Tuesday, November 5, 2013

"Dress me in the clothes I wore in the day's round." - Wendell Berry

I was a little hesitant to do a post.  Even though I have written a lot about my dad since I started this blog, and particularly since his death three years ago today, I questioned myself, for numerous reasons, this morning. First of all, when someone dies, we all have a tendency to romanticize them. Faults suddenly become endearing quirks, frustrations, laughable moments.  This is natural and understandable...but something that would've made Dad scoff.  And though I would never want to trivialize a complex man by only describing him through rose-colored glasses, written tributes tend to do this. Secondly, I would never want my stories about Dad to seem gratuitous, all "there's Liza talking about CLT again just to get sympathy or attention." nor would I want to provoke "Okay, Liza, we get it. You think your dad was awesome" statements. He deserves better than that. Finally, I don't want to be one of those people whose life seems to revolve around one tragic incident. A lot of people have lost their parents, in fact, a lot of my friends, and to wallow in this distinction seems to reflect a loss of perspective. 

But then I thought to myself, "If you want to do it, do it. Forget how it looks to other people. It's your own damn blog.";)

And thus, here is another post about Curtis Lee Turner (Nov. 13, 1948-Nov. 5, 2010)...from the daughter who knew he occasionally talked too loudly or too harshly, was set in his ways and far from flexible at times, made way too much noise in the middle of the night when unwrapping Little Debbie packages...and even more when he got up at 4:00 am to cook sausage, and had a whole assortment of other quirks that weren't exactly endearing. He was real and he had faults.  But this occasionally gruff man was also the father who took his girls fishing, taught them how to drive straight shifts, and drove the track bus to every meet so he could push us to do more than we otherwise would; the quietly compassionate neighbor who took whatever amount people could pay, rather than the actual cost, for firewood in the winter; the student who often let his dog ride shotgun to WKU's campus and wait for him to get out of class; the son who mowed yards and did house repairs for his mother without prompting; the cowboy who loved starched and ironed Wranglers; the music fan who enjoyed Farm-Aid concerts on KET, was known to watch the Beyonc√© Christmas special, asked me to replay Sam Sparro's, Black and Gold, one day as we headed to a chemo treatment, and who appreciated old country and blues in equal measure; the cook who made the best fried potatoes and eggs I have ever had and who often opted for restaurants that served breakfast anytime of day; the reader and news watcher who could insert dry, political quips into pop culture discussions at the drop of a hat (My favorite: J Lo was performing on a New Years Eve special in 2009 in a black, lace onsie, the same year Umar Abdulmatallab tried to detonate some explosives on a plane that he had hidden in his underwear. J Lo comes on stage and Dad just quietly offered, "no room to hide explosives in those pants."); the man who will remain my inspiration for the rest of my life. 

I could tell a million more stories, but I think this slide show captures much of who he was.  Norris & New did this when he died and it played during the visitation at the funeral home.  I watched it for the first time since November 2010 last night. 

One of my favorite pictures in the slideshow...


By: Wendell Berry
Dear relatives and friends, when my last breath
Grows large and free in air, don't call it death --
A word to enrich the undertaker and inspire
His surly art of imitating life; conspire
Against him. Say that my body cannot now
Be improved upon; it has no fault to show
To the sly cosmetician. Say that my flesh
Has a perfect compliance with the grass
Truer than any it could have striven for.
You will recognize the earth in me, as before
I wished to know it in myself: my earth
That has been my care and faithful charge from birth,
And toward which all my sorrows were surely bound,
And all my hopes. Say that I have found
A good solution, and am on my way
To the roots. And say I have left my native clay
At last, to be a traveler; that too will be so.
Traveler to where? Say you don't know.

But do not let your ignorance
Of my spirit's whereabouts dismay
You, or overwhelm your thoughts.
Be careful not to say
Anything too final. Whatever
Is unsure is possible, and life is bigger
Than flesh. Beyond reach of thought
Let imagination figure

Your hope. That will be generous
To me and to yourselves. Why settle
For some know-it-all's despair
When the dead may dance to the fiddle

Hereafter, for all anybody knows?
And remember that the Heavenly soil
Need not be too rich to please
One who was happy in Port Royal.

