Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving with Tom... and Arlo

For as long as I can document (2004) and as long as I can recall (2001), Tom and I drove to Arlington to spend Thanksgiving with his family. We generally left early Thanksgiving morning to avoid the traffic and came home Sunday morning again to skip expensive hours on I-45.

The weekend was a special time for Tom and I. We had a quiet hours in the car together and always managed to take one or two quiet walks during the days or evenings. Tom and his family were very good at relaxing...I was less successful, so we often found activities to keep me busy like short runs and long runs, and even shopping trips. Once Tom and I even accumulated 32 bags of leaves from the front yard to burn off energy.

We did have one very special tradition that always happened. It happened on the drive up, or on a walk Thanksgiving night. It even happened in 2008 on Tom's last Thanksgiving. We would listen to Alice's Restaurant. If you don't know the tune, it is an 18 minute song by Arlo Guthrie about the draft. But it takes a while to figure that out. It sounds like a song about littering:
"Until we came to a side road, and off the side of the side road there was another fifteen foot cliff and at the bottom of the cliff there was another pile of garbage. And we decided that one big pile is better than two little piles, and rather than bring that one up we decided to throw our's down."
and evidence
"...the twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one."

We would huddle up and sing along each and every word, cracking up the entire time.

I promise, you really should download this song. Or watch it in YouTube. But close your eyes. And imagine Tom harmonizing, groovin', with a very happinin' look on his face. Like the picture above (taken at an equally cool pub roll).

And then sing along:
"You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant
Excepting Alice
You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant
Walk right in it's around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad track
You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant."

Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tom the Minister

As a few of you knew, and many more learned at Tom's service, Tom was a minister.

Now, I preface everything I am about to write with this: I really don't understand at a deep level what Tom believed. I encourage anyone reading this to correct me so I can accurately try and explain Tom's beliefs.

Tom studied with the The Michaels Foundation ever since I knew him and for decades before that. He was in a phone class every possible Monday night, and spent hours studying and writing about what he learned. Tom went to the annual conferences as a speaker and a student.

Tom was a Christian and spent his life advocating love and peace. He did not believe in death but in the transcendence to another level. Then the concepts get hard.

Tom would try and teach me. He would read to me cool passage from The Urantia Book or discuss thoughts Jean (his teacher and mentor) shared. But he might as well have been talking rocket science or Greek. I flat did not get it. But Tom loved the friends and people in the group, and clearly living the belief system made him one fine guy.

In trying to learn more about the doctrine I went to the Michaels Foundation website and am embarrassed to say that after reading and reading it is still outside my grasp. I do however, see some core concepts that helped make Tom what he was.

The Michaels Foundation Inc., a non-profit organization, is dedicated to the dissemination and teaching of the highest Truth available here and the highest Goals available to humanity on our planet — to foster peace and brotherhood. Since we cannot get off this world permanently in this life — we must change it and make it safe for humanity and for our children's future. Universal truth is for everyone!

Our perception is that one person cannot make a difference, but if you are good, you are great! Reaching for a goal that touches all around you with stability, sincerity and love will change far more than you realize! Our perception of what is real, what is possible, and what is attainable is critical to our comfort and peace of mind. Our perceptions, not facts, shape our lives, our environment, and our future.

Clearly Tom lived this belief as his life and death have made changes in the world view and experience of so many people. Check out to learn more.

Tom's Mercedes

Way back when, Tom came home with an old, small, Mercedes convertible. This was a heck of an impulse buy for a 6’4” 200 pound man. He really loved the car but not having a mechanical bone in his body, and having a lot of body to fit in the little car, Tom did not get to drive it as much as he would have liked.

The hard top needed two people to take off, the rag top was a heck of a trick to take down, and every time the car sat for two weeks without being driven it needed a jump or a tow. I am certain there is a Merc mechanic out there wondering how to pay for his daughter’s last year at Harvard, since we sold the car. But I get ahead of myself.

Toms’ red car had a special place in both of hearts and in our driveway. It proved to be an unwise purchase but somewhere between knowing that, and Tom’s love for the car I never could get mad at him about it. I pretended it was a BIG pot of red geraniums outside our kitchen window.

Late in December 2008, when Tom was no longer driving, my dad got the great idea to sell the car in Germany. Ironically enough there is a big demand for older Mercedes in Germany. Even when they are shipped over and fitted to meet EU standards they can be very profitable. My cousin Stefan was interested and I approached Tom. By this time Tom had not been driving for over two months and felt it was time to let go of his red dream car. He was hoping it would get a new home.

