In Memoriam

The doctor is not in. He is no longer accepting new patients. He is gone. There will be no referrals. You’re on your own. It’s just as well. No one could fill his shoes anyway. His title was honorary. He wasn’t really a doctor. He was a pipe-fitter, master mechanic, automotive hobbyist. He was known as Dad, Uncle Tracy, Mr. Tracy, and Honey. (His grandkids call him Honey.) To me, he will always be Dr. Tracy – the brain surgeon who earned his title teaching his teenage daughter how to drive a 3-on-the-tree manual transmission pick up truck as I sat between them. “If this truck is in first gear, then I’m a brain surgeon!”

When Dr. Tracy called me back in January to let me know that he was terminal, I was at the high school doing volunteer work. He seemed matter of fact and could just as easily have been telling me that he’d sprained an ankle.  Being the walking Kleenex commercial that I am, I sat down and started to cry.  He got upset that he’d upset me. I guess that’s always the way with any terminal disease, isn’t it? The person who is doing the dying always spends his last days consoling those who aren’t.  He said, “Now see? I shouldn’t have told you. I knew you were at the school, and I’ve gone and upset you. I didn’t call to make you cry or beg sympathy.” Well, then the tears were replaced by anger. (Yeah, I’m an emotional funnel cloud some days.)

“Look here, Old Man!” I told him (without shouting because he is still my elder.) “I love you almost as much as I love my own daddy. So, you’ll allow me the privilege of crying for you.” Aside from my dad, husband, and brother, there is no other man I’ve loved more.

It took a few weeks to arrange things here in Texas before I could get down to see him. While my five children are mostly grown, there are still 4 in high school, one of whom is “special needs.”  My siblings took turns heading from here to Mobile to visit with him. And then it was my turn. And I think for each of us it was similar. We arrived at the house and had something to eat at the kitchen table with him. Then we held down that kitchen chair talking to him, laughing with him, reminiscing with him until it was time for us to head back to Texas. Our cousins from Alabama, Mississippi, and even New York, traveled down to Mobile to sit on that chair and love on him these past few months.

Aunt Ginger and Wendy have both told me how “tickled he was” that we took the time to come visit with him. And I think that I speak for all of us when I say that we wished we could have done more. You see, Uncle Tracy was not our “blood relative.” He married our Aunt Ginger more than 54 years ago and he seemed to think that he was an “in-law” to all of us. He seemed genuinely surprised by the number of his nieces, nephews, and grandnieces and grandnephews whose lives had been touched by him. Most of us had known him as long as we’d been alive and had gotten advice from him about various mechanical issues, or home repair issues, or just chewing the fat. He’s family. However it was that he joined it, by birth or by marital bond: He’d been part of it longer than any of us.

Our family is short by one tall member today. And while we mourn our loss of him, we rejoice that he is no longer suffering the pain that he endured for these last months. The good doctor will always be with us in spirit and in memory. And every time I start to drive after accidentally putting my car in third gear rather than first, I know that there is a brain surgeon smiling down from Heaven at me.

The Doctor is In

I’ve known him all my life. And after my dad, he’s the “adult male” that I would turn to for car maintenance advice, a kind word, a belly laugh in the form of some hilarious anecdote that had  happened that week. Uncle Tracy has been a comfortable constant in my life no matter where the Army sent us throughout my childhood.

My cousin, Wendy, was my best friend/pen pal during all that back and forth moving overseas to Texas to Alabama and back overseas, etc. I felt grounded reading her letters and a sense of normalcy writing back to tell her all about my softball season, how much I hated Algebra II, and which boy I had a crush on that week. I always sent love to her parents and she always sent it back to mine. And for us, there was never any awkwardness. Even though she wasn’t a military BRAT like me, we would pick up right where we left off three years before. We’d run out to play on the zip line that Uncle Tracy had built using the tallest trees in the backyard or play basketball or throw pine cones at each other or at night, jump out from behind a fat bush on the side of the road to scare the crap out of teenage drivers who were speeding up the street and then take off running as they slammed on brakes and cussed at us out the open windows.

