Monday, November 5, 2012

"One hell of a cowboy in Heaven."

CLT, November 13, 1948-November 5, 2010

When I was little (you know, still sleeping in the same bed with Leigh Ann because we were both scared "little"....i.e. probably still 10 or 11;)), I didn't like to go to sleep until I had said to Mom and Dad, "nighty night, love you, see you in the morning." For whatever reason, this simple phrase was the thing that made me feel at peace; it was my warm milk, or my prayer, or my few minutes of WBKO news. This silly redundancy of words, the origin of which is unknown to me (name one other person who says "nighty night":)...) just made me feel settled.

And, you know what? My parents always made a point to humor me.  It didn't matter what time either came in (Mom might be at a night class, Dad on some horse-related or farm-piddling trip), they always walked back to the room that is now Isabella's and quietly responded in kind.  I can even remember telling Mom, "I don't care what time Dad comes in, make sure he comes back and tells us nighty night."

In retrospect, however, I don't think I enjoyed this ritual solely because it helped mark off a daily"to-do." I imagine (and I'm not one for psychoanalysis or anything) that I liked this little phrase because it was also the one time of the day that Dad and I both told each other we loved each other. You see, my father, the man whose passion for his farm and family was certainly obvious in deed, was very stoic when it came to words.  In fact, I don't really remember he and I mentioning that we "loved each other" until the last year of his life (we probably wore him out telling him in the hospital:)). This never bothered me, however, for two reasons: 1) I am my father's daughter in many ways, and this happens to be one of them.  I can be guarded with my emotions even if if my heart is full.; 2) He literally showed me every single day how much he loved me and our family. 

So, he may have been a man of few words (ha, well at least when it came to gushy stuff:)), an emotional crime to some, but I honestly never felt slighted. And even though I may have secretly enjoyed the "nighty night" business because I got to hear him say it, I didn't "need" it...I didn't need it because I had these things:

A father who would let me go to the barn with him and "help" no matter how much I was likely in the way.

A father who showed us how to bottle feed calves and strip tobacco and ride ponies.

A father who would bring said ponies to the yard during birthday parties and take our friends for rides; or to the county fair so Leigh and I could win a trophy.

A father who would wear me out if I needed it. We kind of giggled at Mom and her fly swat; Dad's spanks typically curbed whatever behavior got us on the wrong side of his hand in the first place.

A father who took us sledding and fishing and to George Strait concerts.

A father who helped with our math homework, making more sense in 10 minutes than an entire class lecture had earlier in the day.

A father who introduced me to Lyle Lovett and Chris LeDoux in the passenger seat of a pickup truck heading to Oklahoma.

A father who came to every ballgame and track meet, no matter if it was weekend or workweek. And the man who would let me and/or the referee "have it" if he felt we weren't playing up to our potential.:)

A father who told the same stories, often from his favorite brown leather chair in the living room, but who found a way to make them even funnier each time.

A father who was both quick-witted foolish and incredibly and perceptively smart.

A father who had a keen sense of justice and morality, one based less on religion or politics, and more so on the simple notion of "just do things the right way/treat people the right way simply because you should."

A father who respected a huge variety of people and taught his kids to do the same. Dad didn't care about race or gender or class or sexual orientation. He appreciated "shoot 'em straight, honest, hard-working" people. 

A father who took us for Sunday drives.

A father who drove around beater trucks, embarrassing his middle-school daughters, with the same sense of pride as those in expensive little sports cars. 

A father without pretense. A man comfortable in his own skin. A dad who thus helped his daughters be the same (Mom, I couldn't have said it any better than you).

A father who asked about my day even while he was in the hospital. 

A father who loved Isaiah, Lydia, and Caroline as though they were blood kin.

A father who I felt really "got me." Dad always seemed to understand my wandering ways even when they were mixed with a contradictory desire to feel settled.

A father whose courage and humility motivate me everyday. I don't think I will ever witness someone whose fortitude to stay alive, and really be "alive," is so strong.

A father who was a realist. He never felt sorry for himself or as though he was "above" cancer.

