I Wuz Just Thinking: The Ides of August

Tragic memories of a beautiful August day that brings pain whenever I think about it. Photo: J Gerald Crawford
It was a day that began during a beautiful August day and ended with a darkness I could never have imagined.

 

Soon, it will be August, the month of the birthday of our grandson, Kevin.  My mind was thinking back to when he was about two years old and would spend Saturday night with me and Jimmy and then attend Sunday church.  When the singing began, Kevin would stand up on the church pew between Grandpa and me and would just sing along in a loud voice.  He loved to sing and would turn around to see who was behind us and smile – just sweet innocence.  God certainly heard him as he was ‘singing from the heart’.

Some of the church members called him ‘Spanky’ because he was a chubby little fellow and looked like the child actor in Little Rascals television show.

After a few years, Kevin had a baby sister, Elizabeth, and later, little Christopher came along.  Kevin was such a loving big brother. He would help hold their bottles as they drank their milk and juice. He was always ready to go get clean diapers for their mom and then dispose of the soiled ones.

As the years went along, he continued being their big brother and protector, reading them stories and teaching them how to ride their trikes and then their bicycles.

One Saturday morning in August of 2002, just a couple of weeks before his 16th birthday, Kevin, his twelve-year-old sister, Liz, nine-year-old Chris, and their dad, Lee, came to visit at our home.

Kevin had a headache.  I gave him an aspirin and he took a nap in the bedroom of our four-year-old granddaughter, Rebecca.

Betty Mahurin Baker

About an hour later, he was feeling fine and showed me some of his artwork.  He had drawn a picture of a beautiful hand – similar to the drawing that depicts the hand of Jesus.  I told him how well it had been drawn. I knew it was very difficult to draw a correctly proportioned hand.

They soon left as they had plans to go to Lake Gladewater for the day, as well as do some night fishing.  They still needed to gather bait for the fish and snacks and drinks for their own tummies!

A full day of having family fun.  The hours passed by too quickly and it was later than anyone realized.  The lake guard approached their boat and let them know it was time to clear the lake as it was nearing about 10:30 p.m. Lee started the engine and drove to the boat ramp where the trailer was waiting – still attached to their pick-up truck.

Passing the Gladewater school on their way to their White Oak home, their eyes were hit by blinding bright lights racing straight toward them at a high rate of speed.

The night reverberated with the sounds of the crash, then grew quiet. The only noise was the sound of the tape player blasting from inside the other truck.

At two o’clock Sunday morning, the doorbell rang at our home.  Policemen standing there. Our stomachs were knotted from high anxiety.  The patrolmen came into the den and sat down.  Jimmy and I sat down, not knowing if we really wanted to hear what they had to tell us.

They explained what they knew of the accident.  Lee had been air-lifted to one of the hospitals in Tyler, Elizabeth and Christopher were driven by ambulance to a different hospital in Tyler, and Kevin – our Kevin – had been taken to Cottle Funeral Home in Gladewater.

All three in the hospitals had extensive body damages that required immediate surgery.  Christopher had both arms and both legs broken.  Liz had a broken ankle, both arms were broken, and she suffered a broken pelvic with internal injuries. She had been burned over most of her body from battery acid and/or radiator fluids. One of Lee’s legs was crushed from knee down.

The doctor opened his leg, took a look at it, and gathered all the broken bones, piled all the little pieces back in the wound, and sewed it together.  Lee was sent to Presbyterian Hospital where a  surgeon who specialized in difficult cases was able to place a rod in his leg so he could walk.  He is still in pain after all these years later, and he was permanently disabled, never able to hold down another job.

Four-year-old Rebecca, hearing of Kevin’s death, blamed herself. As a child, she thought it was her fault that he died because he had slept on her bed.  Hugging her, I explained that Kevin had been happy to lie down on her bed and rid himself of his headache. None of the accident had been her fault.

Elizabeth felt guilty about her brother dying. He wanted to sit next to the door, and she argued with him until she got her way and sat next to the passenger door.  Because she lived and Kevin died, she felt it should have been her with the broken neck and not her older brother.

Jimmy and I rushed to Tyler. He went to the hospital to see about Lee, and I went to the other hospital to be with the children.  My body still shakes recalling the events of that early morning and the days that followed.

The young man driving the pickup truck with the bright headlights, the blaring tape playing, and speeding way past the limit, was in a hurry. He had promised his pregnant wife to be home by eleven o’clock.  Just a few more blocks and he would spend the last hour of his twenty-first birthday with his wife and two-year-old son.

The wife had begged her husband to spend the evening at home, but instead, he wanted to go to the country club and have a few drinks with his buddies.  He was of legal age now, and it was not against the law for him to drink with friends to celebrate his birthday.

Sometime later, Jimmy and I visited Shiloh Cemetery in College Station where Kevin’s earthly body is buried.  Becca asked a lot of questions.  She missed Kevin and said she sometimes dreamed of him.

Grandpa said nothing, just wept.

August is the month we will always remember.

I wuz just thinking.

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