Written by Mr. William of CrossDove Writers
As hard as I try, my days continue to move forward and that path of life I travel continues onward to the senior citizen category, which means I seem to have to bear witness to many changes in my life that I seriously would like to have the opportunity to avoid. You know, like creepy knees in the morning, a back that just doesn’t want to straighten up, hair that gets whiter and grayer with each passing haircut and losing touch with friends and family or just plain losing them period as they leave this grand roller coaster of life on earth.
It’s that last one which I am not dealing with very well at times as over the past couple of years as I have lost several dear friends, a couple of awesome relatives and many more who at least touched my life at some point. None of those goodbyes seem to get any easier and several have just been outright tough to do.
Can I just skip the closure on these lives, and this latest one that is literally what I say as this man’s name was Virgil Skipton, but we all knew him as just plain ‘Skip’.
Skip and his wife Yvonne came into my life some 38 years ago shortly after I moved to Kansas and Yvonne was working at the same Red Coach Restaurant my first wife was. Some how, we became friends, close enough friends to have meals together, share family events together and even take on the challenge of a few card games. Skip’s step-sons Robbie and James even babysat my two kids on occasion.
As the years moved on and I went through a not so simple divorce from wife number one, Skip and Yvonne kept their doors open and on several occasions myself and the kids would just go hang out with them to get away from everyone and everything else. They even attended the weddings of both my kids.
When I hit a tough spot in my working career and found a job I really liked being pulled out from underneath me, Skip came to me with a job opportunity to work with his bosses by running their school bus contract for our local school district.
I will never forget how Skip set up a lunch meeting with the two guys, Bob and Bob (truly that was their names), at a local deli – basically a lunch job interview. The meeting went fantastic and while I honestly had not much clue as to running a school bus program, my enthusiasm for the opportunity led them to offer me a position with them, one which worked for six years.
Did I mention how after the lunch interview, Skip called me to see how it went while enthusiastically asking what I thought of Bob and Bob, almost like he was setting me up for a joke. There really wasn’t a joke as such, but he had not mentioned to me that both Bob and Bob were Jewish businessmen who seemed to fit the ‘society imagination’ of such to a tee. And that is what I told Skip, that Bob and Bob fit the image one would get when ready a book or article about a shrewd, kindly but frugal, Jewish business person – right down to the little bit of hunch appearance one of the Bob’s had. Skip and I laughed for years about that first meeting.
It only got better when I realized the two Bob’s didn’t own computers and one of them still used an antique adding machine to count financial ledgers, complete with the pull handle to get the totals.
To me, Skip was like an uncle or surrogate Dad and he filled that position very well at times. But beyond that, Skip was a mentor to me and I wonder now if he ever realized how much his being a part of my life meant to me and my two kids.
Skip had been an educator, including serving time as a high school principal and a school district superintendent, before settling in as a sales rep for the two guys, Bob and Bob, selling mobile transit vehicles like small transportation vans and busses. Skip also lived on a farm and loved working the fields and the livestock along side James, even during those last several years when his health began to go downhill, he would still get out there and throw hay or something – much to the chagrin of Yvonne.
I remember when Skip became so ill from the West Nile Virus, to the point where even the doctors thought he might not survive, but he and his stubbornness did survive.
Skip fought with several health issues the last few years, issues with his heart and lungs – but he kept moving forward. I made it a point to try and bring him pizza or hamburgers a few times, once with my then six-year old grandson in tow and Skip loved getting to know him.
During each of the last two trips that Yvonne and Skip would take to Arizona for the winter, health problems caused by falls that Skip took arrived at the end of each trip, the first one he came home from – the second one he did not. I remember the call I received from James, the second I realized it was James on the phone I just knew it was not going to be good and it wasn’t – Skip was gone, finally free of his body failing him and free to be Skip again.
While Skip passed away in the spring, it was not until Labor Day weekend that the family had a memorial service for him, something they did to work around a Skipton reunion I was told. That gave me several months to put off the reality that my very dear friend, my extra Dad, my mentor, Skip was gone – no longer available to talk to face-to-face.
It was good to see Yvonne, James and Robbie plus their families at the memorial service, and I was doing okay until they began to sing ‘On Eagles Wings’ and ‘I’ll Fly Away’ while spreading his ashes around his favorite tree at the farm, that is when it hit me and hit me solid that Skip was truly gone and all I had now were some wonderful memories of our times together whether it was at home, work or play.
I will miss my mentor/friend Skip – but I will never miss pulling up the memories and advices he gave me over the years, all of which are cherished as much as gold.
With that – hugs, prayers, blessings & happy thoughts from Grumpy Gramps
(Copyright@2018, CrossDove Writer – no part of this may be printed, copied or used without written permission by CrossDove Writers and Grumpy Gramps.)