On December 31, the last full day Tom had at home, my dad and Uncle Pat came over and Uncle Pat gave that car the cleaning of its life. He detailed that car so it looked like new. Uncle Pat washed and polished and waxed and loved on that car until is shined like a mirror. I rolled Tom out in his wheelchair and when he saw the car, so red and pretty, it was the biggest smile I had seen in a while. He was so very happy that it was heading to a new, active home.

The car made it to Germany and Stefan fell in love with it. He had it completely restored from leather seats to a new soft top and lots and lots of parts and pieces in between. And as you might guess, the Merc was never sold. Stefan and his wife Carola kept it and drive on warm sunny days and down to vacations in southern Europe. Tom's spirit lives in that car, in Germany, and in the hearts of Stefan and Carola.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Gordon and Julia

Tom met Gordon on a job in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1997. Gordon was a freelancer and during the course of the event Tom and Gordon became quite close. Gordon, and his now wife Julia, came to Texas and stayed with us twice. They were excellent low key visits, with lots of relaxing and some fun in between. Tom and Gordon were very much the same: hard working, easy going men with great laughs and quick smiles.

With challenges on both sides of the ocean Tom and I were unable to go to Gordon and Julia's wedding and they were unable to come to Tom's service. But our bond remains strong. Gordon emailed this just a few days ago:

I have waited a while before contacting you so that you have had time to yourself, we both think of you often and hope you are keeping well.

I have made a special “Tribute to Tom Picture Frame” which is in our lounge and I would like to explain how it is made up from top left to bottom right.

1. A Dollar bill which we had left over from our last trip
2. A hand written note from Tom & Yourself when he posted the T Shirt I left behind at the Fire Museum (We always kept it on our Fridge)
3. Your Christmas message from your last card (I cut this out from the picture card bottom left)
4. Tom’s work & cell numbers for us to contact him if we needed to
5. A ticket to the Natural Science Museum from our first trip in 2002
6. Our ticket to the Livestock Rodeo Show in 2002
7. This is a picture of the crew who worked on the 2nd Cooper Cameron show in Aberdeen 1997
8. I cut this picture of a Stetson as it reminds me of Tom (It was from a postcard from the shop Tom took us to where I bought my Leather Jacket)
9. Our ticket to the baseball game “Houston Astros v Los Angeles Dodgers” in 2006
10. This is a picture of us both outside your house in 2002 (The original is still on our window sill in our lounge)
11. The Christmas Card you sent us
12. The badge I got from our visit to Houston Fire Station 82
13. The British Airways ticket stubs from our first trip in 2002
14. Your senders address that I cut out from your Christmas Card envelope

Tom and I have been blessed in so many ways, chief among them with our friends. Thank you so much for honoring Tom with this tribute.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Our first touch

Tom and I met at work. It was UT/TV. Maybe it was 1990 or so. I got a job fresh out of graduate school working with two writer/producers. Tom worked with his business partner as directors, editors, and videographers. My team did not like Tom’s team and Tom’s team really did not like us. But Tom and I hit it off.


We started dating on some federal holiday like President’s Day or MLK Day. A day off work. It was a sloooow start. I lived in Montrose in a cute little house. He lived in an apartment over off 1960.

One night we went out and I don’t know if it was the first date or the fifth but we went into this gas station on the corner of Montrose and Westheimer. Tom was paying for something and I was at the counter with him. And the pinky of his right hand touched the pinky of my left hand. It was an accident. Neither one of us moved and I don’t know about Tom but I swear the earth stopped moving. I could not think and I could not breathe and all I was thinking was that we were touching! We were touching! People in movie theaters blocks away could not hear because the beating of my heart was so loud. We were touching! It was the single most memorable second of happiness in my life.

When Tom was in the hospital last January, I would lean over and sing to him. It was always the same little derivation of “You are my sunshine” and when I would finish he would always say “I love that song.” And then I would ask him how many kisses he wanted. If it is was me laying there I would have said 892. But Tom was much more actualized, far less greedy, and believed in tomorrow. He always said numbers like “seven”, or “five”. The last time we did it he said “six”. And they were good kisses. I put my hands on both sides of his face just like he did the day we got married. And we had six slow, gentle kisses. And two for good luck.

And those kisses were even better, though I never would have believed it, than our brushed pinkies on the corner of Montrose and Westheimer.