Monday, October 15, 2007

Stan the Man

Dear Stan,

I think I just need to reminisce a bit. I know that’s what I need to do because that’s the way that I remember things that have happened and people that I love. Your family and ours go back a long way, Stan. I don’t think you were at home the evening that really sealed the closeness of Fran, Bob, Frank, and me. I’m sure you remember the Amway days. Who could forget them? You might never have known that they began with a lie.

One Friday afternoon, I called your mom and told her that Frank and I would be in their neighborhood that evening, ostensibly for eating at a restaurant somewhere near the beach. I told her that I needed to pick her brain about how she was teaching Julius Caesar that year. I guess that wasn’t completely a lie, but the real reason for our visit was for Frank to “prospect” Bob for Amway. He took the bait . . . and our lasting friendship began. And so began, also, the friendship between you and Wendy and Jay. It was also the beginning of many antics with the three of you.

You are exactly twenty days older than Wendy, making you about four and a half years older than Jay. That’s important for what I want to tell about the three of you. In the summer of 1975 (you and Wendy were 12, and Jay was about 7), the seven of us set out for Washington, D.C., in our Oldsmobile station wagon, headed for the big Amway Convention on the eve of our nation’s 200th birthday, dragging our trailer behind. You three children were so cute, playing on the back seat all day and cavorting in the campground in the evening. You and Wendy really knew how to keep a younger brother in line. In fact, Wendy refers to it as torturing the little boy. If I remember correctly, Jay poked the tiniest hole in the back of the second seat in the station wagon. You and Wendy assured him that if they told on him, we would practically kill him. What a great way to get a seven-year-old to do everything you wanted him to do! Even more mischief from the three of you . . . while we four adults were at the Amway rally one evening, you almost got us thrown out of the hotel by whooping and hollering and using the beds as trampolines. The manager scared you so badly that by the time we got back to the rooms, you were docile little children, assuring us you didn’t know why in the world he got so angry. The manager filled us in pretty accurately.

That vacation really tested the waters for the two families. We laughed often about the trip, and all of us thought that being together in a station wagon and a trailer at night for a whole week and still being friends when we got back to Pensacola was a true test of friendship. That was thirty-two years ago. Our make-up of our families here on earth has changed, but your mom is still a best friend. She has lots of best friends, and all of us will take care of her for you.

When Fran asked me to say a few words today, she knew that that word FEW wouldn’t be observed because I never said in ten words what could better be said in one hundred. I told her that what I have to say would be humorous in nature because I knew you best when you were so cute and funny . . . She gave me permission, so here goes with some of the things that I remember.

One day when you and Jay were playing in his room, Jay came running down the stairs (how do I say this delicately in church?) . . . clutching his privates. He was trying so hard not to scream in agony, but his efforts weren’t working too well. I said, “What in the world happened?” He told me that you and he had been playing with his BB gun, and it went off. He was so afraid that Mrs. Crumpton would find out and you’d get in all sorts of trouble. He knew that “tough love” that Fran used on you, and he thought you might not ever see the light of day again. This was a story that Jay loved to tell, and you know it grew more elaborate every time he told it.

I believe that story because I looked and saw the results of the BB gun; however, this next story is one that I always questioned. Jay could tell such good stories, playing to his audience and elaborating more and more with each telling. How I wish I had asked you about this while you were here with us, but I was always afraid Fran would hear me and worry about it in retrospect. Jay told us many years after the fact that one night you stopped at our house; Jay went out on the balcony and down to your car; and the two of you had a grand old time. I never asked for details, but I’ll just bet you did! There are some things that are just better left unknown to mothers. I never told your mom about this because I knew she’d use that “tough love” again. And I didn’t want to be the one who generated that!

Another thing I remember has to do with a good friend of so many of us . . . VS, Virginia Stephens. You two had a mutual admiration society if I ever saw one. All of us adults saw both her inner and outer beauty. I guess you knew about her inward beauty, but the outer is what you mentioned. One day, you said to your mom, “Mrs. Stephens always looks so pretty. Do you suppose she uses Oil of Olay?” Pretty observant for a little boy, huh?

