Why I am doing this
Searching for Gold Star Dads
Pictures of the truck
Ben's Story
The work contiinues
Road Trip
The people who helped
Thoughts from a grieving Dad
How to reach Me
The Last Page
Home Front

Just a thought or two…

Traveling around the country as I do for my job, spending long amounts of time on the road and by myself in hotel rooms, I think about my son, Ben, most of the time.

 

Donuts

We always waited for snowfall for donuts. Not the kind that you eat but the ones you do in the parking lot. I got a rental car that was a mustang when I went to PA to do some work. It was just like the one I got when Ben graduated from boot camp. While I was in PA, it started to snow the last night I was there. I went to see a movie called Bucket List about what two guys wanted to do before they died. Kind of ironic, I thought about my life quite a bit and what I wanted to do before I died. And I thought of Ben and the time that he didn’t have before he knew he was going to die. The plows and salt trucks hadn’t made it out to the parking lots yet, so I did a lot of donuts in memory of Ben. I stopped at a gas station to fill up for the trip back to the airport the next morning and the people at the other pumps must have thought I lost my mind. I got out of the car laughing to myself remembering the times me and Ben would go out and do donuts every chance we could.

Graveyards

I used to go into graveyards and look at all the headstones and wonder about who these people were and what or who they left behind. There were plenty of times in a graveyard that I used to take pictures of the headstones including the one we found in Vermont of a race car. Ben thought that was a cool idea for a headstone. After Ben died, my brother, sister and I and our spouses got together in Michigan for a small family vacation. The first one that we ever had as adults. We were trying to figure out our family tree and decided to go to a graveyard to locate some of our relatives’ plots. After wandering around for a while, I thought how is it that a family line gets to be so scattered when the people are alive and how they end up scattered when they are dead. When families blend by marriage or separate by divorce, when they move to different parts of the country or even live in the same town, they never seem to make it back together for the final family reunion. At least not here.

Death

I always had an aversion to death. I saw a guy named Hank at his funeral when I was in grade school. He was a janitor at the school I went to and always took the time to talk to me. He was my friend. And he died. I remember being asked if I wanted to go to his funeral and I went. It seems that when someone dies, one day they are talking to you and the next they won’t ever talk again. Someone dies and they plan the funeral, they lower the person in the ground and everybody moves on with their lives. Sometimes you can pull up memories of the dead, sometimes you can’t get them out of your head for fear that once they go they may never return and their life and memory may be lost for good. I don’t want Ben’s memory to fade. I’m afraid that if I don’t remember what he looked like in his body bag, I may start to not remember him at all.

Wills

Ben died without a will. I became the personal representative of his estate. I thought that dividing up what little he had in this world would be an easy chore. But because of my ex-wife, his mother, it was a living hell. Though out my life, I never wanted to make out a will for myself. I thought that when someone made out a will they were getting ready to die or at least start the wheels turning towards the final end. I realize now that from the moment you come into this world, the wheels are already in motion and nothing you can or can’t do will stop them. I have now started to think about my will, but I wonder who I will leave this or that to. I suppose it would be just easier to say “give all my worldly possessions to….” I never did like the way most wills are started being of sound mind and body. I just think it gets people to start thinking about the day they won’t be here anymore. The wheels on the bus..

Music

There are certain songs that become your favorites and there are others that you just can’t get out of your head. The song by Kenny Chesney, Who You’d be Today, is one of the latter. It was a song that Ben had on his phone as music you would hear when you called him. He put it on there after his best buddy Nick died in Iraq. We played it at his funeral and again at the memorial service at Fort Campbell. When it starts to play in my head, I do everything I can to turn it off. Too many images, too many echoes from the 21 gun salutes.

Listening to the dead

Before Ben died, I was fascinated by the folks that could hear from the dead. How could these folks sit on a stage and have someone who has gone communicate from the other side to a member in the crowd? I once had an idea to go to one of those shows and see if I could hear something from one of my relatives. Maybe my grandma would offer some of her no nonsense advice or just let me know she was ok or at least tell me where she was buried. Now that Ben has passed on, I find I have no interest in these folks. When I see the looks of despair or anguish on these peoples faces, it’s hard to see past that and find any looks of relief. They find out their loved one are in a better place, but the dead are gone and they aren’t here with us. I think that bit of reality hits me too close to home.

Funerals

I used to drive past funerals at churches without any thoughts of who the funeral was for or who they left behind. It was an inconvenience to wait in traffic for the procession to pass. I watched with a lot of mixed emotions at Ben’s funeral. His final party was run by his mom. It seemed to me that once the service was done, Ben was run through the back streets, almost as an embarrassment. The preacher went off on some tangent about adultery and how everybody there had committed it at one time or another. I was screaming internally for him to shut up and at the very least offer some words of comfort. They never came out of his mouth. The graveside service wasn’t any better. He rattled off something, at that point I was looking at my son’s coffin in front of me and remembering things about him. Then the preacher started singing, I was trying to see if there was a way we could have thrown him in the hole instead. I now look at funerals in a whole different light. First, I don’t want to go to one and see the people’s faces that are still here. Second, even though there may be a preacher that will offer some comfort to the family, the words can never have the power to open that box and have the person inside pop out and get on with life. And third, there is nothing and I do mean nothing that can ever stop the grief or close the hole in your soul while you are looking at a flag draped coffin in front of you with your child in it. No amount of well wishing, no amount of people talking to you and trying to cheer you up, no amount of time will ever heal you. The whole cosmic order of the universe has been torn asunder when you bury your child.