The hot rods are in town, now, for the NSRA, and we did our annual trip out to Mike Linnig’s Seafood last night to check out the pre-show rally. Two years ago, we made that visit with my brother-in-law, Dan Krupp, who just recently passed away, and last night, I had the feeling that he walked by my side, once again. I guess anytime I see a pristine Corvette, like the one above, I’ll hear Dan’s voice say, “There you go,” as he gives his half smile and nods at the old ride. He loved them, though he never had one.
Now, a Corvette isn’t a practical ride, and Dan was perhaps the most practical man I’ve ever had the grace to know, but, somehow, I always wanted him to have his Corvette. Sure, I’d like to drive one, once or twice, but my fantasy muscle car would be a black ’55 Chevy. So, it isn’t like my wish for Dan to have one was just disguised self interest. In fact, when he and I were out at Mike Linnig’s the last time, looking at one—I believe it was a ’63–I indulged in a bit of fantasy and told him, “Why, brother, if I hit a huge pay day with this book or another, I’ll get you one.” He only smiled and laughed, blushed a little, but I think he knew that he would never have one of his own.
It was a good wish, though, a bit better for being such a pie-in-the-sky wish, and one at which I sorrow at never being able to fulfill. See, I’d known Dan since I was six, looked up to him, feared him in ways only a brother-in-law could, but I always felt that I didn’t know him as well as I wanted to. We were very different sorts of people, Dan and me, and didn’t see eye-to-eye on political things, but we were always cordial about it, something I miss a great deal, these days. We weren’t close as buddies, could never get to the place where we shared our secrets, and I think I always sought that from him. Dan, I figured, thought I was a little weird, and I’ll have to give him that. I am more than a little weird. I’m a writer. I live in my head, much of the time, and have no problem indulging in pie-in-the-sky fantasies. Indeed, I am making a second career out of it. So, Dan probably had a hard time understanding where I was coming from, in any situation, but he loved me because I was his to love, his sweet wife’s odd little brother. I cannot thank him enough for that.
And, I can rank Dan as one the first and most appreciative of my readers. When he read my first Amazon effort, Tracking a Monster, it touched him, I think, to have me celebrate the world of 1960s Louisville. I saw in his reaction to my work that he thought of it as a sort of a gift, maybe a secret we did share. Writing it was a way of sharing my love of him and our youth with the world. I cannot say how much I appreciated that and the encouragement he gave me to keep at it, keep writing, keep finding stories to tell.
Just yesterday, I finished a much different version of that old novel. The new one, I have named Starling’s Call. If it goes into publication, as I hope it will, I might just have to dedicate it to Dan and my sisters, Pam and Patty. They were all there to show support for me as I grew. Dad would let the twins go to the drive-in movies, as long as I went with them. I would keep the boyfriends too occupied to have them get into trouble there in the dark. I was a sort of walking birth control, which was a burden fore any boy who courted either of them. Yet, Dan always took me along. He took me to my first drag race at Ohio Valley Raceway. He took me to Memorial Auditorium to a wrestling match, where we saw Dick the Bruiser take on The Sheik. Dan watched me grow up, was always the apple of my sister’s eye, taught me to love Frisch’s, and was always ready to talk cars with me.
I guess it’s easy to see why I wish that I could have given him in his own Corvette, that I could have said, “here you go” and tossed him the keys, so that he could drive it away. Last night, I imagined him saying that, where he is now, in perfect union with Pam, is even better than having his own Corvette. Now, I believe, he resides in the heart of all that he ever desired. When we give ourselves to others, we connect with God, I think, in a way we can never appreciate, as long as we live in a world that demands practicality, duty, sacrifice. Dan worked hard at those things. So, I think maybe the idea of a Corvette was Dan’s desire for freedom, for the ability to go where he wanted, as fast as he wanted, in style, too. A Corvette would have been a little something like heaven on earth for him. I couldn’t give him that, no matter how much I wished it, no matter how much he deserved it. No living person could, I reckon. We can’t give to anyone a perfect understanding of all we might wish for them. We can only love them, and I loved Dan Krupp.
The car in the picture above is a ’58 Vette, and was so primo that I had to think of him when I saw it. I had him by my side again and saw his eyes light up as he checked out the wheels and interior. I imagined him schooling me on the changes its owner made to the engine. I touched Dan’s symbol of freedom, looking at that car. I also realized that the only thing better than being able to put him behind the wheel of his own Corvette was having him in my live for the last fifty odd years, even if we weren’t able to talk about some of the things that were most important to either of us. We go on, after our time here. We are energy, at our core, and energy cannot be destroyed. It just changes form. Its way above my pay grade to know in detail what it’s like, but somehow, I think perfect union is perfect freedom. Streets of gold wouldn’t make much sense to Dan Krupp. They aren’t practical.
Dan and Pam, together again, makes excellent sense as a symbol of perfect union and freedom. We can touch a bit of that in life, catch some of that greater reality, when we do our best to love someone. It will never be perfect, in this life, like having a Corvette. They would, after all need tons of upkeep, as the high shine on that ’58 Vette shows us. But the desires of our hearts speak to us, show us some of that great mystery, and, today, I can feel something of that in Dan’s passing. So, drive on Dan, you and Pam. I see you together on whatever road you might choose. Drive on in the peace of perfect freedom and love. I’ll see you later.