Stan Crader

Author & Lecturer on Writing About Rural America

It’s Not Always What You Think

 

A couple of weeks ago I bought a black suit—it was the first suit I’d purchased in maybe two decades.  I also bought a new white shirt, tie, and dress socks but stopped short of new shoes. I’m funny about shoes, one of those rare people that still get them resoled. The new suit, shirt, tie, and socks were for a special event to which Debbie and I had been invited—or so I thought.

We’d been invited to attend the New York Stock Exchange Congressional Medal of Honor Gala. It would be our first trip to New York. We weren’t particularly looking forward to New York City but felt honored to have been invited to a most prestigious event.

Since we were sure this would be our first and last trip to NYC, we arrived a day early and planned to make a weekend of it, taking in all of the famous sites. We awoke our first day to the winter storm that paralyzed the eastern half of the country Valentine’s Day week. Having watched the weather forecast days before, we’d taken the right clothes. There’s no such thing as bad weather, I always say, just bad gear.

Debbie and I braced ourselves and stepped out of the warm hotel lobby into a cold wintry NYC. “Need a cab?” The bellman asked. “Nope, we’re walking.” He gave us one of those looks. As it turned out the cabs were of little use—the snow was already several inches deep. We made our way to the subway and miraculously got on the right train that took us to Grand Central Terminal.  I need to mention that we asked directions several times during the day and found everyone to be most gracious. In four days, we never encountered a rude person. It wasn’t what we expected.

After gawking around Grand Central Terminal we asked, twice, how to get out. We finally found the clearly marked exit and headed toward Times Square. On our way to TS we stopped at what looked to be an Irish Pub and in fact it was. Everyone spoke with an accent difficult to decipher.  We both had a Rueben.

By the time we finished our sandwiches and listened multiple times to directions from a guy who could have been in the Irish Spring commercial, we got on our way. The idyllic snow had become a wind driven, skin piercing sleet. The snow-covered streets had become rivers of slush. We splashed our way to TS, did a Chevy Chase 360 and asked directions to 34th Street and Macy’s, our primary destination, made famous by “Miracle on 34th Street,” and “A Christmas Story.” The Christmas display was long gone. We road the rickety wooden escalators all of the way to the top floor– Macy’s is a huge store, even bigger than a Wal-Mart.

From Macy’s we jumped a subway train for Central park but ended up in Harlem. Again, the people were friendly and helped us find our way back to Central Park, which due to the weather, we had to ourselves. Central park is over 500 acres of serenity in a sea of chaos. We raced around the park for over an hour and then after asking directions, jumped a subway train that took us within two blocks of our hotel.

New York boasts the biggest sub system in the world. And they brag about being the greenest city in the world. I’m not sure of the metric used, but over five million people ride the sub system on an average day, so there’s some sort of efficiency thing going on. And since the subways are electric, the smoke belching power producing plant is miles away, out of site, and NYC is green, so to speak. Sorry about that New Jersey.

With only minutes to spare, Debbie and I got ready for the Gala. I got my tie tied on the first try, a harbinger of good things to come. Once through security, we were ushered to the New York Stock Exchange floor where, along with several others, were greeted by thirty four Congressional Medal of Honor recipients—one WWII, three Korea, twenty five Vietnam, and five Iraq / Afghanistan. This was not what we expected.

The Medal of Honor Society is relatively new. There’s not much information available on omniscient Google. So, Debbie and I weren’t sure what to expect. We were sure one or two Medal of Honor recipients would be present but not a room full of heroes in tuxes, adorned with their gallantry and humbly receiving us onto the floor as if we were long lost friends and deserving of the honor. It was a spine tingling surreal evening. Because of our support of veterans through book sales proceeds, Robert Simanek, a Korean War veteran, presented me with his challenge coin. It was a chin quivering moment.

During the banquet each table was honored with a hero. Don Ballard, a Vietnam era recipient and a user of Stihl products, was seated at ours. Don shared with us the events that resulted in him being awarded the Medal of Honor. During dinner I asked the others seated if they had ever been in a room with a more distinguished group of people. None could say they had. I was sure that I hadn’t and furthermore would never again be in the presence of such a moving group of people. I would be proven wrong again, and too soon.

One week after Debbie and I returned to Missouri, my father passed away unexpectedly. On the day of his Victory, he and Saundra, his wife of seventeen years, had attended Church were he played the piano to everyone’s worshipful delight. After worship service they’d gone to lunch at Jer’s, famous for fried chicken, with friends. That afternoon he worked in his yard, sat down on a bench that sets between two towering trees, and fell asleep, for the last time. He passed peacefully from this world into that of our Heavenly Father. Jesus promised he was going to prepare a place for us. And now Dad is there. But I’m stuck here with the rest of my family. Ever wish you were in two places at the same time?

