“At the temple there is a poem called “Loss” carved into the stone. It has three words, but the poet has scratched them out. You cannot read loss, only feel it.”
This week the world lost one of the good ones. I can’t tell you about his childhood, or what his life was like before I was born, but I can tell you that he was the one to drive my mom to the hospital when her water broke, and when I was older, I would see him early in the mornings walking Buster, his black Lab. I think the last time that I saw him was Kelly’s wedding, but I cannot remember if he was there, or if it was a time long before that. The last few years I have been pretty self involved, and even though the Jack and Jan lived less than a mile from us, I did not make it over there nearly as often as I should have.
While I cannot give you a proper biography of Jack Stayton, I cannot tell you when he and Jan moved to California, or when they settled into the house on Juanita, but I can tell you that they were living there when my parents moved in in the late 70s. My brother, knowing full well he was not allowed to cross the street, used to stand at the edge of our driveway and yell for Jack when he got home from work. I know that my sister used to sit on the arm of his easy chair and eat snacks with him. I know that he was good with his hands. He could fix cars, mowers, or anything else that broke, and I remember bird houses and weather vane that he made filling their backyard. When I was 8 or 9 he helped me make a pinewood derby car so that I could race in the big derby challenge that Matt was racing in. He even helped me sand the car and told me that I needed to remember to paint whiskers on it so that it would look like a cat.
I remember the giant Sequence board that Jack built so it would be easier to play. He laid out two complete decks of card on a huge board and then framed it in glass. I remember sitting at the kitchen table playing with him, his daughter Jana, and various people from the neighborhood.
I remember Jack’s dog, Buster. He was a sweet black Lab that thought he was a lap dog and would do anything that Jack wanted. He sat, laid down, and go for walks around the neighborhood carrying his own leash. I remember the little dog, Katie, and how she used to jump up into his chair and sit with him while he watched TV. I remember the big tub of pretzels, trial mix or granola that he kept next to his chair. He was a diabetic, and was always snacking on healthy or sugar free foods.
I remember his voice. He had a southern drawl and sounded like an old cowboy. He used to have a big belly laugh that came all the way up from his toes. He was always telling funny stories or jokes, and when John and Jana had the D-Man, Jack could not be more proud of telling us stories about the smart things he said, or how much his grandson loved big trucks and construction sites. Jack made him all sorts of fun things to play with when he was younger.
I remember thinking that he and Jan had been married forever (turns out he died the day before their 62nd anniversary) and laughing when he would say or do something that annoyed her. She’d always roll her eyes at him and then tell him he was wrong. Their love for each other was an easy one, one that came with the comforts of time and the sharing of a life.
Unfortunately I will not physically be there when he is laid to rest, but I will be there in spirit. I’m sure that my mom will dig up a funny picture of us when we were kids sitting on his lap, or playing in their driveway. I know that my mom will tell everyone that I wish I could be there, but I am in Scotland making everyone proud. I know that if I have a glass of scotch at my favorite pub, Jack will see that as an acceptable alternative.
His daughter said that he was ready to go, that it was his time. While that may have been the case for him, the rest of us were not ready for him to leave. The world is a little dimmer today, and the stars a little brighter.
Rest in peace, Jack. Rest in peace.