What can a son say about the passing of his father, especially when they happened to be best of friends? He was there when I took my first breath in this world, and I was holding his hand when he took his last. How can you possibly encapsulate a lifetime of love, respect and joy into a blog or Facebook post? I’m sure you really can’t, but nonetheless, here are a few reflections…
My dad was one of the wisest and coolest people I have ever known. And I say this, not just in the reflective aftermath of his passing, but rather, as a reoccurring thought I’ve had throughout my life. I know I hit the lotto having Jerry Brock as my father.Me with the old man (he was only 23 here!) ________
I learned a lot of stuff from my dad through the years, most of it from observing how he actually was in the world. One of his most compelling attributes was how he personified non-judgment toward others in every facet of his life. My dad did not care about someone’s religious beliefs, political leanings, ethnicity, personal lifestyle choices, physical appearance, sordid history, or anything else. He was truly “colorblind” in both social and business situations.
As such, he was never one to gossip, indulge in water cooler chatter, or carry on about someone behind their back, even among those closest to him. He respected everyone equally, and people clearly picked up on this, which was one reason why he was such a beloved character to friends, family and co-workers. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that my dad lived his entire life without enemies.
And on occasions when he did have to deal with difficult folks, he had a special way about him… a “spiritual diplomacy,” you might say. This enabled him to effectively manage diverse groups of people in a work environment, but also make everyone feel comfortable in a social setting.
To that end, he was extremely easy to be around. He smiled and joked a lot, and kept things light and joyful. And at any moment, he might break out into his little jig… that signature dance of his. To see him do this and NOT smile would be impossible. At the same time, he was the greatest listener. Very present. You knew he was soaking in every word. This was likely why everyone wanted to bend the poor guy’s ear all the time.
Ultimately, though, he was a quiet and reflective man at his core, especially around immediate family, out of the glare of social graces. He gravitated toward simple, low-key situations. Sure, he loved people and enjoyed larger gatherings to a point. But I think he always preferred the quiet simplicity of being home with mom, family and laptop.
My childhood memories with dad are a delightful blur of summer vacations to Panama City Beach; dozens of ball games at the Houston Astrodome, and many more hundreds of sporting events on TV; sit-down family dinners most every night and regular backyard barbeques; camping at the lake, baseball catches, football passes, and lots of other fun stuff with the family. Fishing trips (way back in our pre-vegan days) were also a special bonding time for me and the old man.
On that note, my dad was quite the outdoorsman, which I know he picked up from his father. We used to quietly stroll through the woods, and I would watch him listen out for various animals or try to identify paw prints in the dirt. His “respect for others” credo certainly translated to the sanctuary of the forest, but my dad revered nature in all of its exquisite forms.
I’m not saying that my father or even my childhood were perfect. But in fairness, any kind of “dysfunction” that went down was really on me. I went through an unbearably rebellious phase as a kid where I know I put my folks though all kinds of hell. And, let me be clear; my dad was no pushover. In fact, he was a classic “hickory switch” type of disciplinarian.
Even so, I’m sure there was a lot about my “social presentation” back then that was difficult for him to deal with. When I went to a drug rehab program at a really young age, it was suggested by my counselors that he and mom make a few concessions as I adjusted to sober living. This involved allowing me to smoke cigarettes openly and let my hair grow out. Likewise, I understood these were privileges I could enjoy so long as I kept my nose clean. Deferring to their expertise – and wanting desperately for his son to stop indulging – my dad agreed to more of these terms than he otherwise would’ve. But, as it turned out, I never had a drop of alcohol or drugs of any kind since, and it’s been well over three decades now.
Still, it must’ve been tough for my dad to be seen with my sorry ass in public back then. You have to remember: this was Texas in the 70′s, where the rednecks roamed free in the pre-Urban Cowboy days, and the word “hippy” was still part of common vernacular. Even at 15, my hair wasn’t just long… it was extra wide! Add to this the tattoo, earring, smoking and ever-present Black Sabbath t-shirt, and, well… people just stared. Constantly. But, my dad always accepted my choices and never imposed any fashion advice on me. Even when I got my tattoo – which I know really bothered him – he never, ever said a word about it.Seriously? ________________
As a teen, we had quite a motley assortment of kids coming in and out of our house, mostly from the rehab program I remained active in throughout high school. Since I was fortunate enough to have the “cool parents,” we would often wind up back at my house, all hours of the night. Many of these kids came from rough family lives and didn’t have much of a reference for “normalcy.” Again, my dad always treated my friends warmly and welcomed everyone into our home, just like mom did. In fact, since his passing, I’ve received a number of heartfelt messages from old friends, reminding me of his impact on their lives.
My dad was unconditionally supportive of whatever I wanted to pursue. And when drumming took center stage at 10 years old, his old Ludwig drum kit was pulled down from the attic for me. [He was a drumming hobbyist for a short time.]
On that front, he had a lot of patience. Being the drummer, rehearsal was usually at my house. Mom and dad let me “soundproof” a bedroom with grey egg cartons and, somehow, he tolerated all that racket several evenings per week with the band. The rest of the time, it was drumming, drumming, and more drumming. He must’ve gotten sick of hearing all that practice and, of course, he was not bashful about letting me know when 10:00 PM (cut-off time) rolled around. But when it wasn’t about the full-on audio assault of the drum set, he endured the constant machine-gun pitter-patter of my practice pad, which often took place within earshot while he tried to watch TV or read the paper.
