Thursday, December 28, 2017

Dad’s Last Trip

By Wendell Grissom

My father, Bobbie Gene Grissom, was born in Fort Cobb, Oklahoma, on January 21, 1940. He served nine-years in the United States Air Force and, upon leaving, became a truck driver. He married my mother, Mary Katherine Harger, on January 2, 1965, and they had me, Wendell Arden Grissom, on October 11, 1968.

Throughout my childhood, my dad drove trucks, 18-wheelers, cross-country. His CB-handle was “SPUD.” Back in the 1970’s era, trucking was a lot different than it is today. Truckers used the CB-radio all the time, went by their CB-handles, painted their trucks all up, and took pride in their jobs, as well as their trucks. My father’s truck was a blue Kentworth truck with a sleeper on the back. On both the driver’s-side and the passenger side of the sleeper, he had little potato men wearing cowboy boots and a cowboy hat, holding a CB-mic in his hand painted on it. On the front of the truck, he had a bug shield with his CB-handle, “SPUD,” written on it. This was Dad’s was of making his truck stand out.

My two sisters, Tina and Gloria, and I went on lots of trips with Dad as we were growing up. There were all kinds of “trucking songs” on the radio back then, including David Dudley, ad C.W. McCall. A lot of movies too: Smokey and the Bandit, Convoy, etc. I loved trucks, and all that went with ‘em, and so did my father. Trucking was in his blood. To me, I have the best parents anyone could ever ask for.

In 1981, my parents and I moved to Paris, Arkansas. My mother’s side of the family – my grandparents – owned a farm there; it’s where my mother grew up. But, unfortunately, things didn’t go as hoped. My father’s health took a turn for the worse. I was just a child then, but I know that my father had to sell his truck due to health issues. To make a long story short, things didn’t go as we had planned when we moved to Arkansas, and we eventually moved back to Oklahoma in 1983. Dad went to work for American Airlines as an A&P mechanic. In 1985, he received a job-transfer, and we all moved to Grapevine, Texas, and he went to work for American Airlines at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. My parents eventually found a nice home in Lewisville, Texas. They bought it, and that’s where we lived. My mother went to work for General Dynamics, and I went to work for Texas Instruments. Everything was really good then, everyone was happy. But my father really missed getting out on the open-road and going; however, he remained working for American Airlines.

My father was a good provider. He gave us everything we could ever need or want. I hardly ever saw him get mad; but, if he did, it was for a good reason – probably something I’d done. My father was a kind man, loving. He was always nice and loving towards my mother, too. He never once, in my entire life, used drugs or abused alcohol. In fact, the only times I ever saw my parents drink alcohol was, but for maybe one-single drink, on like New Year’s Day, or something. So, really, you could almost say the never drank alcohol. My father was a hard-worker too; always finding some kind of job to do on the side – one he could have me helping with, usually. I don’t think it was so much for the money, as it was just him wanting to spend time with me, his son. His favorite side-job was hauling and selling firewood. He even bought a special truck and trailer for it: a 1974 Flatbed 1-ton pick-up and a 34’ Gooseneck trailer. Plus, we used my Ford F-250, with his 16’-trailer. I’m not sure how he’d find these guys, but we’d drive up north, into Texas, and buy firewood, that was already cut and split, and stacked. We would load it, and bring it back to the Dallas/Fort Worth area – where we lived – and he’d literally sell it as fast as he could bring it in. We delivered and stacked it wherever the customer wanted. Yeah, we don’t often stop and appreciate what we have ‘til, oftentimes, it’s too late. Those were the “good ol’ days,” as they say. I really miss them.

In 1995, Dad went in to see the doctor. He was always tired, not feeling very good. The doctor ordered a stress-test to be done and, when Dad took it, they found all sorts of problems with his heart. They took him by ambulance to the hospital and, the very next day, they had him in surgery to do a quadruple bypass. He made it through okay and came home. However, due to Dad’s job duties at American Airlines, they wanted to put him into an office job. Dad didn’t like that at all, so he took retirement instead; then, shortly after, my mother retired from General Dynamics, and they both moved back to the farm in Paris, Arkansas.

