Tag Archives: Death

Revising my father’s eulogy

I began the eulogy by saying the Webster Marlowe his friends in Palatka knew was not the same man I knew as my father.  I think I truly believed that until last Sunday, before I received a call from Patty.

Sunday started out like any other.  We woke up, showered, and went to choir rehearsal at Christ Church.  It should have felt good but it didn’t.  I didn’t feel right.  I wasn’t happy to be there.  It wasn’t anything particular; I knew the music and I love our choirmaster, but I just felt off.  I got the car keys from my husband and told him I would see him after church.  He was concerned, but I told him I was okay.  I just needed some time.   I needed to be.

I went out to the car and as soon as I opened the door my cell phone rang.  It was a number from Jacksonville, Florida, so I assumed it was Mayo Clinic or something.  Normally I would decline the call, but I hit the button and said hello.  The caller said she found my name when she was searching online for my father, Webster Marlowe.  Patty had been on a trip to Haiti with him and she found my blog post.  She said her plan was to build a hospital in Haiti with Daddy’s name on it.  She said she was honored to have helped him.   She talked of his hard work and his compassion.  The more she talked the harder I cried.  Then she gave me the phone number of another of Daddy’s friends, Donnie.

Donnie opened my eyes.  I knew my dad as an entrepreneur, a business owner, and as a person who was highly creative, but I never connected this with the man who seemed to be obsessed with Haiti. When I heard the story, though, I knew. It clicked.  Daddy was never one to turn down someone in need.  If a problem needed solving, Daddy would figure out how.  My mother reminded me how he once fixed an oil leak on our Cadillac by running a hose from the leak back into the engine.  My dad could fix anything.

On his first trip to Haiti, his job was to do handyman type work for the Baptist church.  He was to fix broken hinges and rehang doors; he was to do anything that required a hammer and a saw.  As he was working, a man approached with a wooden leg and carrying a piece of wood.  “Can you help me with a new leg?“ the man asked.  Daddy told him he didn’t know anything about that, but the man insisted that with his hammer and saw, Daddy had all the tools he needed.  The next morning Daddy was met by a larger group of amputees, each carrying wood and asking for help.  Webster Marlowe did not know how to say no to anyone who needed help. I’ve known this my entire life.

 

Donnie taught my dad how to use composites to make the legs and introduced him to a prosthetist in Gainesville who could help train him.  Someone else donated titanium.  Titanium! I introduced him to a prosthetist in Georgia, though I was never crazy about Daddy going to Haiti.  The demand grew and over the next 20 years, Daddy fixed and replaced all kinds of legs. He would get emotional as he talked about people who had worn out their legs, children coming back when they had outgrown their legs, and especially when he talked about how the demand outweighed his ability to supply.

While the Webster Marlowe of Palatka didn’t wear suits to work and didn’t drive the latest cars, he really was the same compassionate and caring man whom I called Daddy.  I’m closer to understanding why he was so drawn to Haiti, but I’m not quite there. What I do know is that my dad was a remarkable individual throughout his life, and maybe that is enough.

Making Connections

We were invited to a GPB dinner on Tuesday evening to share our ideas on one of our favorite shows, On Second Thought.  The show is taking a new turn, as the previous host stepped down for a new and wonderful adventure.  One of the reporters said she was from a small town in North Carolina, and I said I was from a small town outside of Greensboro.  She said she was, too, and it turned out she is from Trinity, about 15 miles from my home.  Trinity has a small airport, Darr Field, which is where I had my first flying lesson that really ignited my passion for aviation.  It was a wonderful conversation and we talked about some of the things we love about North Carolina.  We left with sense of just how connected we all are and how small the world really is.

And then today I received an email today from a man whose grandfather owned our (my!) airplane before my dad bought it.  He talked about flying with his grandfather to a baseball game between Kansas City and the New York Yankees, and how he got to see Mickey Mantle play.  I told him how Daddy flew my brother to Baltimore to see the World Series, around 1970, and how they flew to Indianapolis to the Indy 500.  He told me that his grandfather purchased a Cessna 210 after he sold the Cessna 172, N7214A, which he had owned in a flying club with three other pilots.  I told him how I stripped all the paint off the plane so that Daddy had no choice but to paint it yellow and white, just like I wanted.  He told me he was a commercial pilot and flew crop dusters.  I told him that was what I always wanted to do.

I’m always amazed by connections and how small the world truly is.   But right now, I just want to call my dad.  I want to tell him about the email and I want to tease him about taking Robert to the World Series and the Indy 500 instead of me.  I want to hear him laugh about losing his airplane the day I had the flying lesson at Darr Field.

I just want to remember.

