Janice Williams Loves Austin And sometimes I write about it.

December 20, 2014

Miracle Story

Filed under: Family — Janice @ 6:19 am

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This picture was made 8 years ago today at my parents’ house in Krugerville, Texas. It was 5 days after my dad had died at a hospital in Dallas and the day after he was buried in Amarillo and the family had returned to their home. There’s an amazing story here.

I read once you should write the stories that you tell often. This is one of those stories. I tell it and retell it as often as I can. It is maybe the most amazing event I have witnessed for myself. So I am telling it once again…

Dad died on a Friday and we had his funeral at their church near Denton on the following Monday. The burial was to be the next morning near Amarillo and near where our farm had been for close to 30 years. The weather on the day of the funeral was lovely. A bright, sunny, warm December day. But an ice storm was on its way to Amarillo and flights we had scheduled for the afternoon were canceled due to the forecasted bad weather. So all of our family members had to immediately change our plans and drive to Amarillo and arrived there late that evening, knowing we would be waking up to ice and having to be at a “graveside” service at 10 a.m. (fortunately there was a building at the cemetery for services).

Mark was first up and surveyed the scene and it was grim. It took a LOT of scraping and warming and salt sprinkling to just get our cars moving and out of the parking lot in the morning. It was a beautiful service, but we didn’t wait for the burial. We left it in the hands of our funeral directors and we jumped back in the cars and headed home. The worst of the ice storm was still going on and the sooner we could get further south, the better. My nephews were just teenagers at the time so Mark (my husband) and my sister were driving the two cars and we were on the road. We were all completely exhausted: my mother, sister, her husband, the two nephews, and me and Mark. It had been an intense 6-weeks of operations and setbacks and short sleep for everyone, culminating in this emotional time and very little rest with all the travel.

We arrived back at Mom and Dad’s home that evening. My younger nephew was still in high school and he had already missed two of the last days before Christmas break because of the funeral, so he and his parents needed to get on back to their home in Coppell so he could go to school the next day. My older nephew, Brandt, was a freshman at Baylor and Baylor was out for the semester so he didn’t have that obligation. He asked if he could stay with us at my mother’s house and help Uncle Mark.

Once Mark and I had arrived after Daddy died, Mark had taken on the task of cleaning Daddy’s two garages. It gave him something to do through all the visitation and waiting. Dad’s garages were a mess. One garage did have room for the car and was just off the house. It was full of lots of his childhood antiques, a bunch of household goods bought in bulk, and “necessary” car repair items. I say “necessary” because Mark found (and threw away) a great supply of things like “inner tube repair kits.” Many of the things on the shelf haven’t been used by a shade tree mechanic in 30 years.

The BIG garage had a lot more stuff in it. Dad inherited a lot of things from his uncle when his uncle had to go into a nursing home. He had most of that in a pile, unsorted, in the garage. Like the inner tube kit, there was nothing of value, but Dad might have had a little bit of a hoarder in him. My sister and mother will read this and say, “Oh, you think? (snort).” He had lots of tools and parts and a big riding lawnmower and trunks and tennis rackets and roller skates and on and on. If it had been in his barns and garage in Amarillo before they moved to Krugerville, it had made the trip and was now in this garage. With additions.

Dad had retired from his job as a land surveyor and civil engineer for a gas company in 1990. When he cleaned out his office, he brought home filing cabinets and boxes and piled them in the corner of the Amarillo garage. When they moved to Krugerville in 1994 they were all moved down and put in a corner. For 12 years, more and more things were piled into that corner and the books related to surveying and various maps of gas pipelines in the Panhandle were forgotten.

We arrived back at Krugerville in the evening. Younger nephew and his parents drove on home to Coppell in the DFW Metroplex. My mother went straight to bed, she was worn out. I was still awake, but so tired I just laid on the couch and watched TV. But Mark, being the energetic man he is, decided he could continue his garage project and get it closer to being finished. Brandt, the 19-year-old nephew, had stuck around to help (and hang with his cool uncle) and he went to the garage with him.

They hadn’t been out there very long at all when they came back into the house bursting with excitement. Brandt’s eyes were as big as saucers and Mark was saying, “You are NOT going to believe what we found!” I was hoping for a big stash of money or Apple stock certificates, of course, but what they found was really more valuable than that.

Brandt claims that he went out and joined Mark and, without any real idea of how he was going to help or what he was going to do, he noticed that there was a two-drawer file cabinet with lots of things on and around it in a corner. He decided to investigate and he cleared it enough to pull out a drawer. The drawer was packed tight with books about surveying and math and also had files and envelopes and papers that all appeared very businesslike. Brandt saw a leather folder, the kind that holds a legal pad, and pulled it out of the drawer. It was dusty and had obviously been in a file in a garage since Daddy brought it all home.

Brandt opened the folder and there was a legal pad inside, the first page completely filled in with my Dad’s distinctive tiny printing. The first line read, “This is a letter to my grandson, Brandt. When you read this, in 20 years or so…” And so it began. It was a letter begun in about January of 1988, a month or two after Brandt was born. At that time, Dad’s company was not expanding much and Dad had a lot of time on his hands in his office. It seems that he decided to give some advice to his grandson(s) while he waited for retirement. The letter went on with a little bit of the history of Daddy and where he came from and how he got to where he was. It had advice for a young man heading out in the world. The letter was abandoned at some point and then picked up again in 1989 or 1990 and included mentions of the next grandson Connor and a trip the whole family had taken together. It was the kind of letter that anyone would dream of having from their grandparent.

Brandt and Mark were totally stunned and then I was, as well. The picture I inserted at the top of this post is from the next day when Brandt was reading it aloud to us all. My mother and sister found out about it the next day when we were all awake and together.

To this day we still have some of Dad’s papers and books and things in storage because Mother moved out of that house a few months later. The possibility exists, I suppose, for there to be another treasure like this one in there somewhere. But I doubt it. I believe Dad led Brandt straight to that letter to make sure it was found while it was important and it could give two young men some guidance in their lives. It easily could have stayed in that file folder and possibly never have been found—sold to a junk dealer at an auction or just dumped into the garbage because the books and methods of surveying had made everything there obsolete.

We have all been thinking about my Dad this week. Having a death in the family is hard at any time, but there is (it seems) an added dimension when the death is at Christmastime. The two are now tied together and his memory is with us in lots of different ways in the weeks before Christmas. Both boys have married and will have their wives with us for Christmas. I’m sure they both know the story, but it will probably be retold next week and they’ll learn more of the stories that we tell about Daddy. I love that Daddy’s story and discoveries about his life didn’t end with his death.

Brandt and Connor in Dad’s Air Force uniforms. It was hard for us to fathom that Dad had ever been that slim.

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