Still, he was always supportive. He and mom made sure I could study with the best drum teachers around. And when I decided I wanted to go to the Berklee College of Music in Boston six weeks before the fall semester started, dad wrangled the funds from the ethers to make it happen for me.
He also caught most of my local performances through the years: talent shows, various club dates, chainsaw guitars at Vinnie Vincent concerts, the shrieking young-girl shrill of a couple Nelson shows, many a drum clinic and solo band performance… even Slaughter with Whitesnake, where he and mom pulled their motorhome right up next to the line of tour buses in the back of the amphitheater.On the Iron Maiden tour with Vinnie Vincent Invasion, playing the hometown arena
in Houston on mom’s birthday: 1-30-87 (sis and ex-bro-in-law pictured with dad) ________ ______
And backstage after every show – every time – whenever I made eye contact with my dad amidst the crowded room, he would shoot me a single wink. That was it. No gushing about how great I played, no high-fives or back-slaps, no overt bragging to anyone about his son’s performance that night. Just the wink. That’s all it took to fully convey to me the depths of how he felt. And I got it, loud and clear.
My dad was never big on doling out unsolicited advice, and even when I would seek his counsel on something, his response was always concise, reflective, and poignant, like a southern sage. And he always made time to take my call or sit down for a chat, even when I knew he was really busy.
Of course, if my dad ever saw me heading toward the edge of a cliff, he would step in and say something. But he would only say it once, and he would say it in a way that was very clear and unambiguous… minus any nagging, rehashing, or “I told you so’s,” had I not heeded his advice and things had gone south.
As for those epic father-son talks, there were more than a few through the years. Man, I can still remember the exact time and place of many of them and, needless to say, the content of these talks has stayed with me to this day.
My dad was an old school rock-solid citizen of the earth. He handled his business honorably and impeccably. Always paid his bills on time and was relentlessly punctual with his work obligations. His employers – and there were just a few in his lifetime – loved him.
He was also very social conscious. He was active with the Masons for a time, served on the board at Unity church in Houston for years, and donated a lot of money to various charities in his lifetime.
And… he seldom swore. In fact, he never did get used to his son’s “ugly language,” as he usually shot me a sour face when I would drop an f-bomb around him. I found this old-fashioned sensibility endearing. “C’mon, Holmes!” I would say. “This isn’t the Lawrence Welk era anymore.” But he would just smile and shake his head.
My dad was a big computer guy, jumping on the home PC wave back in the early 80s. He loved his laptop and was always working on stuff like genealogy, his high school class website, and an onslaught of various programs and HTML coding projects. He enjoyed connecting with friends and family online, generally through Facebook and email.The early days of home computing: floppy disks only – no hard drives yet! ________
He also loved playing golf, and watching old westerns, action films, John Wayne flicks, and all kinds of sports. Plus, he was a huge fan of straight-ahead jazz like Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, and all the greats. This was a passion we both shared, and whenever we drove anywhere together, the radio dial was always set on some old jazz station.
My dad was an accountant by trade for most of his life; a numbers man, through and through. Then he and mom retired to full-time RV living in 2000, where they cruised around the continent for a few years. Eventually, he would become general manager of the Emerald Coast RV Beach Resort, one of the country’s top-rated motorhome destinations. And this is where he worked for over eight years… until his stroke.
My dad adored his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. (Thank God for my sister’s prolific output!) But most of all, he adored my mom. They were happily married for over 54 years and very rarely ever spent a night apart. He married his soulmate at 19 and never looked back. And in his final days – even after we all told him it was okay to move on and that mom would be taken care of – he seemed to resist his transition: not because he was worried about mom… but because HE didn’t want to leave HER. Very sweet.
My dad enjoyed excellent health his entire life, seldom missing a day of work. This is why we were all stunned when, out of nowhere, he suffered a severe stroke two years ago. He was on zero meds, in perfect health, and working full-time. Then, boom – everything changed. He was suddenly paralyzed on his right side and had lost the ability to speak. But he was always lucid, always “there.” He still had all of the same mannerisms, looks, even sense of humor. And although his speech was the kind of nonsensical mishmash of syllables common of those with language center-based brain injury, we could often tell what he was trying to say by the way he was saying it!
Through it all, his outlook and demeanor remained unshakably positive. Even towards the end, when he was completely bedridden for those last few months, he always had a smile for anyone who visited him. And he was a big hit to the various medical and hospice workers who came by to help in his care. Dad was consistently pleasant, respectful and compliant with each of them. I found this remarkable. He was often very uncomfortable, and I know he despised having to be so dependent on others, especially my mom, who was his primary 24/7 caretaker. But still; the grace. The patience. The acceptance. For those of us closest to him, it was both a brutal and beautiful thing to watch.
And it was yet another lesson that he showed, not told. He wasn’t able to tell me about accepting what you’re dealt and not taking it out on others. Instead, he lived it.
His moment of transition occurred on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday observed, with seven of the closest people to him at his bedside, including me, mom and my sister. It was an unspeakably excruciating, yet profound, experience to witness that I won’t even attempt to describe here.
That said, I believe 100% in the survival of the spirit beyond the demise of the body. My dad has shed his physical body and is now free from the numerous constraints he had to deal with these past two years. Meanwhile… his spirit remains what it always was:
Enormous beyond words.
I’ll miss him terribly in these years ahead, but will look forward to reconnecting with him on the other side.
Dad, we love you. You are respected and admired by so many and have touched our lives more than you will ever know…
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Here are a few more pics of dad through the years:
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11-27-39 – 1-20-14