And now, Stan, I have to tell you that you were a role model to Jay when he was growing up. And that was a good thing. You always had such a good head on your shoulders, but you also had a wonderful sense of humor. Do you remember your Johnny Cash imitation? I won’t do it now because it’s a bit too irreverent for church. You taught Jay well because he could do it just the way you did. He even had facial expressions that made me say, “That’s Stan!” And I loved it. Thanks for the influence.

When I told your mom that most of what I’d reminisce about took place when you were a little boy, she said, “Tell a story for me!” I love this one because it pictures both you and my friend, Fran so perfectly. Your mom took you to football practice every Saturday morning when you were about ten. This was during the time when you lived on the beach. Just about the time that she would turn at Hardee’s in Gulf Breeze, she’d begin to pray out loud. She’d pray for the safety of the team, for the little boys to play fairly, for the coaching ability of the man in charge. Pretty much what you’d expect your mom to pray for. One morning when she turned the corner and you were still putting on your football gear, you leaned forward and said to her, “You don’t need to pray this morning, Mom.” Fran was so surprised and said, “Why not?” “Because Coach will pray, and he prays for us to win!”

And here’s another one that Fran told me. When you were in Karla Summerford’s class in 9th grade, you played the part of Romeo in the class performance. The night before the play, your mom (ever the English teacher!) just had to give you some last-minute performance instructions. “Now, Stan,” she said, “don’t look into the eyes of the audience because some of your FRIENDS might try to get you tickled.” “Oh, mom, don’t worry. I’ve got everything under control!” And he probably did . . . until the time for the cast to introduce themselves rolled around. When your turn came, you said very self-assuredly, “I’m Romeo, playing the part of Stan Adams.” Was this a slip . . . or were you as usual trying to get a laugh? If I were a betting woman, I’d put my money on the latter.

This story is from your Pine Forest High School days. Again, though, it involves you and Wendy and Jay. Every year, a club (maybe Key Club?) had a talent show. You were always able to come up with something really creative . . . something that would make the audience howl with laughter. Steve Martin was very popular during the early ‘80s, and you capitalized on that. You and several of your friends (wish I could remember their names) did a hilarious rendition of the comedian’s “King Tut.” Oh, my goodness, but it was funny! You high school boys were a real hit, but you also had a little guy in your performance. During lunch that day, you and Wendy slipped off to Bellview Middle School and “stole” Jay. I guess the two of you made up some story about having to take him to the doctor or something, but those gullible secretaries in the office believed whatever it was that you told them. Before you began the routine, you set Jay on top of the speakers. He was so little that his legs dangled while he played the music on the recorder (flute). I think I remember that you guys won first place in the talent contest. If you didn’t, you should have! Years later, when Jay went to Europe with us, we had a talent show in Switzerland. Once again you were a model for him. He and a bunch of guys on the tour did their “King Tut,” complete with the same kinds of costumes that you and your friends had . . . towels wrapped around their middles and big spoons covered with foil and strapped around their heads for the “snakes.” Both performances were absolutely wonderful!

I could write lots more, Stan, but I need to bring this to a close. The last time I saw you was at the house in Mackey Cove. Your mom invited us to her house for dinner when Irina, our Russian daughter, and her mother, Olga, were visiting us. As always it was elegant. Nikki and a friend of hers were there, and you had prepared most of the dinner. It was delicious! I have a great picture of you standing at the stove putting the finishing touches on whatever it was that you were cooking. That culinary education at PJC certainly did serve you well! And that leads me to something else.

When Jay died, his friends immediately figured out why he was no longer with them. They were convinced that the Lord needed a new bass player in his Heavenly Band. I liked that. Well, we might be able to explain your early death in a similar way. All of your experience working with Miss Josie at Joe Patti’s Deli surely did prepare you. You remember all that fish that Jesus prepared for his disciples? I just wonder if He needed you to give him a little help at his big fish fries in heaven. I know this isn’t biblical, but it surely does give a little balm to the hurting heart right now.