When I spent a week with them during the Summer Wendy had gotten her learner’s permit, Uncle Tracy earned a new nickname. We were in his pick-up truck. Wendy was driving. We were in the left only turn bay and she was having trouble with the 3-on-the-tree. Uncle Tracy was patiently bellowing directions from the passenger seat. I was the quiet moron in the middle; head turning left then right then left again as the conversation continued across me. After about 4 light changes from red to green and back to red, Wendy was beyond frustrated as the engine choked and died again. Uncle Tracy stated loudly, for the tenth time, “Wendy, you’ve got to put the damn thing in first gear!”

“It IS in first gear!” she shouted back, red-faced.

“Wendy, if this damn truck was in first gear, we’d already be in the driveway by now. Put it in first gear.”

She violently pulled the shift bar from where it was to neutral and then back to where it was. “It IS in first gear, Daddy!” The light turned green again. She let up off the clutch again. The truck jerked forward and died again. The car behind us started honking again as he was too close to go around us like the cars behind him. The light turned red again.

“Wendy, you’re in third gear. Put the truck in first gear!!”

“Daddy, it IS IN FIRST GEAR!” she shouted back.

Uncle Tracy actually yelled this time, “IF THIS TRUCK IS IN FIRST GEAR THEN I’M A GODDAMN BRAIN SURGEON!”

The dumbass in the middle, sensing the tension and trying to show solidarity with her cousin waved and said, “Hiiiiiiiii, Doctor Tracy!”

They were too pissed off at each other to laugh. She finally found first gear and we went home. When we got  back to their house, I figured I should make myself scarce and then I heard my aunt laughing in the kitchen. I went to get a glass of tea and she handed me a tall cup to take to “the good doctor.” She and Wendy howled with laughter.

I handed him his tea and he just looked at me. Then he laughed and said it was in third. I  told him that out of all the pipefitters in the world, he made a fine brain surgeon. He’s been Dr. Tracy ever since.

 

 

6 Days Left

Starry Night Prom 2015 SWAG BAGS

These are STARRY NIGHT PROM goodie bags from our 2015 prom. These customized backpacks were donated to us by the Elks Lodge #2114 in Arlington, Texas. We stuffed them full of swag for each of our attendees; AISD High School students with significant disabilities. The swag included a customized Starry Night Prom 20-ounce cup, pens, pencils, keychains, compact mirrors, coupons and gift certificates from many local businesses, toys, stickers, magnets, and other cool items. Each backpack also contained a STARRY NIGHT PROM commemorative t-shirt with all of our big sponsors printed on the back.

So all of that stuff inside the goodie bags? FREE for our students who attend. You know what else is free? The meal for each of them (and for one attending chaperone guest per student,) the prom portrait photography, the prom fun photo booth style photography, the boutonnieres and corsages, the beautiful custom made invitations, the dessert fountain, the DJ and big dance floor where they can dance and have a wonderful time. All of this is paid for by the donations of kind and generous people who want to see these kids have a magical Starry Night Prom.

And even though a lot of the swag, backpacks, venue, services including cooking and catering are donated as in-kind donations, we still need money to pay for the photography, DJ, printing of invitations, shirts, cups, decorations, additional swag, and a large portion of the food items that are purchased each year.

Our ongoing FACEBOOK fundraiser event is still active for 5 more days! Facebook has waived all of their usual fees for registered  501 (C) (3) nonprofit organizations with Facebook pages during the #GivingTuesday fundraiser drive. This means that 100% of all donations made via the Starry Night Prom Facebook page will be donated to our noble cause.

Won’t you please consider donating to Starry Night Prom and give these kids their magical night this Spring 2017? All donations are 100% appreciated. Thank you for your support.

 

 

Starry Night Prom Fundraiser in Progress

Randa and Hamo Prom 2014

So, what’s it been? About 12 minutes since I wrote about Starry Night Prom? I can’t help it. These kids are so stinkin’ precious and seeing them celebrating their prom in a safe and accepting environment is just a truly moving experience.

We are currently in the middle of a Facebook fundraising drive. What’s awesome about this one is that Facebook has waived all of the usual fees they collect during their #GivingTuesday campaign. This means that 100% of all donations contributed through the Facebook fundraiser through 15 December 2016 will go directly to Starry Night Prom. And since Starry Night Prom is completely run on the generosity of others, this is HUGE.

