0. Dave

Dave

 

The burden is too heavy for me.

Numbers 11:14

 

Austin Theobold lived a life not unlike Indianna Jones. He hacked his way through the jungles of Venezuela searching for oil, ancient ruins, long lost treasure and hunting wild beasts. My dad found proof of this a few decades ago when he stumbled across an image on the internet showing Austin kneeling next to a crocodile he’d shot with a long-barreled rifle resting on his thigh. 

Great-grandpa Austin co-founded a car business in England before seeking the new frontier of Venezuela. Austin’s business partner sold the business and absconded to Belgium with all the money. His crafty schemes knew of a legal loophole that prevented Austin from prosecuting him across the border of England. 

Having lost all his money, while returning to England from Venezuela, a man on a train asked him if he knew anything about electricity. 

“Of course I do,” Austin confidently stated, knowing almost nothing about circuits.

“Do you speak Spanish?” The man interviewed further. 

“I’m offended you’d ask me such a question. I told you I’ve lived here for many years,” the defensive remark hiding his rudimentary Spanish speaking skills. 

“Then come work for me. I founded British Power and Light company here in Venezuela.” Austin was hired on the spot. It seems he inherited some of his mother’s flamboyant personality.

After working for some time, Austin went to a friend’s wedding in Cuba. The groomsman couldn’t show up due to illness, so he was the backup. Francis Cathrine Stunts attended that event. She used her middle name to identify herself but that then morphed into the nickname Kitty, which stuck. He pursued Kitty and they married not long after falling in love. After returning to Caracas, Venezuela to continue his work for BPL Co., Jack Austin de Coup-Crank was born.

Austin was a good dad, especially for his time. He was involved with his son, but made him work. He added Jack to aid his many assistants who tended to his property. Pops made his mother laugh when he spoke up half jokingly.

 “I know why dad had me,” he told her, unveiling his new realization

“Why is that?”

“I’m Just another servant for daddy!” 

Having grown up in the working class, Austin wanted Jack to secure a better future. He sent Jack off to England to finish his childhood education while Jack’s sister, Joan remained in Venezuela. Pops went to the strict boarding school of Sherborne in Dorset, England. The all-male institution emphasized the proper English, manly virtues of the time.

“Have a stiff upper lip. Boys don’t cry. British men are never homesick.” These mantras and others were crammed down his throat; harsh punishments given to those who did not obey.

Pops was miserable. He began sinking his true self deeper into the depths of his bowels, attempting to manifest qualities he never had. Throughout the years he phoned his mother, begging her to let him come back. Though she listened, his father refused, wanting him to follow through with what Austin believed to be the best option for his son. Jack could not ascend the beanstalk. The stairway to heaven collapsed when the unrelenting pressure imploded around him

With only a few months left to graduate, he called home one last time. Even if he couldn’t come home, he told his mom he was going to quit. Catherine was very concerned. Jack was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She emphatically told her husband that their son was coming home. He reluctantly agreed after her stern emphasis communicated Jack’s dire situation. 

When the dust settled from this close call, not long after returning home, Jack was drafted into the British army. He served there for two years. During his time with his fellow Brits, Austin suddenly died. 

While in his car, Kitty in the passenger seat, Austin had an intense pain, slapped his left upper inner thigh, shouted “I have such pain!” and died within seconds. His aortic aneurysm ruptured. When the biggest artery in your body bursts, the reaper snatches you within fifteen ticks of the clock.

Once her husband died, Cathrine decided to allow Jack to live with her sister Sita in the Hollywood Hills. Were they to remain in England, she knew her son could only work at an oil company or a bank and neither of them were happy with those options. After letting him leave, Pops convinced his mom to join them in California. She didn’t have much going for her staying in England. Once Jack left, his mother began selling their possessions to begin their journey back to the land of the free. 

Jack went ahead of Joan and his mother. While en route to LA, he landed in New York. There he would stay with his uncle Bub until his mother sold their belongings and they could join him. After spending some time there exploring the sights, he wanted to visit his grandparents in Cuba for a short duration. In the process his plans were upended.

He applied for a visa in New York to fly out of the country. The man behind the desk spoke up to Jack.

“Are you planning to leave the United States?”

“Yes,” Jack replied matter of factly

“If you leave you can’t come back.”

Knowing he by no means wanted to jeopardize his future in America for a quick visit to his relatives, he gave up his vacation plans. “If that’s the case, then I want to stay.”

“Then you’ve officially been drafted in the United States Army.”

With his path forced to deviate on an unexpected detour, he wanted to return his course as quickly as possible. In an effort to arrive in California to be with his aunt, mother and sister before shipping off to basic training, he had an idea. 

The only way to do this was by obtaining permission directly from the President of the United States. He wrote to the man who currently sat in the Oval Office, former general Dwight D. Eisenhower. Before he was ordered to report to Army onboarding, he received a signed response from President Eisenhower.  

As the woman who met him at the base began the check-in process, Jack spoke up.

“You can’t take me in yet,” he said confidently.

“And why is that?” She questioned; a sarcastic tone in her mouth and a single brow raised above one eye.

“I have a deferment,” Pops persisted.

“No you don’t,” she retorted with a certainty and an unimpressed expression. She had heard every excuse in the book. “You’re joining the Army today whether you like it or not.”

He stood taller, emboldened from the signature inked by the hand of the most powerful man in the world. “You dare defy the orders of the President of the United States?” He boomed, slapping the letter on the counter. With wide eyes and a nervous apology she submitted to the words of the President.

Once his mother and sister arrived in New York, the three of them drove to California where they settled into their new, sunny home. When his deferment was soon to expire, he extended it by enrolling in UCLA. During his time there he reluctantly agreed to be set up on a blind date. The woman he would soon meet, Shirley Jean Garner, recently moved from Indiana and attended Hollywood high school. When the petite, short-haired, blue eyed bombshell greeted him at the door, he knew instantly he was going to marry her.

College wasn’t for Jack. Knowing that he would be shipped off if he dropped out soon, Pops still decided to pull the plug. This gave him a very short time before he would receive orders to report to basic training. Not wanting to let the love of his life slip away, he sprang into action on his knee while holding a ring.

She of course said yes, but now a wedding needed to be arranged. Shirley left California to attend her grandfather’s funeral, but during her visit, Jack was notified he needed to report to Fort Ord in four weeks. Immediately upon receiving the news, Shirley flew home with less than thirty days to plan their wedding.

They knew they wanted to be married on a Friday. Both of their churches were booked out for the next few weeks. They found a small grassy plot called Forest Lawn in Glendale. The lawn was scattered with tombstones. And thus, Nani became one with Pops and accepted the de Coup-Crank name on August the 13th 1954. Their vows were exchanged on Friday the 13th in a graveyard.

They didn’t have time for a honeymoon for obvious reasons. Within two weeks Pops shipped off to Fort Ord. Shirley joined Jack in Pacific Grove once he finished bootcamp and other training six months later. She became pregnant at eighteen, and shipped off with private de Coup-Crank to his first duty station in Germany. While in the German town of Stuttgart, barely beyond the age of nineteen, Shirley birthed my dad Dave.

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