Goodbye Clint

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Clint Thompson died last Thursday. I got an email from Gina about it at the beginning of this week. He had been ill for a long time, waiting for his health condition to improve so doctors would clear him to receive a lung transplant. I didn’t talk to Clint much this year. I had been thinking about him recently and I was wondering how he was doing. Gina told me his memory had gone completely. If I had called he probably wouldn’t have known who I was.

During the past couple of years I went over to Clint’s house to clean and do odd jobs on his property for him. Mostly it was yard work, but sometimes he asked me to help him finish up woodworking projects in his garage that he converted over to a wood shop. I preferred doing the yard work and housecleaning over the wood working projects since I’m not very good at it and I’m always afraid I’m going to lose a body part to a finger hungry table saw. I liked helping Clint. It made me feel good because nobody that knew him would go out of their way to really help him. Well, there were a few other people helping out from time to time but most of them would flake out on him or show up and not work very hard. Then they would never come back.

His son Justin, didn’t come by to see Clint or help him much at all. I don’t know what was up with that. I met Justin once there at Clint’s place. He was there to assemble a kitchen table for his Dad. By the time I arrived there that afternoon Justin was nearly finished setting the table up and seemed to me to want to leave as soon as he possibly could. After he left, Clint told me his son had just completed schooling at the Police Academy and was applying with police departments all over California. None of the departments wanted to hire him. They said he would be too rough on people. I guess they figured that out from putting Justin through numerous psychological tests.

Clint talked to me about his personal problems with his only son while I was mopping his kitchen floors or moving his furniture around the house. It seemed to me Clint was hurt because his son would not come around to help him, and every time they spoke over the phone it ended up in a heated fight. As months passed by I noticed Clint became more bitter towards Justin. I wonder if they were able to resolve anything before he died. Clint was also angry with various people we had both worked with in the Closed Area at TDS. That’s where we first met. We were both working on new smart weapons programs there. Most of his anger was directed towards women. He felt women were incapable of making sound decisions, and totally unreliable. I would agree with him to avoid making him more agitated while I was working.

I was always paid extremely well by Clint for helping him around his place. I heard from a few people still working back at TDS that Clint was really happy and grateful to me for my help. He made a comment once to one of our coworkers, a lady named Jean, about how amazed he was when he asked me if I would come over some weekend soon to do odd jobs. I agreed immediately and I didn’t fail to show up. Jean mentioned later that Clint had been asking for help from people at TDS for months and most of the time they brushed him off. I felt good about myself when she told me that because going out of my way to assist him was no big deal.

Clint was a pretty decent guy despite his social shortcomings. In a way, I’m glad for him that he is dead. His ongoing pain and suffering are finally over. I called Justin on Tuesday and told him I regrettably would not be able to attend the scattering of Clint’s ashes on top of Mt. Tam in Marin, and that I was sorry Clint didn’t pull through in enough time to get the lung transplant he so badly needed. Clint ended up not getting the transplant because all the drugs he was on made his guts turn to mush. He never got past a certain point of recovery and was susceptible to becoming very sick from just about every kind of common illness. He ended up in that situation from decades of being a heavy smoker. Cigarettes destroyed his lungs and he told me once that his doctors estimated he only had a few percent of his total lung capacity left. If it drops below something like 5%, you die. He was very close to that lower limit.

When I had been working with Clint in the Closed Area at TDS, we spent time talking about his past days when he was a foolish twenty-something Airman in the US Air Force. It sounded to me like Clint led a rough lifestyle and it had been very hard on his body. It all came back to haunt him in a big way. He was full of regret. He never recovered from a breakup with his only wife, her death, the less than desireable relationship with Justin, and how badly he had taken care of himself.