And now to bring us right up to date. Be assured that we’ll take care of your daughter, Nikki. You might not have always liked that “tough love” that Fran used with you; however, from what I understand from Fran, you used a lot of it on your Nikki. You were probably a soft touch in a lot of ways, though. What a wonderful young lady she has turned out to be! Heredity and home training make children into responsible and caring adults. Your Nikki is a lovely young lady who exhibits these traits and many more. She’ll continue to make you proud.

I have a picture in my mind, Stan, and with that I’ll close. I know just as sure as I know anything that Wednesday morning, when you went from this life on earth, Jay and Bob and all of those other loved ones who went before you, were waiting for you. I can hear my boy Jay saying, “Stan the Man! What took you so long? Come on in . . . you’re gonna love it here!”

We already miss you, Stan, but we’ll join you someday.


For Fran

On Wednesday, October 10, 2007, Fran Crumpton's boy, Stan Adams, went to live with the Lord. Fran asked me to say a few words, which wound up being many words, at Stan's funeral on Saturday, October 13. And so I did. I've posted here what I said to Fran. The next post is the letter that I wrote to Stan. Please read and remember the good times that we had with Stan the Man Adams!

October 13, 2007
If you’ll excuse me for just a minute, I’d like to talk to my friend Fran before I reminisce a bit about our boy Stan. First of all, I bring you greetings, sympathy, love, and hugs from the Big Five of 1981: Wendy Young, Gus Krucke, Danny Stohl, Beth McLeod, and Earby Matheny, who is visiting Wendy right now with his wife and five children, and his mother-in-law. In fact, six of these people are staying at our house while we’re here with you.

Fran, you are an inspiration to everyone in this room. You always talk about others as being your role models, but you, my dear, are the consummate role model. During the thirty something years that we have been friends, you have lost both parents, your only two sisters-in-law, Stan’s father, Bob’s son, and then Bob. Through all of these losses, your faith has never wavered, you have comforted others when they were at a loss as to how to comfort you, and you smiled . . . sometimes with tears in your eyes, but nevertheless, we were cheered by that beautiful smile.

On Wednesday morning, Stan also went to be with the Lord. I’m sure you’ve asked, “Why, Lord? Why Stan? He was so young and had so much life still ahead of him.” Well, dear friend, you won’t get the answers to these questions in this lifetime. Someday we’ll approach Jesus with our list of questions, and these will be among yours. Right now, your heart is so broken that you may not be seeing any light at the end of the tunnel, but I’ll give you a little saying that the Lord gave to me right after Jay died, fifteen years ago. So many well-meaning people said to me, “How will you ever get over Jay’s death?” It was so clear to me. I replied, “It’s an English-teacher thing, a lesson in prepositions . . . we’ll never get over his death, but we’ll get through it.” And get through it we did because of our faith, our prayers and the prayers of others, and the love and nurturing of Christian friends like you, Fran. You, too, will get through this agonizing time with those same three things. We love you, Fran. Let us help you in your grief as we grieve along with you.

When Bob died, you asked me to say a few words at his funeral. I couldn’t refuse my friend Fran. As Frank and I drove home from the gathering at your house on the evening before the funeral, I was getting panicky. I still hadn’t figured out what I would say or how I would say it. Again, the Lord spoke to me and gave me the answer: “Write a letter to Bob. He’d like that, especially since you never wrote a letter to him while he was alive.” I knew when you asked me to speak today that I’d have to write to Stan, too. As I was preparing to compose my letter, a quotation came back to me. Every year in April or May, I’d write this quotation on the board so that my seniors could respond to it: “Nothing rattles like an empty mailbox.” My reason for giving this quotation to them was to encourage them to write to their parents when they went away to school. I thought it appropriate for you to have a letter right now because your mailbox may be rattling from the emptiness of not having Stan right here in person with you. This letter’s for you, my dear, dear friend.