A father who just grinned when I caught him eating Doritos and chewing tobacco while taking a chemo infusion.  I'll never forget his response to my concerned pleas that maybe neither were a good idea: "Yeah, I'd hate for something to kill me."

A father who gave me more funny, endearing, and pride-inducing memories in 30 years than many have from parent-child relationships that last much longer. 
So, to the father I never told nearly enough, but the father who knew me well enough to make it unnecessary.... I love you so much.


  1. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

    1. Thank you so much, Jessica, for taking the time to read it:)

  2. Liza, you have completely captured the essence of CLT with this beautifully written entry. You are right when you said he was a man of few words when it came to the "gushy stuff", but we always knew we were the center of his world. He was the type of man that let his feelings be known without having to utter a word. I still love thinking about the times Curtis had worn all of us out with the horse trips to Oklahoma (many of which were to drive straight there, unload or pick up a horse, and then turn right around and head back to Waterview) and you would say I'm going with Dad so he won't be by himself. I would watch you struggle to climb in that pick up truck and think, "she is just like him." (I still cannot believe I would let you go.) I must have known that you were in good hands, and of course I knew you would be fed. There were hundreds of Waffle Houses between here and Oklahoma of which I'm confident we have eaten at each and every one.

    CLT was a passionate man about so many things. He may not have expressed his emotions, but we always knew where he stood. Eventhough he would try to act calm and collected on the outside, I knew he was excited and "torn up" on the inside especially when it came to watching his horses on the track. Now, when it came to watching you girls play basketball or run track, his passion definitely showed and could be heard by people in an entire gym or at a high school track meet. (If you remember I would not sit with him at ball games for fear of us both being thrown out by the refs to whom he verbally critiqued their performance as well).

    I am not going to keep repeating what you have so accurately stated in this blog, but I do want to expand on one more point. I have not experienced in anyone else in my life the courage and determination Curtis displayed throughout his battle with cancer. He was an inspiration to me everyday of his life particularly after the diagnosis given to him in 2000 up until his death in 2010. He never gave into the fact he had this dreadful disease. He continued living his life in the same way he did before the diagnosis. I am talking about farming his land, snaking logs out of the woods using his big work horses, bushhogging and weed eating as many weeds as he could find on Turner Farm, manually tearing down an old farm house/log house piece by piece rock by rock (and this was about 7 years after the diagnosis) and countless other tasks that were required to keep this farm up to his standards. It was in the final two years that I remember as being such a struggle for him, but once again he never gave in. His final days were a testament to the man your dad was. The number of people whose lives he had touched made a point to visit and tell wonderful stories (and some of which were colorful and enlightening ones) of the teacher, horse trainer, role model, friend CLT was to them. We Turner girls will always have wonderful memories of the man we call our husband, father and Pa. The love he showed to us was and is reciprocated many times over.

    1. Mom, I honestly don't know where to start or how I could ever appropriately respond. I think I'll just leave it at I love you so much. Thank you for the way you all handled the last 10 years and for the love I saw every day for my 30 years.

  3. Expertly written and something I thoroughly enjoyed reading. I get so much joy out of hearing all of you talk about Curtis, and it's done in a way that makes me feel like I was there witnessing those stories unfold. Every time I hear any of you talk about him, I wonder what he would have thought of me. Would he and i get along, or would it be one of those awkward, strained in-law relationships simply because the two of us seem to be so different?

    In any case, I feel like my life is worse for not getting the opportunity to really get to know the father of the woman I love more than anything, and I am further reminded of that fact each time I hear you all speak of him with a glowing smile. But I still love it every time and wish I could call myself lucky enough to have really known him.

    1. Zach,
      I'm sure if one were to make a list of your all's characteristics and interests, that person might assume you all were very different. However, I have no doubt you would've gotten along... for three primary reasons (although I'm sure they are more):
      1. Dad was witty, but also deceivingly foolish. He would've gotten a kick out of your "pull your pants up to your chest" bit.
      2. You all could've screamed at the tv together during UK ballgames.
      3. You adored the same girl.

      I'm so happy you are part of the family now and he would've been to. You make Adrienne happy and will take care of her. Above all else, that is what he would've cared about.

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