Fort Pierce Central High School
Class Of 1971
You Are Gonna Miss This
Whether you are a country fan or not, just try to keep a dry eye when Trace Adkins sings “You Are Gonna Miss This.” When I listen to this song, a tsunami of memories flood back.
I remember when graduation came, I just wanted be done with school, at least for a while. We were going into the summer of ‘70, arguably the best summer of my life—after high school but before college, the military, or family life. Most of us were footloose and fancy-free. I sat on a lifeguard tower on South Beach, without a care in the world when I decided to take a year off.
I have often heard “grown body, not a fully developed brain.” I proved that point in the summer of ‘70 with the Vietnam draft in full swing, and I decided to put my draft deferral off for a year. But you could not tell me anything because I knew everything and could do anything. After all, I was 10-foot tall and bulletproof. You guessed it; I got my draft notice. Only one day before my date to report to the Army boot camp, I arrived in Cape May, New Jersey, to begin Coast Guard boot camp.
In the Summer of ‘71, I stood on the fantail of an 82-footCoast Guard cutter in 30-foot seas trying to connect a Stokes litter to the cable attached to a Coast Guard chopper whipping around like a bullwhip to evacuate an injured seaman. In the summer of ‘72, I swam for my life in the middle of a hurricane after the Coast Guard cutter I was on sank. I will skip who the coxswain was on that ill-fated voyage. What a difference a year or two can make! By 1972, I was certainly “missing high school,” and I wished those McCarty days had not gone so fast.
Then came what I call the “building years”—building a family, a business, and a life. I remember that my oldest son was ready to move out on New Year’s Day and make his way on his own. I thought I was prepared for it, but I was not; it hit me like a ton of bricks. Sure enough, I soon was “missing the whole family” under one roof. Soon, son #2 was gone, and Joan and I were left without anyone in a home that seemed to get bigger by the month.
Soon, the sheer joy of grandbabies—first, Brittney, then Josh, then McKenna—replaced the sadness of the kids moving out. Life was good at the Parker home, but we barely noticed because we were always looked forward to what the future held. After all, we were busy marching into the future at a supersonic pace.
Then, in an instant, our world crashed. A frantic call from our youngest son woke us early one October morning in 1998. We had bought him a home only one mile from our beach home so the grandbabies would be close. We dressed and covered that mile in less than 10 minutes. We pulled up to my son’s house at the same time as the coroner’s van. Our 2½-year-old grandson Josh died while sleeping in the same bed as his big sister Brittney, and our world lay in shambles.
Often since, I have thought of how I “miss those days with Josh.” He was a jovial child with flaming red hair and a mischievous smile. I do not know how people who do not believe in God and heaven can take the passing of a child or grandchild. I believe strongly that I will unite with Josh again one day, and for me, it takes all the fear from dying.
I have said in these Ramblings that I won the lottery with parents—two wonderful people who wanted nothing more from life than to see my brother Roger and me happy. I remember when Christmas moved from my parent’s home to mine. I did not think much of it then. After all, my home was bigger, and we needed it for the growing family; by that time, we had Beau, a beautiful blond grandson. Today, I “miss the Christmases at Mom and Dad’s home,” and I want those days back.
I remember when my mom asked that my wife Joan and I come to their home one Sunday afternoon. They were watching a video of the Gaither family. That day, they shared with us that my dad had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Nancy Reagan said it best when describing that devastating illness as the long goodbye.
“I miss” seeing my mom guide my father while still giving him as much dignity as possible. She never lost her temper, even when he asked the same question a dozen times in a row.
I bought my son’s home back from him when they were expecting my grandson Beau so they could buy a bigger home and put my mom and dad in that home. I had to pass it daily coming home from work. I stopped and spent 30 minutes to an hour with them. I surely do “miss those visits” and wish they had not gone so fast.
My mom was the first to go, dying in April of 2012, and Dad joined her about one year later. I can see in my mind’s eye her brushing back the thick wavy hair that covered his perfect brain as they walked arm and arm into heaven.
I was never sick a day in my life, never in the hospital even one day. Although if you shaved my head, all the stitches would make my head look like a Texas roadmap. As most of you know, this past year has been difficult, as I have gradually lost my voice. I sure “miss being in front of a room and speaking.”
The abilities to speak and to write were God-given gifts. I have been fortunate enough to earn a living on a stage for a number of years. I have had the opportunity to share the stage with Zig Ziglar, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, and Art Linkletter, to mention a few. Those were some good times, and today, I would love to take the stage once more in a 10,000-person arena with a microphone. This past week, I had to hand my PowerPoint over to one of my salespersons and sit in the back of the room while she gave my presentation—one sad day for me. I “miss saying I’ve never been sick in my life.”
So, you see, we all should remember the saying “you never know what you have until it is gone,” but Class of 70, we still have a lot of living to do. So, as you look back about the things “you miss,” don’t forget about today, because we are still making memories, still living our lives, and you might not know it now, but . . . “you’re gonna miss today.”
Keepin’ the Spirit Alive,
• William M. Loughlin 8/27
• Thomas Jr. Gillem 8/30
• Thomas Gladwin 8/30
• Ruby Nell Prince (Polite) 8/30
• Debby Ankiel (Epperson) 9/7
• Max King 9/8
• Bridgette Monroe (Studley) 9/20