An endless stream of well-wishers and mourners waited hours in line to share their personal Don Crader story at his visitation and funeral. My knees never hurt so good while I stood with my family for over six hours shaking more hands than a politician on election day. Against my will I spoke a few words at the funeral. While standing at the podium and looking out at a sea of friends and family. I then realized two things. The reason I’d purchased a new black suite wasn’t for the previous week’s Gala event, it had been for Dad’s funeral, but God hadn’t taken him yet. And the most important group of people I’d ever have the privilege to be in the presence of weren’t those assembled at the Medal of Honor banquet–they were in that sanctuary.

It’s not always what you think.

 

 

15 Responses to It’s Not Always What You Think

  • Virginia Stern says:

    This was very nice as I sit here an read the story you need to put a tissue alert out. Have a great weekend

  • Sandy Black says:

    Stan, You do a great job of putting your thoughts and feelings into words for others to read. Thank you for sharing your heart and your faith. It’s always an encouragement for me to see the way God works in the lives of others. To think that God took care of that minor detail, of having a suit for you to wear for your father’s funeral,(and doing it in a way that allowed you to be in the presence of those Medal of Honor recipients) reminds me of His sovereignty and love as He takes care of us. Your Dad’s “victory” is good for him but hard for those who love and miss him. Praying God will give you and your family all you need to walk through this valley. You can be thankful for all of the memories your dad left with you all.

  • kermit hughey&family says:

    Sir,i wish i could express to you how much i thought of and appreciated your father..everytime we talked he made me smile at his stories and accomplishments..He was a GREAT man who helped many people in one way or another…

  • BETTY RAMBO says:

    STAN, WHAT CAN I SAY THAT HAS NOT ALREADY BEEN SAID. THINK OF YOU AND YOUR FAMILY OFTEN THIS WEEK. MY OFFICE MANG. TERESA AND I WERE TALKING ABOUT THE GREAT CELEBRATION OF YOUR DADS LIFE AND THE PEOPLE OF CAME OUT IN GREAT NUMBERS TO HELP YOU ALL GET THROUGH THIS MOST DIFFICULT TIME.WE SOME TIMES FORGET HOW SMALL OF A COMMUNITY WE LIFE IN, BUT IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE HOW LARGE IT CAN BECOME. I LOVE WORKING AT CM.I SEE SO MANY PEOPLE AND FORGET SOMETIMES THAT WE ARE THEIR ONLY FAMILY THEY HAVE,AND YES I SAID FAMILY WE HEAR THEIR STORIES AND KNOW THEIR KIDS, GRANDKIDS, ETC .ONE OF THEM CAME INTO THE STORE FRIDAY AND HE WORK WITH MY DAD YEARS AGO, AND TOLD ME I KNOW THEN YOU{BETTY} WAS BORN, YOUR DAD WAS SO PROUD TO HAVE A GIRL, ONLY DID HE KNOW I WAS THE ONLY GIRL OF 5 BOYS. STORIES LIKE THIS A PRIZELESS. THANK YOU STAN FOE SHARING YOUR STORIES. GOD BLESS BETTY.

  • Julie Looney says:

    Your words never cease to amaze me. You’re an amazing writer! I love reading your blogs and hearing your speeches at BME.

  • Susan Weitzel says:

    Stan you are such a good writer~~loved hearing about your travels to New York and the stories about your Father.

  • sue crader says:

    Stan, just to quote you this was a very tearful and “chin quivering moment.” So very sorry to hear about the death of your dad. He’s looking down now telling you everything is good up there and he will see you when it’s time for you to come home. On a beautiful starry night if you look up to the heavens and see a twinkling star it’s your dad winking at you telling you everything is A-OK up there, not to worry! Thank you for sharing your beautiful story. As usual it’s as great as any of your books that I’ve read.

  • Kathy Westcott says:

    My last memory of your dad was seeing him sitting at that piano and enjoying his music. What a great tribute to your Dad. He has left a lasting legacy in his children and grandchildren. Thank you for sharing your heart. I am so looking forward to the day when there will never be a separation again, as we are all in the presence of our Savior.

  • Desma Reno says:

    Stan:
    So sorry about the loss of your father. I lost my father at too young an age and still miss him terribly. I know he is there with your father rejoicing together. This was a wonderful reflection about him. I too believe many things happen for a reason.

    Desma Reno

  • Stan.
    my first reaction is WOW! your dad must be so proud of you, your tallent for writing and the tribute you pay him in your wonderful story.
    Being a 1969-71 Marine combat veteran and having the privledge of meeting medal of honor members, your story brought back memories and that same emotional reaction you expressed at your dinner event.

    thank you for continuing to care about your dads memory, and the unusual men you met in NY.
    THANK YOU FOR YOUR STORY!

    GOD BLESS.

    PHIL

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Follow Me

 Follow me on Twitter
 Connect on Facebook
 Amazon Author Page
 Connect on LinkedIn
 Circle Me on Google+
 Follow Me on YouTube

FREE Book for You!

Grab a FREE copy of my book, The Bridge
Blog Archive