The Family: James Reed Mears
There was a time in my life when I needed a serious hand to help me get my shit straight, and my great-uncle James held it out forced me to take it. I was working for James at his Mazda/Volvo dealership; had been since I was 15. My Mom and I had a crazy, CRAZY fight, and she kicked me out of the house when I was about 17. Well, truth be told, I don’t know if she kicked me out so much as I said ‘fuck it’ and left. Anyway, we had this epic blow-out fight. I wound up living with my brother Danny and his biological parents. Talk about a recipe for a fucking disaster. And it was. We had zero supervision; basically we had become feral. Did what we wanted, when we wanted. Fighting, drinking, staying out late, you name it, we did it. School?! LMFAO!!!! School could suck my sack. I hated it anyway.
I’m doing my thing at the dealership one afternoon when Uncle James said, “Go tell Andy you are leaving with me and you might not be back this afternoon.” OOOOOOH SHIT!!!! This can’t be good. Andy was one of my many supervisors. Andy is my second cousin, son of James, and was head of the service department at Mears Motors; actually, he still is. So I go tell Andy what James had said. He asked me, “What the fuck did you do?!” Me: “Dude, I have no idea, but I am pretty sure I am fucked or fired or both.” Work was one of the few things that I have always thought I did very well, so I couldn’t imagine what I had done on the job to get fired, but it had me shitting razor blades anyway.
Tail between legs, I punch out and track James down. “Sir, have I done something wrong?” James didn’t say much ‘cept, “We are taking a little trip. We’ll get to that in a bit.” AWWWW FUCK!!! I AM screwed. The trip wound up being James taking the afternoon off to drive down to Post, Texas to pay for his quail hunting lease; a fact I didn’t know until MANY years later. The man didn’t say nary a word to me on the drive down.
We eventually stop at this ranch house out in the middle of BFE. James tells me to stay put and that he’ll be right back. In retrospect, the fucker was doing all this on purpose to make me nervous. Now, all these years later, as a parent, and grandparent, I admire his style.
James comes back out to the truck and I seem to recall a look of determination on his face. Without preamble, he lays it all out, “Son, I know you haven’t been going to school; one of your teachers called me.” Bitch! “You are seriously close to not being able to graduate high school. No family member of mine is going to live like that so long as I have a say about it.” Ah so! So this wasn’t about work, this was about me being a fuck-up at school. Typical of a 17 year old kid, I actually felt a little bit better. Once I couldn’t play football anymore, school was no longer important to me. Nothing was farther from the truth for James Mears. “Son, I’ve called your Dad and we had a long conversation. I don’t know what the hell is going on with you and your life right now, and I don’t know that it is important for me to know, but you will go over to Danny’s house when we get back to Lubbock and gather up your shit. You are going to be living with me and your Aunt Kay. HUH?! What the fuck just happened?! “Yes sir.”
Oh man, my life, in my 17-year-old head, just got flipped upside down. “I’m not fired?” He laughed, “You are if you don’t get those goddamned grades up. You will graduate with your class; Kay and me are going to make sure of that.”
UGH, this was going from bad to worse. You mean I can’t act like a fucking wild animal with his hair on fire anymore?! You mean I actually have to mind, and do the shit I am supposed to do?! Man, this shit is going to suck. There were exactly two people that could control me when I was a teenager, and I use the word ‘control’ very, VERY, loosely; my Dad, and my Papaw. Dad was out on the road doing what pipeliners do, and my Papaw just wasn’t physically able. I added a new name to that list of folks who could reign my wild ass in on that very night; Uncle James.
I did as I was told. I went to Danny’s and gathered up my shit and told him what I had been instructed to do. Danny didn’t like it any more than I did, but I wasn’t going to argue the point with either James or my Dad. James always had me by the short hairs because I worked for him, but now he had a double-handful, and my Dad’s blessing. “Self, don’t fight this shit. You best roll with it, ’cause if you don’t, it ain’t gonna work out good for you.”
