Thursday, November 3, 2011

"In other words..."

One of the most memorable conversations I ever had with my dad occurred one day while we were alone in UK's Markey Center. I always appreciated that he talked frankly with me about cancer, about how he wanted the last few months to go, about the decisions he and I had both made in our lives. On this particular afternoon, we were discussing the idea of "fairness" as it relates to illness. So many times we (the rest of the family) had said or heard, "It just doesn't seem right. He's young. He takes care of himself. He has so much to live for. We need him." Dad's take on it that day: "well, why not me?"

It sounds simple (as most things with any substance often do), but those four words epitomize why I respected, and continue to admire, him so much. Dad (and Mom, too) never allowed some ethereal notion of "should be" cloud what was. They never felt sorry for themselves. They understood that appreciating what they had - a supportive family, a beautiful farm, a new grandchild who shared his name - was more important than fretting about and questioning daily realities and eventual loss. They were grace and kindness and unselfishness personified. They simply "did the best they could."
In memory of CLT, November 13, 1948-November 5, 2010.

He was a farmer who loved his horses, cows, dogs, and cats almost as much as the three little pony-tailed girls who likely drove him crazy for 32 years with pleas of pony rides – both actual and the occasional “buckin’ bronc” game in the living room – , fishing trips, and opportunities to hang onto ropes and “ride” the horse walker. He was a good teacher (based on my own experience and on those that others have been kind enough to share with me), one that could make us laugh with some dry, offhand comment and scare us in the same breath with both his knowledge of “a little bit about everything” and with the pointy toes of those classic cowboy boots. He was a news watcher. He was a reader. He loved to sit in his big brown chair in the living room, often with a dog squeezed in right beside him, and pull out his favorite Wendell Berry collection. He enjoyed horse magazines just as much as books of political theory. He appreciated Kentucky authors. He had an affinity for collections about agriculture, sustainability, and simple pleasures in life. He was open to trying poetry, although it wasn’t his favorite and sometimes invoked a little eye-rolling or sarcastic comment. And, this is one of those everyday things that I will miss everyday – walking by and hearing him repeat some line he found particularly interesting or ridiculous, a line he was able to read only because he had not lost his incredibly dirty glasses that given afternoon – but one for which I am incredibly grateful.

He was a husband who made certain the paths around the wild blackberries were mowed in late summer; the son who inherited his father's work ethic and affinity for the story, his mother's sense of simple right and wrong; the dad who makes me better everyday.

He did like his shirts starched and I did/do think he walked on water.

He always liked Alan Jackson and this song has always made me think of him.

"If I live the life I'm given, I won't be scared to die."


  1. Liza, this is such a beautiful commentary on a life I always admired. I am so proud of all of you. I love you, the rest of you girls, and the strength and dignity with which you carry yourself through this life. And by the way, I am now a die hard Avett fan. They are amazing...who speaks the raw truth of life with more beautiful raucusness? And can't wait to hear more about FOLK!! Congrats! P.S. this is your cousin Holly. :)

  2. Holly is completely right, I couldn't have said it better myself. This is such a fitting tribute for Uncle Curtis. I know this weekend will be a special time to honor your dad. Love to you and the family, as always.

  3. Hi, cousins Holly and Lindsey:) Thank you for reading, thank you for taking the time to comment, and thank you for simply being a part of the life he loved so much. Holly, I think you made him laugh more than any person he knew and whether he ever said it or not, I know he admired your gumption and trust in yourself. Lindsey, I'm sure we gave him some headaches, but he nonetheless was the one yelling at us around the last turn of the track, questioning refs at basketball games we were probably going to lose anyway, and taking our phone calls when we needed a ride:). I'm glad we shared all of that with him:)

    Love you both.

  4. And Holly, you have no idea how much I love the fact that you love the Avett Brothers. I honestly think they are the best songwriters of our generation. We MUST go see them in concert together.:)

  5. I have read this beautiful piece of writing with tears in my eyes. Liza, You have captured Curtis's spirit and love of life. We were a lucky family to have had him in our lives. I miss and love him more each day. Because of him I have three of the most loving girls in the world not to mention a sweet little granddaughter.

  6. I wish I had had the opportunity to meet him. I have liked every one of his loved ones I have met... he must have been wonderful to be surrounded by such great people. You are a fitting tribute to him.

  7. Mom, I love you so very much. I am blessed to have such an amazing woman to look up to and rely upon. Thank you for being the cornerstone of the Turner/Kardashian clan.:)

    Carri, I do too! I really think you and Eric would've enjoyed him and vice versa. I feel lucky to have gotten to know you over the course of the past year; I hope a little of what you have seen in me is a reflection of him.