Saturday, January 30, 2010

Treffie Robert Cole: April 14, 1970 - January19, 2010

What I wouldn't do to hear you say one last time in that gruff voice, "Hi Greg". It's always the little things. What I wouldn't do to have those days we rode in the car for that funeral drag on like they did when we were young. What I wouldn't do to play one more game of ping pong with you. What I wouldn't do to watch you ball fake people five inches taller then you using all three seconds before putting the ball in the hoop. The list would go on and on. I miss you. I love you.

Growing up it seems like the days drag on forever. You can spend all day playing and barely go inside to eat, let alone wonder about life. Growing up in a small town the days of summer especially seemed to last forever. Rushing outside at first light and being sure to be on your own property when the street lights came on was a way of life. It was no different for me.

I was fortunate enough to be a younger brother. That meant always having someone to follow around and never having to worry about finding someone to hang out with. I simply followed Treffie around. A typical summer day for us meant football in the vacant lot by Wilcoxson's house, baseball at Steve Baird's house in the afternoon, and basketball in our driveway during the evening. It was the best. Because he "let" (or did mom and dad insist?) me follow him around I was fortunate to play in all the games. It usually meant my friends and I getting to play last, but I didn't care. As long as we were playing some kind of sport, we were all happy.

Not surprisingly, Treffie and I became rather good at all three. No doubt it was watching him work at each is what allowed me to become good too. Good enough at least that we both became all conference basketball players. No doubt without Treffie's role modeling I would not have had the drive to be "better" than him and who knows where I would be today. For many of us, sports provided us the discipline and work ethic necessary to become productive adults.

Treffie agreed with my dad when it came time to go to college. It seemed that since I had no ability whatsoever to work with my hands I needed to have some kind of skill. Later Treffie would remind me (as he got a new boss or something else) that educated people were usually stupid. They would come in and make recommendations and directives while not knowing what really needed to be done. In his case it usually included adding and hour on to a task that he had performed masterfully in far less time.

However, in my case he was proud that I had gotten an education beyond high school. Other than Mom and Dad, I doubt anyone else was as proud when I got my master's degree. I especially wish he would have had a chance to see me walk when/if I ever finish my doctorate. I know he would have bored all his friends with that.

I'm glad that this summer my family took a six week trip and got to spend several of days with him. One of the things I will always remember is the pride and happiness he had while watching my son bowl. In fact, I rarely had another conversation with him where he didn't mention little Matthew carrying that big bowling ball and then jumping up and down. When I was with him I could see the huge smile or if we were talking on the phone I could hear it in his voice. Little did I know what a lasting memory those few days would also be on me.

After that trip, we talked on the phone once a week or two. Since he knew that I don't like to talk on the phone, we had an unwritten rule: if he left a voice mail, I called back, if not once of us would call again in the next few days. Every call I received or made to him was always started with the same gruff, "Hi, Greg".

Andrea and I had told him on that trip that we were pregnant and he was extremely excited to be an Uncle again. He was as equally devastated to find out when we got home that we lost our baby. Treffie always felt the weight of the world on his shoulders and this was no exception. I could hear the pain in his voice as we talked. For if someone Treffie loved hurt, Treffie often hurt more. That's who he was.

Treffie was a huge help and support for mom when Grandma passed away in September. Although Grandma's death was hard on her, it seemed equally as hard on him. Oh how he loved her. I know Treffie believed that grandmothers had to love their grandchildren but didn't have to like them. There was no doubt that his grandmother liked him and accepted him exactly as he was. This was a source of great pride for him and as a result he made sure he did whatever he could do to help her out.

He continued to help take care of her after she passed by being a rock for Mom. He did everything he could to help get her estate in order so that it would be easier for Mom and Dad. However, it was obvious that it was taking a toll on him mentally. Treffie had several accidents over the next month. As a result, a police officer in Warrensburg wrote a letter stating that he needed to be looked at by a doctor in order to get his license back. Treffie and the whole family agreed that this was probably a good thing and would probably save his life.

