“I scarcely know where to begin, but love is always a safe place.” Emily Dickinson
They say you can’t choose your family. In some cases, the context of that statement can resonate a little louder than in others. But, in rare but glorious instances, we find gems among our own families that make us feel a little cocky about having some of that same DNA. David White was one of those people that could inspire such a synergistic sense of genetic pride and privilege. David could literally do anything!
David, my first cousin and the eldest of my generation of White’s, died on Saturday morning 9/13 at the age of 54. He apparently suffered some sort of massive heart attack but it’s really too soon to know the exact cause. But this blog is not about how David died, but how he lived. Growing up, I looked up to David, who was four years and 363 days older than me; celebrating our birthdays only two days apart. He was just a few months older than my eldest sister Cindy and he had two siblings; Debbie who is a few days older than my brother Mike and Donna who was a few years younger than me.
As children, David’s parents and my parents all four worked full-time jobs so both sets of parents would drop us kids off at our Mamaw and Papaw White’s house in Antioch during the summer months while we weren’t otherwise in school. We all played together every day and every summer until we were old enough to feed ourselves or drive, whichever came first. Some of my most fond memories are of David filming home-made movies with his super 8 reel-to-reel video camera. My brother and I starred in several of his hilarious early-70’s era productions which included the occasional butt-race around his neighborhood or other silly adolescent storylines using the most creative of special effects for the time.
In my younger years I was a musician. I played drums. David, older than I, was an incredibly gifted guitar, banjo, mandolin and upright bass player even as a teenager so we always had that connection with music. Later, when I became a police officer in Murfreesboro and moved out of my parents’ house for the first time, David and I lived together. We both shared a strong interest in firearms, camping and rappelling as well; each of which provided numerous experiences and memories that pop up in my mind occasionally which can easily generate the energy my face needs to form a random smile now and then.
David the man? He was funny, generous, personable, outgoing, helpful, quick-witted, and empathetic. David owned a smile that lit up his whole face and any room he was in. His mind was always at work, whether he wanted it to be or not, and he was prone to interrupt his own detailed explanations of today’s project as he organically and verbally solved a problem from yesterday’s project out-loud.
David’s back yard was a fun-house of projects. Any frustration he may have expressed about issues which would occasionally perplex his active mind for a few hours was delivered in the most sarcastic and animated fashion complete with anecdotal what-if’s that made you roll on the floor in laughter. It was his way, and you had to love it.
Who could ever forget his mechanical scare-crow? What about the self-orienting pilot wheel on his ultralight? Do you remember the home-made hot-water-heater he made with muffler pipes and a 55 gal. drum to heat his pool water? Or, my favorite “Piẻce de rẻsistance”, the outdoor pool which converts to an indoor pool by means of a track-sliding monolithic quanza hut that easily slides away when not needed. If John Deere engineers would design and build an inferior part, David White would quickly determine the corrective measures needed then build a replacement part which would outlast the rest of the mower.
Oh, so many stories and yet so few people who can relate. The one’s who can relate, you know who you are, will be tattooed forever, spread-eagle on our chests, with his indelible spirit and his enormous heart. The sad thing is that I could never tell a story like him. My stories, the one’s I shared with him, have overnight become way more boring. In fact, we’ve all become just a little more boring today without David around to narrate our lives.
As far as that precious DNA; once I get the sad slump out of my back, I know I will stand just a little taller knowing that I was David White’s 1st cousin. That somewhere inside me lies the ingredients that helped to create David Ray White. That’s DNA you can count on.