This is one of my favorite memories from college and ties back to my childhood.
When I was pledging the frat I had an idea. Use TR’s old but still running grain truck as our float. I asked Granddad and my parents and they somewhat reluctantly agreed to let me do just that. So one Sunday we went to the Roach place and fired the old four wheeled girl up and I drove it to Denton BD the frat house (the old one – Prairie Street? Maple? – and not the newer one on Mulberry).
We decorated it with fraternity’s letters and NTSU “Mean Green” décor and were ready to go. The Brothers piled in the back and we drove to the assembly point and waited to go. We started off and ultimately went down Hickory Street, going past DCNB and the Campus theatre of my youth around the square, and west on Oak back to the end point and finally the frat house. It was a lot of fun and I of course thought about all of things we had driven by that were important to me as a kid – St. Andrews where the Scout troop had met, my old playmate Dan Herd’s house, Voertman’s, and others as you might guess. On top of all of that most of us were actually sober for obvious reasons, not a Miracle On 34Th Street but one on the streets of Denton, Texas.
And I was thankful to TR who had let me drive it. But that happy time in my life was overcast by a dark shadow of sadness. TR learned that he had terminal brain cancer. Mom would take me to see him in Baylor Hospital east of downtown Dallas each week after classes were done. At first he tried to make the best of it all by joking about things like the radiation treatment’s alignment marks on his head being Indian warrior paint and also how he tipped the nurses with cash – they were always good to him by the way. But as time went on and the pain got worse it took its toll – I remember him telling my Mom how he couldn’t stop crying. I do not know if he was merely scared as anyone would be or maybe he pondered things in his life and was facing some regrets within his soul. If there is a Heaven – I hope there is and I hope he is there – I will certainly ask him that as we stand together in the never ending pure brightness of eternity with my other departed loved ones like my Dad.
After a time he did pass, my Dad called me near sunset one evening at the frat house where I living for the summer, and simply said “Jeff, your Granddad just died”. And I shed some tears too thinking about him and his own cries.
But going back to my question to ask him above I’ll remind him about letting me drive his beat up old grain truck too and thank him for that again since it proves we are human with joy in our soul as is remembering the good things that made our life what it is or was, and who made those wonderful things happen, and not just dwelling on the bad things the trip down life’s road brings.