Born in Altus. Raised in Frederick. Southwest Oklahoma was everything until the age of 18. Sure, I was lucky enough to travel with my family as a kid. On several occasions, we escaped our little corner of the state for trips to the heart of Texas, the flatlands of Kansas and family road trips to California. I saw more than my fair share of this country before heading to college, but Frederick was always home. My small town of 5,000 people was always something more to me. It is where I became a man. It is where my parents lived. Everyone I have ever loved or cared for traveled its streets. For 31 years of my life, Frederick was a safe place; a place from which originated a beckon call of love and memories.
For these reasons, this particular trip to Oklahoma was bittersweet. When I return to Oklahoma in late December, I won’t be going home to Frederick. Home is now in Elk City. My parents, desiring a fresh start and an opportunity to be closer to my younger brother, have moved. My childhood home sits nearly empty. It is filled with nothing, but memories and soon it will be filled with the laughter of other children. Its shade trees will cool others taking a break from the heat. Its dining room will be consumed with stories of a new family gathering for the holidays. July marked my last time to stand on 905 S. 15th St. and say, “I am home,” which is more than fine. I left Frederick for Edmond and then Seattle. If I am worthy enough for a new beginning, then so are my parents.
It was also on this trip that I got to visit a longtime friend. I have sliced many golf balls at Quartz Mountain. I spent more summers than I can remember tucked away at her church camp. I have ridden her go-karts with family and friends. Some of the best memories of my life were spent there. I was over the moon to be invited to a good friend’s bachelor party/golf outing. As we rode around those 18 holes, I recalled learning the game. I remembered the patience, grace and forgiveness golf requires. I also remembered the utter frustration and that I am terrible at golf.
I also spent some time on this trip at Frederick’s cemetery. Lyle’s wedding just happened to fall on what would have been Lucas’ 24th birthday. As I sat next to his grave underneath the blazing Oklahoma sky, countless thoughts ran through my mind. I was shocked to be there sitting between my 90-something year old grandmother and my forever 23 year old brother. I was taken aback by the peacefulness of a cemetery. I let Lucas know I had forgiven him and asked for his guidance as I left that place. I promised him once again to try and do big things in his name. I shed more than a few tears and I left my baby brother there in the eternal protection of Grace Lee Box; a first name fitting for something I hope to one day offer Lucas and myself.
I vividly remember Lucas’ 21st birthday. He, along with Mom and Dad, was in Seattle. Just as I had done for Clayton, I took it upon myself to make sure he had a memorable birthday. As a family, we headed out to Leavenworth, WA. As we drove through the majesty of the north Cascade Mountains, my parents and I looked on in bewilderment. Lucas slept. Soon, we arrived. Mom and Dad ducked in and out of craft and antique stores. Lucas and I broke off and headed for a bar. I wanted to be the first to purchase him a legal beer. As we sat out on the patio, drinking and talking, I documented every single moment. I wanted to cherish this time forever. Little did I know that day in time would be the last birthday I would get to spend with Lucas. As the cemetery became smaller and smaller in my rear view mirror, I remembered how happy he was to be with me on his 21st birthday. Little does he know, but that is a moment in time that I will protect forever.
If you’ve ever driven across Oklahoma in the middle of the night, you noticed something pretty special. The wide open plains allow you to see for miles and miles in every direction. As my parents and I drove back to Frederick from Elk City, I was consumed with what laid before me; stars, two lane highways and blinking lights. The nights in Oklahoma are often clear and the heavens often filled with countless stars reminding us how small and insignificant we are; which for me is an awesome feeling. The roads between small towns are often two lanes. Crammed together, you pass carloads of people heading to somewhere else consumed with their own lives just as you are with yours. You will also notice radio towers in every direction, but a new addition has been added to the Oklahoma night sky; wind powered turbines. Packed together for miles, they blink in unison flickering with progress often unrecognizable in one of America’s most conservative states. Yet, it is a place I will forever call home and I do so with a sense of pride and hope. Hope for those I leave behind after every visit and hope for the place I call home.
Be good to each other,