My father, after all these years, was finally able to go back to driving a truck – and that’s exactly what he did. Dad never was the kind to just sit at home and do nothing. Boy, was he happy too! He enjoyed getting out on the road and going, seeing new places. See, trucking wasn’t a job to him, it was what he enjoyed doing. But, as fate would have it, his health took a turn for the worse once again. He’d got a job hauling fuel to local truck-stops. One day, as he was driving down the road, some blood vessels burst in his eyes; he went totally blind, while he was pulling a tanker full of fuel. He barely got the truck over to the side of the road, where he stopped. Only, by the grace of God, did he not have an accident, or hurt himself or anyone else. He called Mom on his cell phone, who, in turn, called emergency services to go out and help him. It came to be known that it was issues with his diabetes that caused the blindness. He did eventually regain his eyesight, but it was about a year-long process. He never did go back to driving a truck after that though.

In 2002, he had some more issues with his heart, and ended up getting a pacemaker. He also started suffering some of the complications associated with Alzheimer’s, though none of us realized it at the time. We just thought it was due to him getting older; his personality had changed – not in a bad way – but he was forgetting stuff, and things that go along with that disease.

I, myself, started driving a truck in late-2001. I went to work for a man who lived in Mulberry, Arkansas, by the name of Brent Higgins, who Dad introduced me to. Mr. Higgins was a good man. I would haul chickens out of California, then bring produce back each week. Dad would come with me, off-and-on. He really enjoyed getting out on the road with me. He’d have all sorts of stories to tell me, of his own trucking experiences, as we travelled across the western part of the United States. He basically taught me all I needed to know about trucking: how to work and maintain them, to how to properly secure my load once loaded, to how to do my logbook. He also taught me other important lessons, like how to drive across the Rocky Mountains without burning up my brakes and killing myself. When you weigh 80,000 lbs, and you’re driving across mountain ranges, such as the Rockies on I-70, you better know how to drive your rig down it, or you may not only kill yourself, but others as well. Dad taught me all of this, and it’s because of him that I became the truck driver I was. I miss my father, but I’ll forever hold in my heart all he ever taught me. He may have thought I wasn’t paying attention at times, but I was.

My father’s health started to get worse around 2013 or so. He’d have good days, and bad days. He started suffering from lower-back pain 24-hours-a-day, every day. A lot of his health issues were due to his diabetes. He started losing the ability to walk, and use his legs like he should. He could still walk, but just slower and slower. Throughout all of his health issues, however, I never heard him complain. He just kept going, day-after-day. 

He went back to the hospital for a checkup on his heart in 2014, and they found more blockage; but as soon as they went in to look closer, they stopped. They told Mom it would kill him if they tried to do anything – almost all of his arteries were clogged up. They told my Mom to take him home, and try to make him as comfortable as possible. They told her he could live a month, or even as long as a year or more: it was up to his body now. Half of his heart was dead. How he kept on going, none of us knew, but he did, even though he suffered every day.

That Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease. It really does take its toll; not only on the person who has it, but their family as well. By the grace of God, my mother was able to keep Dad out of a nursing home. It wasn’t easy for her, but she took care of him, basically all on her own. I’m proud to say that she was able to honor her vow to him: “through sickness and in health”. She stayed by his side and took care of him.

On January 2, 2016, Mom and Dad celebrated their 51st anniversary. But Dad started to really decline that same month. Mom had to get help with him, by having hospice come out to the house. She also got a hospital bed, and that’s where he pretty much stayed from then on. Mom started noticing that he would take a turn, be it for better or worse, on Sundays for some reason. Then she started “sensing” something there with her. She said she’d notice what she called “shadow like” and “movements” in the corner of her eye; but when she’d look, nothing would be there. She also recalled these being white. You see, I’m sure I’m not the only one who was praying for Dad, but I prayed every single day for him, as I do all my family and friends. I even wrote to prayer groups, requesting prayers for him too. I’d pray Psalm 91 over him, asking God to keep him covered with His blood, surrounded by His angels, and to put a hedge of protection around him: to help him, and to keep him safe. Since Dad’s death, I’ve come to believe that Mom was sensing angels all around her – literally, in Dad’s very room – watching over him, preparing to take him. I truly do believe in the power of prayer.

