A pretty special event happened over the weekend for my family. My first grand child was born. Baby Violet, mother Eve and father Tyler, my son, are all doing very well. My wife and I are thrilled and Violet’s Aunt Alicia and Uncle Kyle are excited about her arrival. She’s beautiful and tiny and perfect.
I wish my parents had been here to see her. My dad died when I was 25. He died of cancer, and we were all shocked because we believed he would beat death, because he had beaten it twice before. When we heard he had cancer he told me he would beat it because he wanted to be there to see who I married and to see my kids. We were all wrong, the cancer was too far into his body, and he died two months later. My mother on the other hand lived to 94, and saw and lived with and loved my kids. She would have been giddy over little Violet, I can almost hear her excited squeal, the one she would make when she was really excited about something. Like a great meal or family visiting, the things she lived for.
I don’t know about the hereafter. I used to believe I did. But I like the thought that Mom and Dad are aware of little Violet, that they can somehow share in the joy. So even though I don’t know if they can or not, I’m going to go with the hopeful idea that they can, especially dad, who missed so much because his body let him down.
So we’ll go forward, as a family, and do our best to shower Violet with the love and care that my parents would have. I’ll tell her someday about her great grandparents, and the extraordinary lives they lived, simple people who were filled with love. Welcome to the world little Violet!
Twenty years ago I watched in awe
as my dad drove up the driveway.
More than proud to have a brand
new family car.
Thirty miles to the gallon, 0 to 60,
I remember putting down the back
seat and lying in the hatchback.
Looking at the sky watching
trees go by.
I was the son of a preacher, and
he was a rich poor man.
And no regrets,
in my Chevette.
The winter cracked the highway and
we tried to dodge the potholes.
He never promised us it would be a
He never had a problem though,
keeping it on the narrow road.
The christian band Audio Adrenaline recorded this song probably 20 years ago now. It always reminded me of my dad, and the Chevy Vega he bought new while we lived in Kentucky. The experiences match my memories of the early days of that car and my dad. If you change Chevette to Vega, it’s a match. My dad was indeed a rich poor man. We’ll talk about him in depth in another post. We went to Lexington to buy the car. How dad was able to I don’t know, he wasn’t being paid by the college. But he decided we needed a newer car, so we went to a dealership, traded in our red Taurino, and drove away with a new 1975 Chevy Vega.
That would have been fine, but dad had agreed to pick up some visitors to the college and bring them back to the campus. So instead of Dad, mom and me riding home, we added another five people. If you’ve ever ridden in a Vega, you know it’s small, and there’s not a ton of room. Plus these people had luggage! All I remember is I was stuck on the backseat floor, under somebody’s legs for the whole trip back home. Longest couple of hours of my short life!
I eventually had the car pasted to me, after my first semester in college. Seems my parents were worried about my transportation after I told them about a date I had where the car I borrowed (my roommate’s car) broke down somewhere in the Miami area. I can’t remember all the details but my date decided that was probably enough and we didn’t go out again. (You know who you are!)
The vega became something of a legend at college. I was always hauling people around in it and it always had a ton of soda cans in the back seat. Occasionally a few random cockroaches would show up. Went to a lot of concerts and got lost a lot. I painted my name on the side door above the handle to personalize it which was kinda corny. It saw me through my three years at Miami Christian and a lot of good times.
My first year at The Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale I was working as a cashier at Cumberland Farms in Ft. Lauderdale. My vega was parked in front of the store and a customer backed into it, driving it into a barrier and crunching the car a few inches. I drove it like that for a few months, a very hard ride! One sunday night I was taking my buddy Tim and his girlfriend to church. Although Tim was 6’7″ and 270 lbs, and his girlfriend was a tiny girl, Tim sat in the back seat. We didn’t get too far before there was a loud bang and the back end of the car dropped on the rear tires. I turned the car around and we drove back to our home with smoke streaming out from the body rubbing on the tires. Great smell! And so the Vega came to a glorious end, crushed into a cube at a local junkyard. But it had served me well and I still miss it.
I’ve been corresponding a lot on FB with friends from different stages of my life. It seems many have no idea of the crazy twists and turns my life took during my school years. From birth through my senior year of high school I moved ten times and attended 9 different schools, in three different states. How did that happen? My dad, as I’ve mentioned before, was a Baptist preacher and a teacher. Staying still just didn’t seem to be in his DNA. It started when we left tiny Throop, NY where I was born, and moved to Mt. Morris, NY where dad took the position as pastor at a Baptist church. While we were there I started kindergarten. My dad’s health began to decline and after a couple of years at Mt. Morris he took a teaching job down the road at a christian college located in Castile, NY. And so I spent first and second grade at the elementary school there. Dad then took the pastorship at a small church in Springfield Center, NY, just up the road from Cooperstown. We were there from third grade to part of sixth grade. Dad then moved us to Letcher, Kentucky to be a greek and hebrew teacher at a very small christian college. This lasted 3 years, I finished sixth grade there and we moved again halfway through my freshman year. This is where it gets a little crazy and I even have trouble remembering it all.
When Dad resigned from the college, he didn’t have a job to go to. Why would he do that? Well, the college hadn’t paid him in two years, providing an apartment to live in was the compensation, and Dad was forced to look for support from people, much like a missionary does. The college was literally down to one student, I’m not kidding, and the end was in sight. (The college campus is still active, now known as Calvary Campus https://www.facebook.com/calvarycampusletcherky/). So we packed up our stuff and headed to Seffner, Florida, where friends had a place for us to live during the rest of the school year. I attended the Jr. High school the rest of that year. For those keeping score, thats two high schools my freshman year.
At the end of the school year dad had not been able to find a job teaching, so we headed north, back to Throop to live that summer with my Aunt in the house that would one day be the home for my own family. I started my sophomore year at a christian school in Auburn, NY. We stayed through the first two weeks of school in the fall. Unable to find that elusive teaching job, and with another home of a friend in Seffner opening up for the fall/winter, we headed south again. I then attended a large high school in Brandon, Florida. Between the semesters, dad was hired to teach High School in Miami. So off we went to a decent sized christian high school for my second semester of my sophomore year. That’s three schools in one year and five over two years for those keeping score at home.
The difference in the three schools I attended my sophomore year is pretty comical really. Emmanuel Christian probably had 100 students from K to 12th. Brandon High had over 4,000 students 9th to 12th. And Mueller Christian Academy I’m guessing had a few hundred students. In two and a half years I had lived in the coal country of Kentucky, the heat of Florida, and the small town farm area of CNY. I felt like a pinball, bopping from place to place. I made a handful of friends along the way, and had my first real girlfriend in Miami, but it was crazy. Miami was a crazy place to live in the mid 70’s and my dad didn’t like it. He was also unhappy with the fundamentalist bent of the principal at Mueller and the day after school ended we were packing our stuff and heading back to Throop. I wasn’t happy, leaving my first girlfriend was a bummer. After living that summer at my uncle’s home, dad was determined to stay put and not have me go to another five high schools, so he took the only available job he could find at the local high school, Port Byron, as a janitor. He had graduated from PB 38 years before. PB was my sixth and final high school, I spent my junior and senior years there. Interestingly enough, after I graduated, 40 years after he did, dad was asked to be the pastor at a small church in Oatka, NY. I headed back to Miami to go to college and he headed back to pastoring. It had been a wild four years.