The world lost a great man a month ago. Jay Middlebrook was the salt of the earth, he was a warm shoulder and an open ear when you needed it and lord knows he was always ready with a joke. Today would have been Jay’s 69th birthday.
There are times in life when the line between friends and family gets blurred and your friends become more…they become family… well, it worked the other way with Jay. He was family, but for me he was a friend, too. My sister, Tracy, literally met her husband, Joe, in kindergarten. Tracy and Joe were in kindergarten two years before I was born and a year before Joe’s sister, Lindsey was born too. The Middlebrook family has been in my family’s life longer than Lindsey and I have been alive… crazy if you think about it. So when the day came that Tracy and Joe finally tied the knot I got to give jay a title… he became my father in law-in law… aka father in lala. He was “officially” family!
My memories of Jay go back to Northwest Hills where he would go swimming with me and Lindsey when we were just little things. I remember him standing at the end of their long driveway in San Marcos coaching us girls on how to ride Lindsey’s mini motorcycle and not kill ourselves. I still remember the smell of his pipe that cold afternoon… how his teeth held on to it as he giggled at us two rolly pollies bouncing, wobbling and flying down the rocky road holding on to the handle bars for dear life.
As is life, there was a gap in time where we didn’t see the Middlebrooks as much… aka, Tracy and Joe weren’t dating… but how lucky for me that they fell back into each other’s lives when I was finishing high school. Fortunate not only because Joe was back in the family (he was my favorite boyfriend that my sister ever had), but because he brought three other amazing people along with the package! The time that has passed between then and now has included four trips to Akumal, one impromptu trip to Vegas where I crashed the Middlebrook’s vacay, two cruises, god knows how many trips to Galveston, a wedding shower, a full on Cumberworth/Middlebrook Christmas and more San Marcos back porch sitting sessions in pie pants than I can even count. Jay walked my mom down the aisle at my wedding, babysat my dogs, introduced me to gingersnaps with sharp cheddar cheese (don’t knock it ‘til you try it) and has given me more side cramps from laughing than you can even imagine. The thing that I will miss most about Jay Bird is his humor (and his love of spicy food).
Jay was always there with a laugh. He was full of… well, let’s just say, he was full of it. I have never known someone who literally has a joke for everything but man, Jay always had a joke. Just weeks before he passed, Jay was sitting on the front porch of their new house in Lakeway, when he called Campbell (his 6 year old granddaughter) over. He said, “hey Cam you hear that?” In the distance you could hear a jackhammer… she replied, with “yeah, Pops... What is it?” Jay said, “you know Cam, it’s the Lakeway dentist… some kid’s been eating too much damn candy!” He retold that story to me and literally laughed out loud!
Oh his laugh… it wasn’t so much of a laugh as a giggle or a chuckle. I can see him standing in his kitchen just waiting for the first fool to eat his “special peanuts”. When that poor soul ate them… the ghost chili peanuts that is… and the spice finally hit the back of their throat, I can still see his shoulders bouncing as he let out is chuckle and slapped his leg with pure delight. Linda promptly made him put a note next to the nuts so no one else would fall victim to his prank. The note read something along the lines of “Warning, these nuts will burn your ass”. Those notes were another part of his Jayisms… those moments when you just have to laugh and wonder, who thinks to say that? Jay always got up early and had the coffee ready to go for us hung over idiots that woke up hours after him. One morning I woke up to one pot that read on a sticky note, “black gold” and another pot beside it that read, “Old San Antonio donkey piss.” Haha… hilarious!
Behind all of his jokes was a father that loved his kids and grandkids more than life itself… a caring husband… an animal lover… a teacher… a confidant… a chef… and a business man who could flip a switch and get the deal done at a moment’s notice. He wore many hats, was successful at them all and supported and encouraged those around him along the way. Although he wore many metaphorical hats, he was lucky to be in a profession where he didn’t have to wear many suits. Jay was most comfortable in fishing shirts, shorts and flip flops… for fancy occasions he might pull out his linen slacks and if we were really lucky he would wear his green sport coat. No no, not hunter green or forest green or any other green that may have been appropriate… this jacket was Sunday at the Masters green… and you know what, jay was the only person who could ever pull that off and he did on multiple occasions.
I will miss Jay so much.… more than words can say, but you know what….. god damn I was lucky to have known the ol’ mullet. I was lucky to have 31 years of laugher and stories and memories. Lucky for all of us Jay also left his humor, wisdom, and caring nature in is son and daughter that we can hold onto forever and a wife that was the perfect match for all that was Jay. I will forever be grateful to have known Jay, to call him family and best of all to call him a friend.
Jay Bird, when we meet again, whenever or wherever that may be, you better be ready to tell me a joke as soon as I get done giving you a big old kiss!