I talked to Mom on the phone, Friday, March 18. I tried to talk to Dad, but he’d long got to the point where he couldn’t talk. But Mom held the phone to his ear and she said he could hear me; he’d stop, and lean toward the phone, as if really trying to listen to my voice. I told him I loved him and missed him very much, trying to comfort him as best I could, over the phone. Mom said that he pointed to something in the room, as if trying to show her something, but she looked and nothing was there. Mom told me to call her again that Sunday, because she just felt “something,” so I promised her I would.

Saturday night, March 19, before I went to bed, I prayed a different prayer for Dad; one that was more for him than for us. I knew Dad wasn’t going to get any better. I knew he was in constant pain, and he wouldn’t want to live this way – he was always an active man. So, for the first time, I prayed for God to take him Home. He’d been through enough, and it was time for him to go to heaven, and find rest and peace. Then I went to bed.

Sunday morning, March 20, I woke straight up – I mean I was woken up. I’d had a dream about Dad. In the dream, I couldn’t tell where I was, but I was inside a room, and could see someone laying down across the room, on the other side. I couldn’t make out an actual face or anything, but I recognized it as a human body. Looking at this body, I watched as – I don’t know any other way to say this –  a ghostly spirit, a vapor, maybe you would call it, rose up out of the body and left the room; then, all that was left, was the body. I looked at my clock: it was 7:40am. In my heart, I knew the dream was about Dad. He had passed. I immediately said a prayer, but this time it was to my Dad. I told him it was okay, and that he didn’t have to be in pain, or suffer anymore. I told him I loved him and I’d miss him, and to go in peace.

I tried to call Mom early Sunday morning, but was unable to get through. I didn’t get hold of her until about 7:00pm that night. As soon as Mom answered, I asked her if all was okay? She said: “No, your father passed away this morning”. I asked her: “What time was it?” And she told me he had passed away at 7:34am. She said he’d been having a better day Saturday but, late Saturday night, he had taken a turn for the worse. He was having a real hard time breathing on his own. Mom had had to call some of the family over to help her, and my niece, April, came. Mom said that that morning she’d grabbed Dad, and pulled him close. She had told him it was okay, and how he’d been a good husband, a good father, and a good provider. She told him how much she loved him, and for him to “go see Wendell now.” It was at that moment, he passed away. She said she looked at the clock and it was 7:34am, just moments before I had been woken up by my dream.

I miss my father more than anyone will ever know, but I can rest assured that one day I’ll see him again – for I have God’s word and promise on that.

Mom said that on the morning Dad passed away, there was a whole bunch of white doves in the front yard, which she had never seen before, nor since. She also hasn’t seen anymore “movements” out of the corner of her eye either. I believe that too, because, well, Dad’s not there anymore. I believe these were angels, waiting to receive Dad’s spirit. After all, that’s what I’d always prayed for: for him to be surrounded by angels.

I laugh when I think of the song, Truck Stop in Heaven, sung by Al Read. This is your last trip, Dad. You go; I’ll be truckin’ that way soon, and we’ll meet up once again. We have God’s word and promise on that, and we know God’s word is truth to those who believe in Him.

I love you, Dad.

Your son,

Wendell Grissom 575281
Oklahoma State Prison
P.O. Box 97
McAlester, OK 74502
My name is Wendell Arden Grissom.  I’m 48 years old, 5’10”, 180 lbs, with black hair.   I enjoy reading and writing, motorcycles, hunting and fishing, traveling and family.  I’m divorced, no children.  I’m a truck driver by trade and have traveled through all 48 of the continental United States.  I’m currently on Death Row in Oklahoma.  If anyone would care to write to me, I’d welcome all letters.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this love story. Its such a comfort to read what God does. His Glory abounds for eternity. Best wishes to you and your family. Your dad sounded like an amazing father. You will see him again one day. God bless.

Carrie Beckett said...

Mr. Grissom,
Thank you for sharing that beautiful story! It sounds like you have an amazing father and an amazing family. (I didn't say had a father because he was and always will be your father)
I'm a bit jealous of the idyllic childhood you had. I was born in 1969, so I know exactly what you're talking about with the music and movies of that era. It was a good time to be born!
I will pray for you for help in the future.
Again, thank you for sharing your beautiful family with with me.

piscator said...

Mr Grissom,

What a lovely and fitting tribute to your dad!

