tubb told him as he saw her sporadically over the years. Billy did go to visit her at length in her 90s to learn more about his father, and at some point during my unpacking, I hope to find the notes and recordings he took during the visit. Of the five boys, one lived past the age of 40 - Uncle Noble, and he actually had an interest in knowing more about Billy as an adult, but by the time Billy knew that, Uncle Noble was getting older and frail, and may have had dementia. I don't know the reason for the deaths of the other brothers, but Billy's dad died as a direct result of alcohol abuse - his granny told him that Tommy died from Alcohol Epilepsy. I googled the term, and I still don't know that it is a condition, but suffice it to say, he drank himself to an early grave. Billy's sister, Cindy, told us that when Ernest Tubb would come to town, he and Tommy would go out drinking and carousing, and their mom, Aleta, was less than fond of Ernest. While they were not divorced at his death, they were separated, and Billy didn't know his dad well.
Aleta was a single mom of three children in the 60s - not common for a woman during that decade. She worked hard at a bank for most of Billy's growing up years, and while he remembers her dating some, she concentrated mostly on making a living and caring for her kids. She did remarry when Billy was a junior in college, and Billy grew to appreciate his stepdad, Bill, who had a big blustery personality and loved Aleta with all his heart.
Billy was a natural from the birth of our kids, and I asked him how he learned about being a good dad. He had to think about it a while because he just did the right things, but when he thought back to it, he knew he had some positive influences, and he also knew that some things had been lacking when he grew up, and he didn't want his kids to miss out because of his absence. When Billy was in elementary school, a neighbor invited him to attend church with him - the Burleson church of Christ, which happened to be in the block behind Billy's house. He enjoyed going to church, and he continued to go and make friends and through the teaching he had at that church, he became a Christian. He could name many of the men in that church who influenced him positively, and his best friends in high school were from church. Ronnie Bryant and Buddy Davis were two he talked about many time, and he was in both of their weddings. Ronnie was in our wedding, and we still see Ronnie and his wife Paula, also a good friend of Billy's from high school, a few times a month. Ronnie's dad was a leader in the church, and Billy thought very highly of him.
Our kids, Shelley and Andrew, loved doing things with their dad. I will never forget the time when they told me that Dad was the fun parent, and he was. I told them at the time that one of us had to be mature, and I guess it was me! My feelings were hurt a little, but I knew they were right. Billy placed time spent with them over doing chores or paying bills or whatever else might could wait. He worked on projects with them, took them to their practices, and rarely missed a game or a performance of either one. He was the parent willing to chaperone mission trips, band trips, etc. I was the one who didn't mind NOT going. He played pitch with them, helped them with batting (in spite of his left-handedness), and he worked on every Pine Derby car that Andrew ever made. He "helped" them with their science projects, and if they were writing a paper in history, he was better than the internet for information. He could help them pick a topic, tell them all about it, and find resources for them to use. History was his hobby, and his kids were his passion. He told me that he thought his mom had seen him march once in all his years of band. He didn't resent that at all - he knew she was doing the best she could do, but he wanted to be where his kids were.
One special trip he took with Andrew each year when Drew was a teenager was the Warped Tour. As Andrew became more and more troubled, Billy would say he never should have taken him to the first one. I don't believe taking Andrew to the tour made his issues surface or become worse. I think taking him showed Andrew that his dad was supportive and willing to drive hours to sit in the summer heat for Andrew to enjoy seeing his favorite bands. Billy was not known for being a big spender or a person who planned ahead. More than once, Andrew and Billy spent the night in our van in the Walmart parking lot because he couldn't find a hotel under $200 a night. He saw no need to spend that kind of money when our van had a bed and Walmart had restrooms and a security guard in the parking lot. He would park between RVs, and they slept well. If Shelley or I had been with him, we never would have done that, but he and Andrew could handle it.
|Billy and Shelley on Father's Day 2012|