Curtis Lee Gray
I would be remiss if I wrote an entire post to my dearly departed cat, and not one of my father in law (who had a profound effect on myself and the family)
Curt was diagnosed with cancer almost two years ago. During may of 2021 when we had made a trip down, my mother in law told me privately while I was in the garage putting some sodas in the fridge.
The next two years we did what we could to go down and visit, or have them up here. Michele called her dad every day. Our plan was to fly down for his birthday and spend the weekend. Tickets were procured.
Unfortunately, we were too late in our plans. We received a text message from Michele’s niece, that he had complained of a headache while they were driving and then he became incoherent and then passing out.
He was rushed to the ER, we started packing and drove through the night down to Antioch. Michele was able to be there at his side when his heart stopped.
We expected this, but you never can actually be prepared for the moment. I could still hear his voice in that house. The sound of him clearing his throat or asking the kids for a hug. It has been a hard two weeks of processing.
I spoke at his service, here is what I said:
I want to tell you about a difficult man I know
I first met curt when I was dating his daughter, Michele. He was an imposing figure, and I’m fairly certain he disliked me right off the bat. From this time, my clearest memories of Curt were of him getting off of work. Settling down in his chair, taking of his boots, and asking about dinner. During dinner there was sure to be a rattling empty glass full of ice, announcing it should be refilled.
You could not have found someone as diametrically opposite to me as Curt. Our differences were many, to much to list out here.
When we had children, I was fairly certain their first words would not be “mom” or “dad” but “Be careful”. Saying Curt had an active role in your safety was an understatement.
Visits to the Gray residence was something I had to steel my nerves for. The house was an assault on all of my senses. Blaring TV, Curt asking if I saw that one commercial, often crowded and a bit too warm. The food was great though.
Curt was a doer, where as I am more of a reader. He would often times just show up and start a project. Maybe Lowe’s had some plants on sale, or he was able to haggle down the price. It didn’t matter, his truck would be backed up into our drive way frequently.
All I wanted was a free Saturday, but there were retaining walls to build or garden boxes to make. By this time, we had remodeled two houses and completely transformed the backyards of both.
Around the time we moved down to the Santa Cruz area, something flipped. I started to really appreciate how much he did for us, and how he would drop everything at a moments notice. That also snow balled into other aspects. I wanted to hear his stories. I wanted to hear his imitations of a funny TV commercial.
When I would take on a new project at home, I would always channel a bit of Curt by giving simple whistle to lighten the mood.
The most difficult man I know is me. I was young, intolerable in ways, and not fully self aware. I had know curt for 26 years, and I had done a bit of maturing in that time. I think.
I’m glad he never held it against me (or at least, he didn’t show it). I’m glad that I was able to get to a point where I respected him and admired his skills. To appreciate how much he really loved his family, my kids, his daughter. To appreciate his jokes, and even share the ones I had come across.
I did tell him this, and I think that is important to share. Well, not this specifically, because that would have been weird to recite a eulogy to him.
We were in his truck between Ben Lomond and Boulder Creek. He was driving and it was just the two of us, and I had taken the moment to tell him how much it all meant to me. How I appreciated all of the things he had done for us, and that it really meant a lot.
He almost ran off the road. His shocked state made me regret telling this while he was driving. After a few horrifically long seconds of pause, he stumbled over his words a little and said thank you.
We shouldn’t wait for today to reflect on the value and meaning for one another. So I encourage you now, to look around, and appreciate everyone that is here sitting with you.
Thank you for your time, and thank you curt and Linda for letting me be a part of your family and doing a bit of growing myself.
Pro-tip: Use a large font. When you print out our speech and you think you are clever for making it really small font so its on one page, you should realize that your watery eyes will make it nearly impossible to read that said tiny text.
If you want to save your loved ones a lot of stress: Make a will. Setup beneficiaries for all of your finances, mark payable on death, and have a will.