 

 

#MeToo No More

From the beginning of my aviation career, I dealt with unwanted advances.  I’m reluctant to talk too much about it in my blog, because I just don’t want to ruin anyone’s life.  Maybe people have changed.  Maybe I’m just a wimp.  I am definitely going to talk about it in my book, but not here in my blog.

A few days ago, we got a death notice from the Delta Air Lines retired pilots network, and the person who died was truly one of the most obnoxious people I’ve ever met.  As I read his obituary, I wondered whether this was the same person whom I banished from my flight school and did everything possible to avoid at Netjets.

Let’s call him Steve.  The first time Steve came into the flight school in 1997, he was wearing a flight suit.  His smile was more like a leer than a friendly greeting and he had dog breath.  “You must know who I am,” he said.  No, I really didn’t, and based on this greeting I didn’t want to know who he was.  “Maybe I can take you out to dinner tonight.”  No, not in this lifetime he wouldn’t.  It wasn’t just his bad breath that was revolting.  It was the lewd and lascivious way he looked at me and how he couldn’t keep his eyes on my face.  I declined and said a silent prayer of thanks when my phone rang.  I ran into my office.

He always found reasons to come into the school.  We had a deli inside the flight school, the only food concession on the field.  We were also required by our lease to have a retail shop for charts and pilots supplies.  Most days I was able to escape, either by going flying or taking a phone call in my office.  Eventually, however, our paths crossed and I couldn’t escape.  Everyone else was out flying and I was manning the front desk.  In came George.

I’ll leave out the details but I ended up speaking with a member of the Airport Authority. I told him what had happened.  This is where I was at an extreme disadvantage.  This individual had greater status than I had and was highly respected.  He was connected with literally everyone.  It would be my word against his, and I could potentially lose a large block of business and  even my access to the mechanics.  But I wouldn’t compromise.

Soon he disappeared.  I began to relax.  Maybe he had found a new target for his crude behavior. I didn’t give him another thought.  He was gone and I was safe.

Or so I thought.  Three years later I was an airline pilot and was on the ramp at Teterboro.  By now I was accustomed to the bad behavior of a lot of pilots, and there he was in New Jersey.  In one of Nelson DeMille’s books, he said the only difference in pilots and pigs is that pigs don’t turn into pilots after two beers.  In George’s case, it didn’t even take one.  Right there on the ramp, he greeted me like we were old friends.  I was polite until he grabbed my tie and said, “You need a good man to show you how to tie this thing.”  I slapped his hand away and walked back into the FBO.  I did not report him.  All I wanted to do was fly.  I could handle this.

We would periodically cross paths on the road but he was based in Savannah and I was based in Atlanta, so it was infrequent.  “Another empty kitchen” was his favorite line.  Eventually enough flight attendants complained about him and he was let go from the airline.  I didn’t give him another thought until I read his obituary.

Maybe he turned his life around.  Maybe his children are responsible adults.  Maybe he is remembered as a loving husband and a loving father and grandfather.  He was apparently active in his church and in multiple community organizations.  Whatever.  I wish his family the best, but I will breathe a sigh of relief and  gratitude that I can go with Bob to Delta Retired Pilots activities and know I won’t run into this creep, ever again.

#MeToo No More.

Opening Doors

It isn’t the same and I won’t pretend it is.  But last year has been on my mind, a lot lately.  Maybe it is because hurricane season is gearing up, but I’ve also heard some snarky comments like “if you think these families ought to be together, then why don’t you open your home.”  Little do they know that our home is always open to people who need a place to stay.

When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston last year, it was easy to post on Facebook that anyone who might be evacuating could come to our home and stay.  I knew no one would come.  No one did.  Then came Irma and I knew I had to do something.  This could be bad but did I really want a bunch of strangers in our home?  I emailed my cousins first and they were all fine.

We started hearing how there were no hotels in Georgia.  This was not going to be good.

So up went the Facebook post.

Now let me add an important part of this story.  Bob and I were leaving on Thursday for  Maine for a weekend writing workshop.  We were spending the weekend with some of my favorite people and that meant my daughter was going to be in charge.  Totally in charge of everything.  I left her a credit card.

Our first guest came on Wednesday.  He is an attorney in Ohio and his wife is a dear friend of mine.  They have a home in Florida and he had to get home.  There were no flights and there were no hotels.  He arrived late Wednesday night, we ordered a pizza for him, and we sat up late getting to know our new friend.

We left on Thursday and on Friday I got a Facebook message from someone asking whether we still had room.  I said yes and gave him Jodi’s phone number.  In hindsight, I can see how people would question my sanity.  I had no idea who these  people were.  We had no mutual friends and we have still not figured out how they got my contact information.  They had two elderly cats, and his son had been killed in Afghanistan.  His son’s birthday would have been on Sunday.  They had been to one hotel on the way up but it had bedbugs, so they had spent the night in their car.  Then they found us, through someone who knew someone who knew someone…

I got a message from Afghanistan on Saturday of the writing workshop.  “Do you still have room? My friend’s sister and her family needs to evacuate.”  I called him and told him yes, we would make room, and I called his friend and gave him Jodi’s information.  She took it from there and I went back to my writing workshop.  They arrived a few hours later, the husband and wife, their son, their son’s friend from college, and two small dogs.