I may be already heading back,
A new and better man, toward
That town. The thought's unreasonable,
But so is life, thank the Lord!

So treat me, even dead,
As a man who has a place
To go, and something to do.
Don't muck up my face
With wax and powder and rouge
As one would prettify
An unalterable fact
To give bitterness the lie.

Admit the native earth
My body is and will be,
Admit its freedom and
Its changeability.

Dress me in the clothes
I wore in the day's round.
Lay me in a wooden box.
Put the box in the ground.

Beneath this stone a Berry is planted
In his home land, as he wanted.
He has come to the gathering of his kin,
Among whom some were worthy men,

Farmers mostly, who lived by hand,
But one was a cobbler from Ireland,

Another played the eternal fool
By riding on a circus mule

To be remembered in grateful laughter
Longer than the rest. After

Doing that they had to do
They are at ease here. Let all of you

Who yet for pain find force and voice
Look on their peace, and rejoice.


In closing, I just want to say to those who have lost someone they loved, that it's okay to feel sad years after it happens.  I'm not sure things have gotten any easier for me. I cry nearly every time I stand by his tombstone. I can hear a song that reminds me of him or think about something funny he said and break down immediately. I miss him literally every day and feel like there's an irreparable hole in my heart.  And although these are horribly sad emotions, I also recognize the significance of their meaning: I was blessed to have a father that I still grieve about three years later in a very real, very vivid way. It is a testament to his devotion to his family, his love of his farm and community, and the respect I had for him.  It is a testament to a man who was good and strong and funny, no matter what color of glasses the audience happens to be wearing.


  1. There's nothing else to add to this beautifully written heart-felt piece about CLT. You have described him in every sense of his being. People who knew Curtis knows that what you have written is truly the man he was. Curtis loved his life. He was happy and content working on Turner Farm. He also was so proud of his family particularly his girls. He may not have told us of his love, but we knew it through his actions. He wanted to be a part of everything happening with you girls. As for the slide show this too, is the first time I have watched it in 3 years. While watching this video I have relived those 34 years of my life with Curtis. It would be easy to watch this with a sense of sadness, but I felt nothing but love and joy. I know that he lived his life the way he wanted to. I also know that he is resting on the land he loved.
    Thank you for writing such a special tribute. And you are right when you say this is your damn blog. You can write whatever you want.


    1. Thank you for writing such a special comment. I smiled with tears in my eyes and then laughed out loud at that last line. You really should do a post sometime. LOL.

  2. Love it! It doesn't get much easier and that's ok. It is hard for those who haven't experienced to understand. As for the track meets....well let's just say Mr. Turner was the only person you could hear yelling :). Thinking of you all! -Kristen

    1. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment, Kristen. I know you understand exactly how I feel. And, I think you're right...although the pain doesn't lessen, I think me finally accepting that that is okay, that I don't have to put on a good face and pretend lie time makes things better, is in its own way a comforting thing.
      Ha, and yes, it seemed like Dad was all over that track. You'd hear him in one curve and the next thing you knew, he was standing across the field hollering at you again:)
      I'm glad I have so many memories of Dad and your Mom.

  3. I think this is such a wonderful piece Liza, I love reading all of you post. My fondest memory of Mr Turner is something he said to me about the first week of class my freshmen year. Whenever I am reminded of him by pics on your wall I always hear him in my mind say"Little Missy there is one of you that comes through here every year that thinks they're pretty and prissy, who don't care anything about the Creed only a courting. They'll be no courting in here." I got many laughs with him out of this stern talking to he gave me the first week of class. Hope you've had a day filled with happy memories.-Bridget

    1. Thank you, really. I absolutely love hearing little stories like this, Bridget.:) I can so clearly picture and hear him saying this:) I can also see him being able to laugh about it years down the road. Thank you for sharing this...it has truly made me smile:)