I showed up at James and Kay’s with a suitcase, some hanging clothes, what was left of my last paycheck and a really, REALLY shitty attitude. James, I think, could sense that I was not in a place to be told what to do. That being said, he was GOING to tell me what to do, and he was GOING to make me like it. “Son, let me show you around your new home.” He showed me my new room first. Holy shit, I was impressed! King sized bed, double door walk in closet, chest ‘o drawers; the works. Then he showed me the hobby room. James was always an avid modeler…more specifically, RC airplanes. My first thought was, “What the fuck? There isn’t any carpet in here?!” I found out many months, perhaps years, later the reason he had no carpet in the ‘model room’ was that he got tired of Aunt Kay bitching him out for getting nineteen different kinds of glue on ‘HER’ carpet. I guess he got pissed, emptied the room out, and with carpet knife in hand, solved his wife’s problem. LMFAO….anyway, I digress. The tour continued to the kitchen, patiently pointing out to me everything I might need to know. Next up was the pool room. OMG, I was in love! A fucking pool table?! HOW COOL!!!! He showed me his beer fridge behind the bar in the pool room and took the opportunity to explain to me his feelings on teenage drinking:
Paraphrased, “Mark, I know you like to drink beer. Hell, you have to like drinking beer to be born into this family. I have exactly three rules when it comes to you drinking: If you are home, ask first; you are not allowed to go anywhere afterwords. If you are out drinking, you best stay where you are at for the night after you make a call home to me or Kay; absolutely NO driving after you have been drinking. If we feel we need to come get you, we will. Last, but not least, never lie to me about drinking. If you do, you will never touch another drop in my house.” Hey, all that shit sounded pretty reasonable. It sure as hell beat going to the bootlegger and hiding it. “Yes sir. Is there anything else?” He laughed, “Yep, go get me, you and your Aunt Kay a beer.” I laughed. What fucking part of the Twilight Zone had I stumbled into? I seriously remember this shit like it was yesterday rather than the 26 years it actually is.
The next hour or so was filled with basic rules for living in the Mears household. In retrospect, they were SUPER lenient. A couple more hours after that was spent drinking beer and getting caught up on the family. I went to bed with a pretty good buzz and the thought that I might actually have this thing called ‘life’ dicked. You do realize when you have THAT thought that nothing is farther from the truth, right?
James, in his own special way of amusing himself when it came to me, had deliberately got me a little bit shitty knowing the next day was a school day. Prick bastard. And of course there was no ditching school anymore. Oh, you double prick bastard! James’ method for assuring my extraction from the sleeping apparatus known as a bed was a three-step process. #1. Light is turned on; “Mark, roll your ass out of bed! Time to get up!” #2. Dumbshit nephew is still in bed. “Mark, you won’t like what comes next if you don’t get the hell out of that bed!” #3. Only had to go through this once, ’cause once was enough; big ‘ol bucket of cold water poured as precisely as possible right on top of my head. Like I said, it only took once.
The next day was pretty much as it should have gone in my mind (minus the hangover); school, work, home, shower. Homework? WTF is this homework thing you speak of? Kay, nice icy cold beer in hand, promptly told me to gather up my books and my homework and get my ass to the dining room table. UGH!!! I knew this shit was too good to be true. She set me off on my task of completing LONG overdue assignments. Yes, you see, James had been wise to what was going on far longer than I knew. He had somehow managed to arrange it with the school for me to catch up on my work, and earn as many points as the teachers would give; which wasn’t very fucking many, mind you (unlike the pussy education system today). After Lord knows how many hours sitting at that glass dining room table, Kay offers me some supper. Roughly about the same time, James had made his way home from the dealership. “You look like shit son, is everything ok?” Yes you prick, you know why I look like shit; you let me drink beer on a school night and now you are paying my ass back. He always had the grin of a Cheshire cat when he was messing with you. I miss that about him. James had EVERYONE’S number.
Life progressed, I learned the Mears way of living. I hated it then, but relish it now. Life was good, and I was feeling a lot better about myself and where I was headed. James and Kay were lighting the way…..with a fucking pitchfork at my back. LOL!!! Kidding!!!! They were really and truly concerned for me and my well-being.
One day, in the early days of my senior year, James sat down next to me at the dining room table while I was doing school work and handed me a beer and said, “Son, we need to talk. I don’t think you are going to graduate with your class. I have a couple of things I am looking into, but don’t get your hopes up.” Well fuck me! By this time I was buying into what Uncle James was selling. He is James FUCKING Mears! If he wants it to happen, it was going to happen. Respite. James could make anything happen in Lubbock, Texas that he wanted to happen. Truth be told, he could have MADE it happen for me to graduate with my class. James didn’t operate that way. He was going to help me as much as his morals and conscious would allow, but he would go no further. FUCK, FUCK, FUCK!!!! Here I am killing myself trying to catch up (yes Mom and Dad, fuck you, I know, I should have been doing the shit to begin with), and it suddenly looked like it was all for naught.