My daughter texted me later and said that her friend from South Georgia needed to come, also, with her two children.  That whole friendship deserves its own blog post and I’ll just leave it at that.  We ended up with 15 people in our home, from three continents.

We took a chance and opened our doors.  We’d do it again.

Grief, Again

We were on our way home from the airport.  I’ve been in Washington, D.C., working on a pretty incredible project that will decrease the digital divide in Nepal, increase literacy, and improve education.  It has been a very exciting trip and I was fired up.  If I had to rate this entire week, I would give it a 10+.  My flight arrived on time and I was excited to see my husband and three of my grandchildren.  We would drive home with Sirius 78 on the radio, Kids Place Live.  There was a lot of laughing and a lot of fun, until a surprising trigger came on the radio.

About a month before Carly died, we took her to Disney World.  I ran a 5K on Friday, a 10K on Saturday, and a 1/2 marathon on Sunday.  It was Disney’s Glass Slipper Challenge.  The icing on the cake was being able to take Carly with us.  We rode lots of rides and she was captivated by “It’s a Small World.”  That particular ride is one of my favorites, as I rode it when it was premiered at the New York World’s Fair.  I think that was 1964, and I had never seen anything like it.  I have always loved that particular ride.  On February 21, the line for “It’s a Small World” was short and Carly was as excited as I was.  She was captivated by the animation and the voices and the many wonderful characters.  As the dolls sang and moved up and down, Carly was transfixed.  The photo was taken on the ride.  Such precious and wonderful memories!

I’ve done well, I think, with the pain of losing our precious granddaughter.  But today, when “It’s a Small World” came on the radio, I lost it.  Carly’s brothers and sister were in the car but the tears came, anyway.  I couldn’t stop.  The memories of the fun blended with the extreme sadness and the result was an extreme pain.

When I got myself together, I apologized to our grandsons.  I’m not sure they’ve seen me cry since the funeral.  James, who is 10, very wisely said, “It’s okay.  I understand.”  The sad thing is that yes, he does understand.

You never know when the pain of a loss is going to hit you, and you never know when it will grab you so hard it will take your breath away.  Today was my day.  Sometimes you just have to ride it out.

A letter to Glenn

Dear Glenn,

15 years ago tonight, I was trying to get a good night’s sleep but your mommy was fighting me, every step of the way. I had been away from home for six weeks in pilot training at Netjets, and I had just gotten home the day before. Your mommy was convinced that I needed to come and visit, the very next day. That would be March 22, 2000. I kept telling her I’d be there in a few days, but I needed to rest. Late that night, she called me and said she was in labour. I told her, I’m almost embarrassed to say I told her to go to sleep and call me in the morning. To my surprise, you made your appearance that very next day. From the moment you took your first breath, the people who loved you surrounded you with so much love and affection. You were a beautiful and beloved baby boy.  The light of our lives.

As you grew, you were even more beautiful each day. Your curls and those big brown eyes were perfect, and you were as sweet a child as there ever was. You were our Boogie Bear and we all adored you. You had a great mom and your personality was a light to all who knew you. We took you everywhere, places I still can’t imagine little boys enjoy going, but you loved meeting people.

From the time you were about three, your mommy and I owned a hospice and you went with her, sometimes, to see patients. Everyone commented on your excellent manners. At the same time, you were telling us things that should have been a forewarning. You told us your angels told you to pack up your toys and your clothes and give them to the poor children; you would not need them. We didn’t understand and we thought this was just cute.

It wasn’t too long before your little brother came along. Once when he fussed, you packed up your clothes to come and live with your Memaw and Bebob. That was so funny, and we happily picked you up so you could have a little break. You made your mommy promise that she would never let your brother look like he came from the Children’s Home. I hate to tell you this, but this is a promise she has not kept!

Then the worst happened. We will never know why you crossed the street that day, because that was something you did not do. Our world changed in an instant. Life would never be the same, as we lost our Boogie Bear. My prayer is that you didn’t suffer.

You would be 15 years old today. We should be celebrating with cake and balloons. Your mommy should be teaching you to drive and I would be teaching you to fly. You always loved that I was a pilot teacher. One of our funniest memories was when we all went up to Jackie Torrence’s memorial service, and you told everyone that your Bebob was just a pilot but that your Memaw was a pilot teacher. As if that wasn’t funny enough, at the memorial service, you stood up and loudly exclaimed, “You mean we flew all the way to North Carolina just to see a gold box?” We still laugh about that. You were five. A very precious five.