Seeing Clint in his home hooked up to a variety of breathing apparatus and the heavy amounts of pills he had to take was a big time eye opener for me about the consequences of cigarette smoking. The drugs he was on made him have to crap and pee almost every fifteen minutes so that kept him at home close to the bathroom at all times. He couldn’t leave the house most of the time to do the simplest of errands for fear of being someplace where he couldn’t get to a bathroom. He sent me out to the hardware store and the video store many times on those weekends when I went over to see him. I think if more people could have the opportunity to see someone like Clint, they’d seriously reconsider their smoking habits.

Some of the really funny things Clint told me about himself was when he was in the Air Force back in the 1960s. He was an electronic technician on B52 bomber systems. Clint was constantly getting into serious trouble with his superiors and in particular, the Military Police. One story I’ll never forget him telling me was when he had been busted down for doing some stupid shit, so he had been confined to his barracks on base for a long while. He said he was a horrible drunk then, and because he was stuck weekend after weekend on base with no booze, he took to drinking aftershave. Clint was hitting the Aqua-Velva pretty hard and had developed a taste for it. So he’s stuck on base drinking aftershave and he gets the idea to have a barbecue. Only problem is, he’s someplace in the world where it’s constantly snowing and there’s no wood or coals anywhere to be had for a BBQ. Clint snuck into the officer’s mess and stole a whole case of steaks.

He quickly found a solution to his fuel dilemma. Clint went outside his barracks and began pulling wooden planks off the building for use in his fire pit. While he grabbed each plank with his hands and put his foot against the wall to pry them off, an MP patrol happened by. Stunned at what they were seeing before them they asked Clint what he thought he was doing. He replied in his drunken aftershave stupor, “I’m havin’ me a BBQ!” One of the MPs then had to ask him what he was going to cook up. “Steaks from the officer’s club!” As I could imagine I’m sure the MPs were unimpressed. Clint ended up with large amounts of time being added to his confined-to-base sentence along with a lot of time spent peeling potatoes and washing dishes.

Another one of Clint’s episodes involved seeking revenge upon the MPs he hated. Clint serviced radar sensors in the tailguns of B52 bombers. High security went along with B52s wherever they happened to be parked on the ground. Bright yellow lines were painted along the pavement of runways surrounding the bombers. Those yellow lines were called “The Line of Death.” Anyone who crossed that line without MP escort would be shot on sight. There were no exceptions. Clint despised MPs because they were constantly busting him down no doubt due to his stupid antics. He liked to test the MPs by crossing the Line of Death. Clint would put one foot over the line in plain view of MP patrols just to fuck with them. He hopped back and forth from side to side over the yellow marking. Despite repeated verbal warnings from security specialist MPs patrolling the tarmac, Clint continued to dare them to shoot him when he crossed the line of no return. Usually when he did it, MPs would jump him and beat the shit out of him in addition to locking him up.

To get his revenge on the MPs Clint would wait until he was inside a parked B52 working on the radar sensors in the tailguns. As soon as MPs patrolling the perimeter came into his view, he would flip a switch on the radar seeking unit causing it to go active. It was so sensitive that it would lock onto the MPs belt buckles and the gun pod would begin tracking them, aiming the guns at them as they passed by. Clint told me it freaked them out and really made them furious. He did it every opportunity he got while inside B52s servicing their systems. I think he got a lot of enjoyment out of that.

I’m glad we crossed paths, Clint. I know you’re in a better place now. My friend, perhaps someday you and I will meet again on the other side.

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~ by factorypeasant on October 26, 2005.

4 Responses to “Goodbye Clint”

  1. FP,
    I can totally relate to this entry. It reminds me a lot of the friendship I had with the “big P” who passed away two years ago. It is always tough to see a good friend suffering. You did a good thing helping him out.
    Barley

  2. Paulee was cool. i got a few stories about him coming up. one of my favorites will be titled “Eighty Pounds of Carrots.” keep an eye out for it.

  3. i will keep an eye out for that. I am working on some replies to your potatohead and unibomber stories, but havent had a chance to throw them out there yet. Good writing.
    Barley

  4. looking forward to reading your stuff, Barley. let me know when you begin posting it. i don’t want to miss it.

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