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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Father dies and the 2500 mile road trip to his funeral

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Below are a few Facebook posts that capture what I wrote in the days surrounding my father's death. He died in the early hours of June 12, 2012, and the evening of the next day I set out in our Volvo driving 2500 miles to be at his funeral. I drove from 8:00 PM Wednesday night till 5:00 PM Friday. The funeral was Saturday afternoon. Sunday morning I left Little Rock around 7:30AM and arrived in Seattle at 1:15 AM Tuesday morning (June 19).

June 12 2012 Facebook post, and was later extended for the eulogy I improvised at my dad's funeral service:

My Dad

He was born in September 1939.

No one in his family drove a car, so when he did it was a big deal. He was forever crazy about cars, especially his cars, after that. His first car was a black 1949 Ford sedan.

Later he got the car that would make him known in Little Rock -a 1955 Chevrolet. It was white with "Ghost" written in Gothic script, it was lowered. He met my mom while driving that car. Legend has it he cruised along side a car full of young ladies that included my aunt and mom, and he asked "who is that?" about my mom, they told him "Martha Sue King" and he smiled and sped off. That move got them all talking and my mom interested.

My mom was 19 and my dad was 22 when they had me.

In 1967 my dad bought a new Magnavox audio system -record player, tuner, amazing amp and speakers- for $500.

$500 in 1967 has to be several thousand dollars today. And in those days, especially in Arkansas, average people didn't buy high end audio equipment.

We had all the albums by the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and movie soundtracks that are still respected compositions such as The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly and all the James Bond movies. Played loud and all the time on the $500 stereo.

I lived enveloped in great sound.

My dad took me to drag races starting when I was in second grade. We would stand near the starting line and the cars would take off in a barrage of smoke and thundering sound. We would hang out in the pits talking to the drivers and looking at the cars while they were worked on. Don Garlits -the greatest drag race driver of all time- gave me a spark plug from his dragster.

The next few decades were rough. I was wild and not normal, going off to adventures on oil rigs in the Gulf, studying everything my dad hated, identifying myself more like a New Yorker and punk rocker than a Southerner that drives cars too fast.

Then in 2002 I came home for a visit and my dad really tried to show he loved me. We sat watching TV and he was raving as we watched some of my favorite guitarists like The Edge and Pete Townsend. My dad really put on a good show going on about the things I liked.

In 2005 two men broke through the door of my mom and dad's home, held guns on them and threatening to kill them. My dad talked them out of killing them, and the men just stole their money and car. My mom and dad left that house and never went back, selling it and retiring sixty miles away.

My dad always loved his hometown of Little Rock Arkansas. I'm sure it was a let down to have been chased out of the city because of crime, to die in a place with less connection to his memories.

He later told me loved his new town of residence.

In June 2012 his vital signs became extremely bad. My mom asks for me to call immediately. I call and she says I need to say something to my dad, he can hear, just can't speak. I tell him I love him,
North the day of the phone call.
appreciate all we had, and I know its hard right now. North is yelling 'daddy' at my side, and I tell dad that's North and he's excited to be talking to my dad. I tell him I love him one more time.

After I'm done speaking to him my sister takes the phone out of the hospital room and tells me the doctors said someone about to pass away holds on till they speak to some person not present but that they want to hear from, and once they do they pass away.

I was that person.

He died 3AM June 12 2012.

June 17 2012 Facebook post:

Sitting in a truck stop with free wifi, 700 miles into the trip back. My time back home in AR was deeply meaningful on so many levels. The funeral service for my dad brought out stronger crying than I've ever done. They asked me to do the eulogy -most everyone laughed at a few stories, cried, and clapped when I was done- all this made me feel good but more importantly I think my dad and the things he liked got represented. My uncle (or someone) said most kids don't know their parents lives with such detail and ability to summarize as I do, so my dad got a good story told of his life. While there I drove downtown and saw where we used to live, that part was great too. Then seeing my life-long friend Greg's awesome living-space within music studio within old warehouse in the industrial district near the airport was a hoot. Hanging out with Greg Ward and Traci Michele was even more of a hoot.

One thing this trip did for me was being able to indulge once again in a roadtrip across the Rockies and high plains. I have been frustrated and longing for seeing these roads I used travel so much on in 1990's. Now that I've actually done it again I found out its not such a big deal, even the greatest scenery in Utah and Wyoming didn't cause rapturous emotions like it once did.

I got a good dose of home, cried about my dad, saw all my family, got to roadtrip and now I just want to get back and fix North his breakfast and sit with him and watch his airplane video. He usually leans against me and puts his head on my arm through a lot of the video. — in Ellis Kansas at Love's Truck Stop, 200 Washington Street, Ellis Kansas 67637 (map) .

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