April 12th

Today was April 12 on steroids.

Allow me to explain. Dad passed away on April 12, 2008. It was VEISHEA Saturday (although it snowed that year–rotten day). This year, should have been VEISHEA Saturday (sans the snafu which took place earlier this week).

“Flashbacks” to his final hours are common for me this time of year. Most days I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast, but for some reason the details of those moments are embedded in my brain. It’s special, in it’s own way. How many times, do you wish you could remember a life event more clearly? How many times do you wish the hours in a day would slow, so you had just a little more time? That morning I prayed to lengthen every single second.

It’s not just date that made this April 12 steroid-worthy. It’s the fact a massive dose of nostalgia joined the fray in the form of Damon’s (baby brother), junior prom. Usually I post “good memories” first-thing the morning of April 12. Today, it didn’t seem right. After all, Damon was going to a “ball” (see explanation below). It’s not every day I have a weekend open up to torment him:

WLVA/ESC prom 14 years apart. As it turns out, the Damon has changed a bit during that time. (I, of course look exactly the same...) Ha!

WLVA/ESC prom 14 years ago vs. today.  As it turns out, the Damon has changed a bit during that time. (I, of course look exactly the same…) Ha!

He cleaned up quite well. It helped that Peyton dressed him. ;)

He cleaned up quite well. It helped that Peyton dressed him. ;)

His mannerisms and much of his vocal inflection is so similar to Dad’s, it’s amazing. This morning he was showing me the rented tux shoes and did the infamous “shoe dance,” a staple of Dad’s anytime he got a new pair of duds. He’s such a great kid, I’m really quite proud of him (do NOT repeat in his presence, I need to save that ammunition for when I need it).

Have to throw in the requisite "kid" photo, too. The girls loved Peyton's dress, and were awfully proud of Damon for bringing her to a "ball." Guessing the steady diet of Disney princess movies are rubbing off

Have to throw in the requisite “kid” photo, too. The girls loved Peyton’s dress, and were awfully proud of Damon for bringing her to a “ball.” Guessing the steady diet of Disney princess movies are rubbing off.

In any case, I need this day to also honor the memory of Mark Cook. It’s tradition, and frankly April 12 would just suck without the effort:

"It's not worth getting up in the morning unless there's coffee." --Mark Cook

“It’s not worth getting up in the morning unless there’s coffee.” –Mark Cook

I agree with this philosophy whole-heartedly. I also agree with his other coffee philosophies–make it as hot, dark and strong as possible. When drastic measures need to be taken, enjoy with a piece of pie or other confectionary item/baked good.

Anyone remember this?

Anyone remember this?

I’m positive each of his children and his wife have been ejected from the bed of this truck while on “watering” duty. He would drive, and we would man the massive hose on the back of the tank to water the trees. Dad loved trees. They were his passion, and if he planted one it was pampered all spring/summer/fall compliments of Big Bird. It smelled like 1950′s dust and diesel fuel, shifted hard enough to knock a hole in the road, and daylight could be seen through the floorboards and around the door seals. This truck was an institution, and Dad loved it. The man LOVED new vehicles, yet he fixed this thing until it literally couldn’t be fixed anymore. Must be a dude thing.

Awww.

Awww.

The man LOVED babies. I think he would have had enough to fill a bus if Mom would have let him. Somehow all kids gravitated toward him as well. Maybe it was the beard (which I only saw him without one time in my life). He never actively worked to get toddler attention, just let them wander over to him, play with his beard, read the newspaper, go through sales notes, etc.. Pretty soon both Dad and baby were sacked out on the couch.

Combining his favorite things in life: his kids (most of the time, anyway), the written word and the great outdoors

Combining his favorite things in life: his kids (most of the time, anyway), the written word and the great outdoors. This photo was taken with a really young Lexie right before we moved to the farm.

He loved to read. My earliest memories are Dad reading to us before bed. Side note: notice the cat in the background on this photo. That was Abby, at the time, our favorite animal, and Dad’s arch nemesis. She used to hide in the upstairs linen closet until after story time so he wouldn’t kick her to the basement. He used to pretend to walk-down the stairs after story time to catch her, and banish her to the basement.

I woke up with this song in my head this morning. It was his favorite. Careful, don’t listen to it too much, the song is like a virus. As soon as it’s in your head you cannot get it out!

That. Damn. Hat.

That. Damn. Hat.

You know how some guys have a “uniform?” Dad’s was a Cook Siding hat (trucker mesh in the summer, and solid foam in the winter), with a crisp white shirt. To this day, I refuse to iron my clothes. Liss and I used to have knock down, drag out fights on which one of us had to tackle the dreaded “shirt pile.” Seriously, we counted them after he died, the man had 48 white, button down dress shirts–all of which, had to be ironed. FORTY-EIGHT. I don’t own 48 of anything, and if a piece of clothing can’t be “ironed” in the dryer, I don’t buy it. Ever.

His stone.

His stone.

If I wasn’t afraid of getting hailed on tonight, I would have sat at the cemetery on his bench and watched the weather roll in from the south. He used to sit on the front deck of the house to watch the storms form over the fields. The rest of the family would be in the basement. We’d emerge after the worst had passed to find him still sacked out in his lawn chair, sipping on Crown and smoking one of the forbidden cigars.

20140412_202007

Mom and Dad decided together what would be etched on the stone. I can’t imagine anything more perfect than the tree of life they chose. The roots are the names of our grandparents. The heart carved in the middle of the tree reads “Mark + Cathy, Feb. 14, 1981″ and the branches are the names of the kids.