As some of you are not already aware, I’ll explain a little about Starry Night Prom. We are a registered 501-C3 nonprofit organization serving Arlington ISD high school students with significant disabilities. We host an annual prom for these kids and a chaperone and all of it is paid for 100% with donations. So their invitations, corsages and boutonnieres, photographs, food, deejay, and goodie bags complete with commemorative t-shirt (sponsors printed on back) are all FREE. A lot of these kids would have to miss out on their high school prom. There’s usually not a lot of accommodations for those who have feeding tubes, oxygen tanks, wheelchairs, or need for assistance in the bathroom, etc. Starry Night Prom takes all of that kind of stuff and makes it the norm. The social playing field is leveled and everyone is “at home” in their gorgeous ball gowns and tuxedos. Spring 2017 will be our tenth year hosting Starry Night Prom.

Won’t you consider making your #GivingTuesday contribution to Starry Night Prom? Please follow this link for our Facebook Fundraising Campaign———–> CLICK HERE

And if you don’t have a Facebook account or would prefer to donate through a different site, you could follow this link for our YouCaring.com account* by clicking –> HERE. (*Donations to the YouCaring site will have transaction fees added by YouCaring, but will remain open through May 2017.)

Thank you so much for your sponsorship. We also accept In-Kind donations, so please drop me a line in the comments section and I can provide information on how to sponsor us in this way. And for those of you who are in Texas and Louisiana, you can link your Kroger Plus shopping card to Starry Night Prom under their Community Rewards program, so that Kroger will donate to Starry Night Prom with every swipe!

(ALL donations, big and small, money and in-kind, are GREATLY appreciated and tax-deductible.)

The Beauty in Asking for Help

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We got off to a late start again this year. Several of us had medical issues that affected our family lives that sort of forced us to put Starry Night Prom fundraising on the back burner. But it’s become known to us as “the little Prom that could” and it can.

I started promoting our fundraising website and blogging about past Starry Night Proms that we’ve participated in. I updated the donation letter and the giving levels list and then
added a few photos from Starry Night Prom 2015 to the fundraising site. But I needed my
son to finish recovering from his surgery and get back to school so that I could sleep longer than 3 hours at a stretch and be able to focus my energy on donations and not trying not to drive my car off the road because of the twitch in my eye.

So Saturday afternoon I sat down at my computer and began to send out emails to anyone I could think of that might have an interest in getting this thing off the ground. And on a whim, I contacted a local businessman whose service my husband and I have used on several occasions since moving to Arlington. I explained that I recognized that his company is a fixture in this community and that I see his vans all over the city almost every day while I’m out running my errands. I told him how Starry Night Prom got started
nine years ago and how every expense is paid for by the generosity of others. I asked for help.

Sponsorship to an event such as Starry Night Prom looks different for every donor. Some may donate gently used prom gowns or suits. Our photographer, DJ, and dinner are all sponsored. Sometimes logo-bearing “swag” is donated that we can include in the goodie bags that each student gets to take home; things like pens, hats, cups, refrigerator magnets, lanyards, keychains, stress-squeezers, calendars, etc. Some businesses choose to donate coupons or gift cards. We’ve had restaurants donate a meal for two, a hotel donated one free double-occupancy night, and a university donated a gift basket full of logo-bearing sports gear and free tickets to events…all of these items were raffled off and the monies collected went into the Starry Night Prom fund. And of course, they can choose to make a monetary donation.

Monday morning, Mr Ernie Clevenger, owner of Ernie’s Plumbing, read my email and then clicked on the link to the online fundraiser website. He told me that he enjoyed the bright smiles on the faces of the participants that were featured on the site. He also noticed that we only had three weeks left to meet our goal and we weren’t even halfway there.

Ernie’s Plumbing made it happen and donated the remaining funds to reach our target! His only comment on the website? God is good.

And that is the beauty in asking for help. Because Ernie is right. God IS good. And when you ask for help, He will provide.

****Further donations of goodie bag items for 300+ prom participants are still being accepted for receipt before April 28, 2016.  All donations are appreciated and tax deductible. Please contact me via email at: StarryNightProm@outlook.com  I will gladly provide you with any further information within 24 of receipt of your email. Thank you.

