I’ve heard from several of you and I had no idea so many were checking the site to see if a new post was up yet. Thanks for all your kind words.
I have mixed emotions about writing this post. Not so much for myself as for some of you who will read it. My Mom has told me how much she enjoys reading my posts even when they make her cry. And I’m sure a few days after this is published I’ll hear from her…
Saturday, April 4 is our son Michael’s 26th birthday. For those of you who don’t know, we lost Michael on May 25, 2004 in an automobile accident. But this isn’t about his death; I want to celebrate the memories of his life.
What a kid! Michael had a great personality and he never met a stranger. He had a passion for sports and he excelled in basketball. In high school, our home was the home where all the guys gathered every Sunday for an afternoon of basketball. They also knew there was always plenty of food after the game.
Elaine and I never knew how many kids would show up but I can’t remember ever not having enough food. I remember one Sunday after church we processed some meat we had in the freezer and we spent most of the day making sausage. I was tired and had just finished cleaning up when the guys started arriving to play basketball. They started asking, “What are we eating today Mr. Reeh?”
Elaine and I were both dead tired and we just looked at each other and smiled. Well, they started playing basketball and we starting making meatballs from the fresh sausage we had just made. It seems like we made 1000 meatballs. I don’t think I fixed anything other than meatballs and a pan full of biscuits but you would have thought it was an 8 course meal when those kids sat at the table.
Elaine always had 2 rules when the guys sat down at our table; no hats and you had to have a shirt on. The guys always picked on her but they respected her rules and they all complied. I remember one Sunday when she had to remind Anthony to take off his hat at the table. Ben spoke up and said his Mom had the same rules plus she required them to have their shoes on! After that the guys never complained.
That particular Sunday when we made the meatballs, the guys, once they got full, started to drift away from the table until there was just Kevin and myself left. I always got a kick out of Kevin. When he would spend Friday nights at our house he was usually the first one up on Saturday mornings and I’d find him in front of the TV watching cartoons. I had long since finished eating but sat there visiting with Kevin amazed and wondering where he was putting everything he was eating. Finally there were only about 2 meatballs and a biscuit left and he started to push his plate away and I told him “No way you’re getting up from this table and leaving that little bit of food.” He grinned and told me he didn’t want to be rude and take the last few bites and with that, the rest of the food disappeared.
I know there were times when Michael would have rather gone to one of his friend’s house to play ball on Sundays rather than stay home but they always out voted him and came to our house. Elaine and I loved having all them over each week.
Did I mentioned Michael loved basketball? That is an understatement; he lived and breathed basketball. In his sophomore year his basketball coach asked him to represent his team in the Slam Dunk contest at Lamar University. The Slam Dunk is an annual fundraiser for the Children’s Miracle Network. Well, Michael agreed and spent hours on the driveway practicing. He had the height but Michael’s coordination was not, how can I say it… pretty.
The night of the competition he didn’t make a single dunk and was eliminated in the first round but you would never have known it talking with him. He was upbeat and excited. What none of us realized was that night lit a fire in Michael and the next year he not only represented his school but he walked out on that same court one year later and won the whole competition hands down. He wasn’t as smooth and showy as most of the other competitors but every dunk went through the basket and that’s what counted. To say that Elaine and I were proud would be an understatement. Truthfully, we were surprised and shocked. We knew Michael had the fundamentals down and that he practiced hard but what I learned that night was how big his heart was.
After high school Michael ended up at Lamar and joined a fraternity. There were many weekends when he and his frat brothers were on the road to New Braunfels to see a concert at Gruene Hall. I got a big kick out of it when Michael started listening to Texas music. He and I always tried to find a song that we could stump each other with. It was a fun competition between us to find a song that the other one hadn’t heard yet. He’d come home with a new CD and we’d listen to it and he’d ask me if I’d heard such and such a song and I’d tell him yeah, only I heard it about 30 years ago and it was recorded by Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings or Jerry Jeff Walker!
Michael was working for me in my retail business and I remember one week posting the work schedule for the following week. Michael was scheduled to work on Saturday. What I didn’t remember was that he and his brothers had a road trip scheduled that same Saturday to see Roger Creager at Gruene Hall. What happened next is one of my favorite memories of Michael.
He didn’t say anything at the store about his plans. He waited until after work that evening and he came by the house to see me. I was in the barn doing something when he walked in with a couple of beers in his hand. He handed me one and we chatted a few minutes and he asked me if he could talk with me about the schedule. I said sure, what’s up. When he told me about the concert I remembered that he had asked in advance for that day off and I had forgotten about it when I made out the schedule. I thanked him for the way he handled it and told him to be safe and enjoy his trip that I would work for him. I was impressed that he came to me in private to talk about the schedule but at that time I didn’t think too much about it. However, after all that’s happened I now think back to that day often and thank God for letting me have that memory. I count that day as special because I can say that I was able to witness the point in Michael’s life when he was no longer a child, he was a man.
There are so many other memories that are special like a nasty North Carolina ball cap that he always wore. I think it was powder blue when it was new. He wore that hat so much I almost felt sorry for the hat! And I never knew why but he always wore 2 t-shirts…. a white t-shirt under his “dress” t-shirt. That was just Michael.
It wasn’t until after Michael was gone that I learned some of his friends from a previous job had given him a nickname; they called him Cornbread! When I first heard it I just smiled. I would have really enjoyed picking on him about his nickname…
Happy Birthday Michael,
Love – Pops