Saturday, April 07, 2012

Fourteen Years Ago Today

April 7, 1998. I was at Texas Motor Speedway for the (at that time) Winston Cup NASCAR race. I'd been there most of the week - one of my friends was/is the sports editor for a local paper. He got us in with press passes, and that year, I even got a garage pass. The press pass by itself got me into the infield, the pits, and the media center, where we were fed a catered lunch - especially during practice and qualifying days.

I was having the time of my life.

I was ostensibly there as an adviser. My friend had little NASCAR knowledge (at that time), so he truly wanted me there to help him ID people and find story leads. He found the story of Dave Marcus and the wingtip shoes he always wore, plus his gritty owner/driver status compelling. We pretty well spent the entire race hanging out in his pit stall. After the race was over, T had to post his wrap up, so we were there for a while after the race. Even so, it was quite a struggle to get back to his place, because the track was still pretty new and the roads hadn't been improved nor the local LEOs familiar with handling large amounts of traffic, unlike the situation is today. We got back pretty late.

T's babysitter cornered him when we got back, and wouldn't look at me. T delivered the bad news - I was to call my neighbor no matter the time.

She told me my father had been found immobile, and the ambulance was called. I interrupted with some inane comment like "He'll be alright, right????" but she continued - no, Jeff, I'm afraid he passed away. They thought he had slipped away in his sleep on the fifth. "My" farmer at the time, and my current farmer (the guys who lease the family ground) found him and reported it. Needless to say, they were also upset and greatly affected. They liked Dad, and it hit them hard.

I had a cell phone, but at that time, follow me roam was pretty high dollar. Sis had even had me paged at the track, but if you've ever been to a NASCAR race, you'd know how useless that is. The only time one can hear the announcer is during a yellow flag, when the cars are in the pits idling or idling around the track. When they're all out on the track floored, you can barely scream at your neighbor and be heard.

I did not get much if any sleep that night. I got up fairly early, showered and headed for home. My original plans were to stop in OKC to see my Sis, but I was going to be seeing her back home, so I drove straight through to the funeral home.

My cousin, a nurse, was the only close relative the funeral home could find on short notice, and she decided to forgo an autopsy. Heart failure was the likely culprit.

Dad had told me many different times that he wanted to be buried in blue jeans and a blue chambray work shirt - his favorite set of clothes. After perusing his selection, Sis and I chose a fairly new and comfortable looking pair of blue jeans, his usual white socks, a pair of his favorite dress boots, and since we didn't like the looks of his current selection of work shirts, purchased a new long sleeved one for him. The only ones who got to see him were the morticians - they recommended a sealed closed casket, and our memories of him would be better served if we didn't see him the way he was.

After several more late nights and early mornings, not enough sleep and too much stress, we got Dad buried. That afternoon, I bid everyone adieu for a short time - I was worn to a frazzle and took a short nap. Everyone understood and left me alone. To this day, I recommend to anyone going through burying someone close to remember to take care of themselves, too - they are gonna need some time alone, if just to take a nap.

I had a mercurial relationship with my father, but that does not mean I don't miss him, and my mother as well. I still hear him in my head in certain situations, when he tells me what he'd tell me were he there, if that makes any sense. His litany of opinionated phrases is forever etched into my memory, and requires barely any trigger at all to be activated.

9 comments:

Jinglebob said...

A prayer for you and those you love....

threecollie said...

That is just heart breaking. I am so sorry

Jess said...

I could write for hours on the event of burying a family member. The sorrow, which seems to be the emotion that is always highlighted, has to wait. The stress and drain on strength is what is so devastating. You forget to take care of yourself, and when you do have time to grieve, there's little left, and like a long illness, it takes a long time to recover.

Frank W. James said...

I think when it came time to 'bury' both my father and mother (they were both cremated at their request) I had spent so much emotion over the loss of our daughter that I was incapable of grieving like a normal child for a beloved parent.

I followed most of their requests, but not all of them because I was thinking of our son and I don't think some of the things dad wanted would have worked for him, so we did what I thought best.

Dad and I worked side by side for 29 years, but in the last few years there was a distance between us because we were in 2 different places and the gap was difficult to span.

Yeah, I hear the same things you hear from your father, now that he's gone, but my response is "I have to do what's best for us, Dad"...

All The Best,
Frank W. James

creakypavillion said...

My Bah (grandma) is buried for 25 years, and I still hear her voice and warnings in my head from time to time.
Or, rather, at the times I need it.

My condolences, Jeffro.

Jeffro said...

Frank and Tatyana: Mostly what I hear from Dad is snarky. I know you are shocked....

Tatyana: My parents were both great cooks, as well as both grandmothers. Dad's mother was mostly Germanic - she canned sauerkraut and made a lot of comfort food, too. My Mother's mother was more Irish, so her comfort food had a different twist. Her fried chicken was killer. I have her old deep dish cast iron skillet (once in a great while I'll make a deep dish pizza in it of my own design).

Dad really enjoyed baking - breads, pies, casseroles, meat loaves and such. He perfected his pie crust. I inherited his bread machine (loved the sourdough variety he made) but since I don't use much bread, I never have even tried it. Too much starch (or pies) - not a great thing for a diabetic.

Mother had some signature dishes I surely miss - mostly her Eggs Benedict and Beef Stroganoff. Sis has duplicated the results rather well herself - gotta commend her.

They were all masters at holiday cooking.

creakypavillion said...

The first summer after grandma died I visited their house again, as every summer before - and was so shocked that grandpa was constantly saying how he missed her cooking. Not her, but her cooking. Then, after many years, I understood; her cooking was an expression of her Self. Like paintings for an artist.

Last years of her life, being a diabetic without much help, she couldn't taste the food she prepared for the family - too much starch and sugar - and she was very upset about it; she was always asking us suspiciously, how did it taste. She probably felt like a writer going blind...

Jeffro, but you can still do the meatloaf. And sour cabbage, too. (and try to put in some cranberries).

Jeffro said...

Oh, I still make meatloaf once in a while. I prefer a half pound of 80/20 and equal amount of sausage, plus whatever I've got in the way of dried bread. Rye is great. Green bell pepper, onion, sliced jalepenos,eggs and various spices, maybe even some 57 sauce.

I use the other half pounds of meat for sausage gravy over breakfast biscuits. Never have made 'em from scratch worth a damn, so I use Bisquick, whomp biscuits or frozen.

Jerry in Texas said...

To quote one of my favorite plays:
"Death ends a life, but it does not end a relationship, which
struggles on in the survivor's mind toward some resolution,
which it may never find."
-- I Never Sang For My Father by Robert Anderson

RIP, Jeffro's Dad.