I was very close to my father; but we never shared the kind of time together that you enjoyed. We once talked about restoring an old Ford, but that never came about. He was always too busy. We did play sports and worked together for a while.

Thanks for sharing your father with me and giving me a moment to remember my own!

I wish you all the best.

Sincerely, piscator

Sarah said...

While I was reading I just with you dis not take a long prison sentence, but.....
Can not imagine how you felt knowing that you could not have been there for your father. Very sorry for that.
The moments of happiness that you have shared will perhaps be able to bear your current situation. Beautiful testimony; may his soul rest in peace

SlugOutboxing said...

I remember the night that I stayed at your house. We snuck out while your parents were sleeping. You were the most wildest kid that I have ever met in my life. You feared nothing, if there was a rule or a law you took it as a challenge to overcome. I honestly feared for my life whenever I would hang out with you or I would ride the motorcycle with you. But it was a sense of freedom that I would remember the rest of my life. One day I realized that I had to stop hanging around with you. I knew that I would not last very long if I didn't. But even though our time together was short like I said before it was a sense of Freedom that I'll never forget. You remember the night that I stayed at your house and we listen to the radio. There was a documentary on the radio about the rock group Heart and their greatest hits. Many years after that night every time I heard the song Barracuda or dog and a butterfly or Crazy on you I would think about that night that one crazy night that I ran the streets of subiaco Arkansas like a wild child with Wendell Grissom lol. I'm sorry to hear about your troubles in life. I didn't really know what all happened to you and your family over the years. My mother said you came by to see me one time when we were in our twenties. She said that you were just coming by to visit. I was on the road I think not too sure I don't remember really what I was doing. I've had somewhat of a troubled life as well over the last several years. Not with the law or anything. But a lot of tragedy & destroyed dreams Five Wives to severely autistic children. But I always wondered what happened to that wild kid Wendell Grissom LOL I real live Billy the Kid. I looked you up on Facebook and you basically didn't exist. So I Googled searched your name. And was blown away by the results. I don't know what to say but other than be strong and may God be with you.

Your Childhood Friend

SlugOutboxing said...

Wendell Grissom. I was thinking about you the other day. So I look for you on Facebook you basically didn't exist there. So then I Google searched your name. And there you are I only knew you for a little while when we were kids. But I got to say it was one of the most wildest times of my life. A lot of ways you scared me but at the same time it was a high like no other. I used to ride on the back of your motorcycle with you every time I would get on there I would assume that my death was near because you were so crazy. I stayed at your house one time when you lived in subiaco we got up in the middle of the night after listening to the greatest hits album by the rock group Heart on the radio. Every time I hear that song dog and a butterfly or barracuda or crazy on you I think of that crazy night when we were just kids. You were kind of an outlaw back then or at least you talked about it ,I didn't know if you were serious or not half the time... it was exciting to hear your stories but I assumed that if I took you seriously we would probably get in trouble. You were like a real life Billy the Kid. You feared nothing it seem like. When you would ask me if I wanted to do something that seemed insane if I said no you would call me a pussy. Usually that meant I would whip somebody's ass if they were to say something like that to me. But I honestly didn't know what you would do lol I got to say if the word Fearless ever fit anymore I knew in person it had to be you. The thing that makes people stop right before they do something that may have consequences , it seemed like you did not have that. And it really scared me to death I guess LOL I never known anyone on death row. That must be a terrible way to exist. I'm sorry that your life turned out this way... my life has been shadowed in much trouble as well not with the law or anything... but I have 4 exwifes wives and three children two of which have severe autism which is pretty much destroyed my world in many ways. Anyway I hope you find peace somehow and your situation. I know that's easy for me to say not knowing what your world is like now but I like the story about your father. I remember he and your mother both seemed like incredibly nice people. Anyway like I said may you find peace in God.....

Stacy Goodson

A Friend said...

To Stacy Goodson from Wendell: Hello Stacy, how are you? I was both really surprised and happy to hear from you. I hope this finds you well and in good spirits. Thank you for sending your reply to me, you are the only friend of mine out there who has. Glad you enjoyed my dad’s story too. If you would like to write directly to me, you can at the address above (under my story). I’d really enjoy writing to you and catching up on stuff. Hope to hear from you soon, Your friend, Wendell