 

 

He’s on My Heart

A little before 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon, I was suddenly urged to call my husband at work. I had been thinking of him for nearly an hour. This is not unusual. My thoughts jump around frequently during the course of my errands and household chores. If I fold his shirt, I think of him. When I’m driving to the bank, I’ll think of a joke that he made about how I married him for all those numbered accounts in Switzerland. Or when I’m doing laundry and notice that he is the ONLY male in the household to remember to empty the pockets of his pants because I announced that any money I find will be considered a tip for laundry services. Or when I look at any one of these beautiful five children of ours and I see his DNA peeking out from the almond-shaped eyes he gave them ,or the strong jawbone, or their olive-toned skin that is just a few shades lighter than his, after being mixed with my “mayonnaise on Wonder bread” skin color. But he wasn’t just “on my mind,” as we say in English. He was “on my heart,” as we say  in Arabic.

I called and left an “I love you” message on his voicemail when the call didn’t pick up. The reception in the kitchen where he works is lousy. I didn’t think anything about it, but little images of his beard, his pastry-making hands, his deep voice, kept entering my head. To be honest, I just figured it’s about time for a date night.

The rest of the day continued as usual. I finished my errands. I dried the tears of a distraught 16-year old who’d been embarrassed in class. I refused to hand the wireless mouse over to the 14-year old who’d not done his obligatory hour of study whether he had homework or not. I took the 17-year old to drop off an application at a fast-food restaurant. I made dinner. I gave the 19-year old her antibiotics for her respiratory infection. Nothing extraordinary happened. At 7 o’clock, my husband came home. When I asked about his day, he looked tired but excited at the same time. He told us that the store had been robbed at gunpoint today.

The store where he works is mainly a grocery store. He is the pastry chef there and works in the bakery. There are four or five smaller stores within the main store that are rented out to vendors. One of these is a gold store. Three young men came in dressed in full Niqab to hide their identities. They were very tall and two of them had large frames and the third was rather thin. The owner’s wife, who had been at the travel agent booth, noticed that they were men wearing niqab and mentioned it to the travel agent.  Then one them pulled a handgun and stuck it in the owner’s face. His wife dialed 9-1-1 from her cell phone. The robbers filled several trash bags with gold and fled. Apparently, their casing mission earlier was not as thorough as they’d thought. The employee break room did not have an exit. So they ran into the bakery area where my husband was making kunafa. My husband said that he couldn’t fully understand why these huge niqab-clad women were trying to exit the emergency door with trash bags thrown over their shoulders. He told them, “It’s locked.” They never said a word, but climbed over the counter and found another exit.

By this time, others in the store realized what had happened and began to yell, “Harami” which means “thief.” The owner of the gold store did not run after them. But others gave chase, as is typically done in Middle Eastern countries. Two of the men escaped through a hole in the fence leading to the housing development behind the shopping center. The crowd caught the thin young man when his trash bag caught on the fence and tore, spilling gold all over the ground. The one with the gun turned and fired, hitting the store manager in the shoulder. That’s when reality hit the chasers and they retreated to the store. My husband had come out by then and was standing by the gold on the ground to guard from further theft until the police showed up. It was after he’d given his statement that his nerves kicked in and he had to sit down.

I said a quick prayer of thanks that my husband is not a moron who would chase an armed robber and put himself in harm’s way for replaceable, material things. I asked him what time this happened. When he told me around 2 o’clock or shortly thereafter. I checked my phone. It was just about the time that he was giving his statement that I had called him. Later, I told him how freaked out I was about the whole incident and how I’d not know what to do without him. He just held me a little tighter and said, “God is present and He’ll protect us.” And he’s right. God IS present and He WILL protect us. But I still had to run through my mental check list of blessings, with my husband’s safety at the top of it. I had to lie in bed for over an hour before the pins and needles in my body subsided and I could fall asleep. And while I don’t particularly care much for the manager of the store or his wife, I said a prayer for both and a second prayer for just her. I can’t imagine the fear and worry that she must be experiencing, but I wouldn’t wish that on any woman.