A Tribute to Tommy
My dear friend, Thomas “Tommy” Bartholomew Clark II passed away this past Tuesday, March 12. If Tommy were here now he’d tell me to stop writing this nonsense and get on with it but I want you to know who Tommy was. I want Tommy to be your first thought when you grumble about rolling out of bed or you don’t want to go to work or you THINK you CAN’T do something. I want Tommy to be your last thought when you are scared, when you doubt yourself, and when you are unsure of what to do next. Tommy would’ve told you to get over it and to do it.
This is my tribute to Tommy and how he got over it and how he did it.
At just 18 years old and an awkward, excited freshman at Texas A&M University in College Station, TX, I was perusing the job board looking for a part time job. My parents insisted that I go to school full-time and work part-time and although I pouted then, I’m thankful for that lesson now. I ran across a job posting for a 19 year old wheel chair bound male Sophomore that had Spinal Muscular Atrophy that was looking for part time help to get him up and ready and take him to his classes Monday-Friday. Now, any sane 18 year old with no medical experience would’ve continued looking but I thought that since I had volunteered at various disability camps throughout high school and my summers, that I could handle this. IDIOT.
Tommy asked me to meet him at the Callaway House where he, his sister and live in friend, Heather lived. I remember walking right to Tommy, leaning down and sticking out my hand. Tommy could still move his fingers but couldn’t lift his hands so I grabbed a few of his fingers and shook them! Apparently, Tommy thought that was pretty funny and I had the job in the bag by then. 🙂
Tommy had to teach me everything. How to get him up, get him dressed and ready, feed him through his feeding tube, and operate his wheelchair. I bumped his head on walls more times than I could count while carrying him to and from his bed, I drove his wheelchair too fast when he let me operatore the joy stick to the point that he would almost hyperventilate, I nearly pulled out his feeding tube mulitple times because I wouldn’t be paying attention, I backed his van into a cement post more than a few times, I fell asleep at his computer while waiting for him to read his assignments on more than one occasion. Yes, I was the model employee.
But that’s just it, Tommy wasn’t my employer and I wasn’t his employee. We were friends, good friends. He should’ve fired me after the first week but he kept me for a little over 2 years. We went to midnight yell, football games (by God, he, his sister, and brother Jeffrey knew football!), plays, comedy shows, and dinners together. He loved my family and (some) friends and above all, he hated my boyfriends and didn’t have any reservation in telling me so.
Tommy amazed me. Here he was, confined to his wheelchair, but by God he did EVERYTHING. He went to class, he studied, he took his tests and even though all of those things took HOURS longer than everyone else, he still did them.
Tommy, life long friend Heather, his sister Brookanne, myself, and one of his helper guys. Tommy would make fun of me now because I can’t remember that guys name.
Tommy, myself, Heather, and his sister, Brookanne after seeing “A Midsummer’s Nights Dream” I think.
Brookanne, Heather, myself, and Tommy. They came for my 21st birthday party!
The day that Tommy got his Texas A&M Aggie Ring. WHOOP! Proud day and I’m so glad to have been able to be there and share that with him!
It was the hardest decision to quit as Tommy’s assistant 2 years later. I needed to look for jobs that fit my major and career choice and decided to make that change at the beginning of my Junior year. Nothing changed between Tommy and I and for that I’m so very grateful.
Tommy graduated from Texas A&M in 2005 with a BS in Sports Management. Get this. He graduated AFTER completing an internship with the Colorado Crush arena football team. Flippin’ rock star. Tommy even designed a logo for my dad’s real estate company from his computer. Tommy went to New York City! Tommy went to LAW SCHOOL.
Tommy graduated from the South Texas College of Law with a Doctorate of Law this past May. He then took and PASSED the Texas State Bar exam in July.
My last picture with Tommy was in May for his Law School graduation. I had managed to coordinate a business trip at the same time and flew from Utah to Houston. My parents also came to Houston and together, we hooted and hollered as Tommy crossed that stage and accepted his Law Degree.
The day before he graduated, I put Tommy in his van and I drove to a nice lunch spot in downtown Houston and we had lunch together, just like old times. I think Tommy was ready to about choke me then because I made him try a TINY piece of Ahi Tuna. He said it was terrible but I still think he was lying to this day. He liked it and just didn’t want to admit it. I’m grateful for that lunch that we shared. Just he and I.
When I think of Tommy, I don’t think about the wheelchair. I see Tommy, standing tall. In fact, he towers over everyone else.
When can the killer treasure a betting knight?