Friday, January 22, 2010

The Hard Holiday Season

by Pa Rock

Word came out of Amarillo yesterday that my nephew, Reed Smith, would be released from the hospital today, and he would be able to board a plane for Las Vegas tomorrow! And with Reed and Jamie and their moms getting on that plane and flying west tomorrow, may this hard holiday season finally be at an end.

The story began in the wee hours of Christmas morning when my insistent cell phone pulled me from slumber. It was my sister, Gail, calling with the news that our father had passed away. Dad was eighty-five, and we knew that the end would come sometime, but neither of us was expecting his death to be as sudden as it was, and certainly not on Christmas. I was up the rest of the night, too unsettled to even attempt to get back to sleep. Later that day I would go into work and try to get my desk cleared so that I could go back to Missouri without feeling guilty about placing too much excess work on my co-workers. Hopefully, I would be back in Arizona in a week or so.

Dad's funeral brought our families together for a few days. Gail and I have seven kids between us - scattered from London England, to Salem, Oregon, and getting them all together becomes tougher with each passing year. Heidi and Jason happened to be visiting from England and had been with Dad just a few days before his death. They were still in the states and were able to be at the funeral. Reed and Jamie flew in from Las Vegas, giving much of the family their first opportunity to meet her. Molly and Scott came from Oregon, and Tim and his bride, Erin, were there from Kansas City. It Erin's first exposure to Gail's kids and their families. Nick and his son, Boone, came from West Plains. Justin and Lisa Smith came up from Arkansas, as did his sister, Tiffany, and her husband, Nathan Burke.

Four of the great-grandchildren were there. Boone, at age ten, was the old man of that group. Nathan and Tiffany's daughter, Brieanna Burke, and Molly and Scott's boys, Sebastian and Judah Files, were there. Little Judah had been born at the beginning of the month, and this was Pa Rock's first opportunity to meet his youngest grandson!

My ex-brother-in-law, Bob Smith, was also present much of the week. I had several conversations with him about work, and kids, and cars. One of the things that he told me was how happy he was that Gail would now be in a position where she did not have to work so much overtime. Bob also talked about the great time that he had when he joined Heidi and Jason on vacation in Portugal a couple of months earlier.

By the end of the week people were beginning to drift out of Noel. All of the kids had left town by New Year's Eve, and Gail and I were headquartered at Dad's house trying to untangle his business and finances. That evening we had dinner at Cotton Eyed Joe's, a really good barbecue restaurant, and discussed our families while we ate. She mentioned that Bob and his cousin, Bobby Jack Short, were on the road driving Reed and Jamie back to Las Vegas. One of the things that I remember Gail talking about was how she was glad that she and Bob had remained close after their divorce, and how Bob had always been there to support their kids - and even her when he knew that she was having difficulties.

That night we were going through Dad's safe and studying his receipts and bills. Heidi called a couple of times from her mother-in-law's home in Kansas City and chatted with her mother. Gail had headed upstairs and gone to bed before Heidi's last call. It was around 10:00 p.m. She began the conversation with "Rocky, I need to to take the telephone and move to another room away from Mom." My heart sank. I told her that he mother was upstairs, and she continued, "There has been an awful wreck in Texas. Dad is dead, and Reed has been flown to a hospital - and he is in critical condition." She went on to tell me that Bobby Jack was dead and Jamie was in a local hospital.

I slowly walked upstairs and woke my sister. It was going to be another sleepless night.


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BK in MO said...

Rock, you have certainly been through the wringer, and I can relate somewhat, although I've never dealt with the level of tragic circumstances you have been forced to endure. From my own experience, I know that the hard part was later, when things were settling back to "normal" and I was anything but normal. I felt disoriented and gun shy, and everytime the phone would ring at a strange time or someone had strange symptoms, I would collapse a bit.
Last week my nephew, Jason (John's only son) was involved in a serious snowboarding accident in Korea, where he is stationed with the Navy. Jason was actually in a coma for a few days, in and out. He has suffered severe brain trauma and has shown signs of a complete recovery, for which we are extremely grateful. But for a bit there, we really thought it might be permanent.
There isn't a way to be prepared. And there is no sure way to get back the mojo you lose after those situations.
I am hoping that all of you are able to relax a little, now that Reed is going home, and that you find some normalcy.
I'm thinking of all of you.

GAIL said...

This is AGAIN to remind you that Tiffany's husband and father of Brieanna is named NATHAN BURKE. NATHAN--please try to keep up. Senility is catching up to you. Gail