We have wonderful memories and you are frozen in time as a perfect little boy. I have no doubt that, at 15, you would still be a perfect boy but you would be a teenager. You wouldn’t want us to call you Boogie Bear, and you would probably have times when you would be grumpy and temperamental. It is highly possible you would be a challenge, but in our mind you will always be our perfect, precious little 5 read old.  We have every confidence in the world that you would have grown up to be a fine young man, but we did not get to watch you grow. I’ll bet you would still love raw oysters, though, and that you would remember how to stop a stampeding elephant.

So many things are going through my mind. Would you have been good at sports? Where would you want to go to college?   Would you play the piano? Who would you take to your first prom? How would you like driving the Porsche, your favorite car to ride in to school. Would your mommy let me teach you to fly? You had so many friends and so much promise, and you left a profound mark on so many people. From a spiritual perspective, even at 5 you knew the meaning and the words of the Sacrament. More than once you reminded our ministers that they weren’t saying it correctly. They did not realize what Holy Communion meant to you and how important it was to you. It was truly a Holy Sacrame

You have four brothers and sisters who remind me of you, each and every day. Your sweet spirit lives on. We had James’ photo professionally made at three years old, and when they showed us the photos, I burst into tears. It was just like looking at you. Carly saw the photo of you on your tombstone and thought it was Jacob. Sarah Catherine has so many of your characteristics.

I think we all struggle, at least to some degree, with the loss we suffered the day you were killed. It was a senseless accident and I personally have problems forgiving the man who so recklessly drove down Happy Valley Circle that day, talking on his cell phone. I know what my Christian beliefs tell me to do, but it is not easy. There are times I wish he could feel our pain, and that I hope he is haunted by his actions. I remind myself that you would, even at 5, tell me that was not right to feel that way. You were wise beyond your years.

As we reflect today on our gratitude, it is important for us to celebrate what was and the profound impact you had on so many people. We miss you. You gave us so much joy and laughter. You will forever be our perfect little boy. Your legacy lives on, though, in the service your mommy provides to other people who have lost their children.

Happy birthday, sweet Glenn. Today we will focus on our good memories. We will celebrate and we will give to the children at the Children’s Home, whom you were always so concerned about, even as a little boy. We will keep your legacy alive.

We love you, Glenn Milton Price. March 22, 2000 – November 2, 2005. You were gone too soon.

Love always,

Memaw and Bebob

Cleaning and deleting – Not an easy task

I’ve spent the past several days trying to delete photos from my computer and also clean out some of the boxes that we packed up in Newnan and moved down here, and haven’t touched in more than two years.  We probably packed some of them long before that.  It was easier to pack it up and put it in the basement or attic than deal with throwing the stuff away.  But deleting and throwing away was not so simple, especially when it came to deleting photographs from the hard drive on my computer.

We are coming up on what would have been Glenn’s 15th birthday.  The realization of this brings to the surface memories of what we would be doing, were he will with us.  Glenn loved the Porsche and he loved sitting in the driver’s seat of any of our cars, pretending to drive.  I have a great photo of he and my mom, in my Miata, pretending they were taking a trip.  He had such a great imagination.  If you know me very well at all, you know that Glenn was killed when he was 5 years old.  We won’t be teaching him to drive and we have missed the experience of those tumultuous teen years.  Glenn was a sweet little boy, perfect in every way.

As I was going through the photos on my computer, I found that I had three and four copies of many of the photos of the grandchildren.  It should have been simple to delete, right?  But as someone who wishes I could recapture every single minute of Glenn’s short life, even deleting a blurry image or a duplicate was difficult.  I know it sounds crazy, and I’ve been trying to figure out why.  Our other nine grandchildren are beautiful, healthy, happy, and smart, and I know we can’t live in fear that something will happen.  Yet there is a dark place in the back of my subconscious that remembers our loss, and doesn’t want to part with anything.  Not even a blurry, duplicate image that is almost unrecognizable.

My rational self has won this battle, but the battle was hard fought.  Pieces of broken toys in boxes have been thrown away.  Random pieces of paper with children’s drawings have been discarded.  I realize these were great works of art at the time they were created, but at this point I don’t even know who scribbled on the paper. My rational self and my even more rational daughter assures me that it is fine to throw these things away.  I’ve moved the random Legos to the Lego box, but most everything else from this corner of my office is going away.  I’ve deleted the duplicate photos and I’ve deleted the photographs of unknown blobs.

This job isn’t complete, but I’ve gone through six boxes and thousands of photographs.  I’m happy with my progress.  At the end of the day, I think that’s pretty darn good.