I spent the next couple of days in a funk. A LARGE FUNK! I get home from work one day and notice that my aunt is in an extraordinarily good mood. I didn’t care much. “Ma’am, I need to get a shower before I start homework. Is that ok?” I swear I can still see the look on her face; “No, it is most certainly not ok. You get your ass out here and listen to what I have to say!” Like a whipped puppy, I went out and set next to her at her favorite spot in the house; the hearth of the fireplace. “Mark, I have it figured out! I have it set up where you can take correspondence courses for the credits you are missing through Texas Tech and you are going to graduate with your class!!!!! Isn’t that great?!?” Oh man, is this goddamned nightmare never going to end?! Just fucking kill me!!!
In short order, mountains of shit from Texas Tech addressed to Mark Bastardclanlastname began arriving. By this time I was so disillusioned and firmly convinced I wasn’t going to graduate that I just couldn’t motivate myself to even get started on the correspondence work. That lasted all of about 5 ms (milliseconds for you non-tech geeks). James let the stuff lay on the dining room table for two days before he came un-corked. I swear to the good Lord, this was the maddest I had ever seen him. Keep in mind this is paraphrased: “Son, your Aunt Kay has worked her ass off trying to figure out how you can graduate with your class. She has spent God knows how many hours on the phone and you can’t even be bothered to open the fucking packages?!” James rarely used the word ‘fuck’, or any of its derivatives in my presence, so I knew he meant business. “You are going to sit your ass down there at that fucking table and you are going to get busy! Is that understood?!!?” Hmm, well, since you put it that way, “Yes sir!”
With all of the diligence of a prisoner who knows all he has to do is a few hard, but manageable tasks to keep from getting his head chopped off, I set to work on this seemingly insurmountable pile of shit. With lots of prodding, and lots of encouragement, and sometimes threats from my Aunt and Uncle, I got it finished. Oh shit! Did I get it done in enough time for Tech to report the grades to my high school??!!
Fuck me, I am screwed.
I had all of about two weeks to sweat the answer to that question. Let me tell you, that shit sucks. I got a call at the dealership from the school. I took the call and as soon as I realized it was from Frenship HS (yes damnit, it is spelled F-R-E-N-S-H-I-P), I almost pissed my pants. I had blown it, I knew it. All of that belated hard work, all of the ass chewings for not being more focused, all of the effort, energy and time put into this ‘educate Mark’ endeavor that my Aunt and Uncle had put in, and it was all going to be for nothing. I just knew it. I honestly didn’t know who I was more disappointed for, me or them. They took a chance on me, and I had failed them.
“Mark, this is Mr. Whateverthefuckthatdickheadcouncilorsnamewas. We received a transcript from Texas Tech today containing your grades for the correspondence courses that you took.” Holy fucking shit!!! Shut your fucking pie hole about stupid shit and just tell me already, you prick bastard! “You made it young man. Congratulations, you will be able to walk with your class.”
I literally broke down in tears. Being a ‘tough’ kid, I couldn’t let anyone see that, so I went out to the back lot and sat there for a good long while and just cried. I couldn’t believe that I had actually done it. It was one of the proudest moments of my young life….and it wouldn’t have been possible without the love of my Uncle James and my Aunt Kay. I felt a hand on my shoulder. “See, I told you that you WERE going to do it. I never doubted it for a minute.” I turned, and for the first and last time in his or my life, I gave my Uncle a hug.
I could write a book of stories about the man. Sadly, there will be no more new Uncle James stories. He passed on August the 4th, 2010.
He was, without question, the most dynamic personality I have ever met. He lived a long, full, productive and fruitful life. I am proud to be one of his success stories. Without his influence, I would not be the man I am today.
On the family tree, he was my mother’s mother’s brother; my great-uncle. In reality, he was a saint, and one hell of a good man. You’d be hard pressed to find a kinder soul. I love you James, and I am most certainly going to miss you. See ya when I get there; we’ll have a beer, tell some stories and shoot some pool.