Sadly, a close family friend would pass away a few months later. Growing up her family was an extension of ours. Her brother, sister and her were like siblings to me and Treffie. We would go to their house after school so their Dad and Mom could watch us while we waited for Mom to pick us up. Christmas Eve was always spent with them and the memories were cherished. Being close to the same age as Treffie, this hit him very hard. It reminded him of his own mortality I'm sure so the fact he was going to have to complete a complete physical to drive suddenly didn't seem like such a bad idea.

As a close family friend, I decided to head back to Iowa to attend the funeral. Since Treffie couldn't drive I decided to fly in to Kansas City so that I could drive to Warrensburg to pick him up. After being "advised" by Mom to stay in Warrensburg during the blizzard, I got to spend a few days with him in his town before making the 4 hour or so trip home. Again, I had no way of knowing the importance of this trip would be. We had lots of laughs and scares as we traveled the roads and saw what seemed like a hundred vehicles in the ditch. We eventually made it and were glad to be able to attend the funeral together.

Treffie scheduled his doctor appointment and after Mom visited us in Vegas for Matthew's fourth birthday, she headed to Warrensburg to be with him. While she was there he became dehdrated and made a visit to the ER to become hydrated with some saline. She took him to his appointment and he was cleared to drive. On Tuesday, January 19, 2010, she went to his place to pick him up for his court date due to the accidents. Unfortunately, when she arrived he wasn't answering his door. She used her key and found the worst case scenario for any parent. Treffie had passed away in his bed of a heart attack.

Your friends Kip and Snappy came right away to help. Kip immediately came to Mom to make sure she wasn't alone. He called several times a day while we were cleaning your place. We went with him and his wife to eat and talked about Treffie. He then brought some athletes over to help with all your guitar stuff. Snappy didn't ask what he could to to help, he called and said he would be there the next day. Then, just like you would have, he showed up.

Mothers and Fathers are not meant to outlive there children. It's not natural. I know it sometimes happens but rarely is there a more unnatural end for life. Although we are all glad to have had the 39 years that we had with Treffie, it wasn't enough. Mom and Dad shouldn't be having to live with this at this stage of their life. Right now they should be kicked back watching us live our lives.

Treffie, I think you would have been impressed with the number of people that showed how much they cared about you during this time of our sorrow. Everyone agreed that you were loyal to a fault and would be the first person to stop doing everything to help them. That is exactly what they did. They stopped, and came to say goodbye. I'm proud that Mom and Dad decided to have your ashes buried with Grandma. You, and her, would have been pleased with that decsion.

At least that's the tear filled view as I see it.


Jerry and Helen Park said...

Greg, What a wonderful tribute to Treffie. He evidently was a great "big" brother. I wish we could have gotten to know him better.

Marcie said... definitely have a way of exuding your thoughts and emotions - he would have liked this post from his little brother :)

Anonymous said...

Greg, it took me a really long time before I was able to face my own mortality and sit down and read this, but I'm so glad I finally did. It was a very fitting tribute to your brother, who was absolutely, without doubt, one of a kind. I have so many memories of growig up with your brother....virtually all my sports memories include him. Many included you as well. I was so glad I got to see him at our 20 year class reunion in 2008. He looked great and I was so happy to see that. You know our birthdays our coming up, April 14th and April 16, and no matter how far away from Panora, Iowa we are these days, I will always think of your brother fondly this time of year...always have. Much love, Greg. ~Todd Winter

vegasviaiowa said...

Thanks for taking the time to read and respond to my brother. I appreciate it. I hope you had a great birthday. I remember watching both of you play everything growing up. I especially remember Treffie and I watching you in the state championship playing for Perry during your senior year. Those were good times.

nurznicki said...

Greg, after being blessed with the short time I knew Treffie I figured that knowing him had profoundly changed who I was. He is all the things that you mentioned and more. My heart breaks for you and your family. I know he was special to everyone in your own "treffie" like way. He loved everything and everyone all the time with all that he had, even if he wasn't always thrilled with their decisions. I remember the talks in Guthrie Center, him walking up the road to help shovel the drive, probably not because he wanted to but because it was the right thing to do. I think driving to Atlanta to watch Kip was an experience. LOL! He loved you, he never stopped loving you, and will continue to do so. No one can take away those happy memories, and now he get to watch you make more with your son and family. No doubt he's laughing, and agreeing with you when you make your silly but "educated" decisions.

vegasviaiowa said...

Thanks Nicole. He loved you.