Claudia's Story

Even though Claudia's father
passed away eight years ago,
I am still placing
her story in this section
because as you read through her story
you will be able to see that the hurt
that came from his death
still affects her to this day

Robert A. (Bob) McKinney


My dad was built like a bulldozer,
and like a sturdy piece of machinery he
shouldered right through life doing his best.
He grew in the Depression,
knew hard times and hard work.
He knew life wasn’t fair,
but he plowed right on through his days
doing the best he could for those around him and himself.
His blue collar work took him outside
in blazing sun and kept him working
in the dark of evening some days.
He worked on county road crews,
at an auto parts store,
partnered in a plumbing business,
and as maintenance supervisor
for a school district.
He gave 100% whether he graded gravel
on a roadside or wrestled with an aging
furnace to heat up a winter school day.

Once Dad retired,
he bought a Honda Gold Wing
for cruising the highways.
He and mom took long trips
with fellow cyclists.
But Dad also enjoyed rising
in the early dawn and heading out
for local roads and then returning home
for breakfast or meeting some guys,
at the local cafe.
After years of hard physical work
and giving up his cycle loving habit
as a young man when he became a father,
Dad loved exercising his new freedom
with an old love,
touring roads while leaning
into curves and feeling
the wind in his face.


It was the Fourth of July, 1999 when
I first saw the crack in his life.
The kids and grandkids were home
for the summer holiday,
eating and playing.
After a summer meal of burgers,
we were cleaning up the kitchen
and Dad coughed a wicked sounding cough.
I followed him to the living room
and asked how long he has had the cough.
" Oh, a while," he said.
" It is nothing."
But my heart lurched
when he looked me square in the eye
and some strange connection was made.
We both knew something was not right,
that a dark cloud was forming
on the horizon of our lives.

By fall Dad had a
recurring pain in his ribs
and he finally saw a doctor.
And another and another.
No one truly
had a handle on his problem.
He would get temporary relief at best.
In October he came to see my
town's annual autumn parade,
to see his grandsons for the day.
  He thought it was the best parade
he had ever seen and enjoyed it so.
It was to be the last parade day we would share.

By February, he had been referred to
a Kansas City lung specialist.
This was after doing weekly scopes and tests,
removing his gall bladder,
and surgery on his colon.
The new surgeon took him to surgery
and after cutting him front to back
he found a massive mesothelioma
and sewed him back up.
After carving my dad
up like a Christmas turkey,
the doctors finally admitted
there was no hope.
The doctors did ask that dad
drive a 300 mile round trip,
once a week to be part of a testing body.
While he wanted to help,
no financial assistance
was available for this program
and my folks had a neither way
nor extra money to make the many trips.

So my dad came home to die.
Inch by painful inch the cancer
and the cancer drugs ate away the man I knew.
Being tough for 71 years enabled him to fight,
but even my bulldozer Dad could not
push this one away for long.
He took charge selling his tools,
trading cars so mom would have
good wheels when he was gone,
and made other plans.
But the saddest day of all
was the one where he watched
his Gold Wing roll down the drive
with a new owner-
and without him.
Gone were the freedom rides.

Meanwhile I saw an ad for a class,
action suit against asbestos companies.
I called the lawyer in Boston
and he was ready to fly out to Kansas
to interview my dad right away.
Most of his clients were men who had
worked in East Coast Navy yards
where asbestos was used in shipbuilding.
But after talking to Dad
he was sure Dad had been exposed to
asbestos in dealing with furnace repairs
and with brake shoes during his
machine shop work days.
Being my dad,
he hated to sign the papers to pursue punitive money.
I convinced him these companies
had sold asbestos long after they knew the dangers;
they had not only taken his life with their greed
but also stolen my dad from
his children and deprived my mom
of her husband.
Once assured that any money
would help mom after she was left alone,
he agreed and only a small
settlement was made before the lawyer
learned the asbestos companies were
taking out bankruptcy,
reforming into new companies,
ducking their responsibilities in
whatever way they could.

Dad died on July 10, 2000,
almost an exact year after our eyes met
over that strange cough in the living room.
All deaths are painful to families,
but his death was excruciating to watch.
No food after the middle of May;
finally no water.
His death was sorrow for us
but also such relief to see an easing
in his extreme suffering.
His funeral procession heading
towards the cemetery outside of our
small town included a long parallel
stream of motorcycle riders,
buddies and friends purring
their engines in a murmuring salute.

A decade later,
I still feel a little tug
when a Gold Wing passes me on the highway
or I hear the gentle start of a cycle's motor.
But also feel anger that,
according to a lawyer,
asbestos is still being sold
in Third World countries.
Even here I see immigrant labor
removing asbestos from old buildings,
often with workers not properly
dressed in protective gear.
I know those men are killing themselves,
while the company suits
are lining their pockets with money.
I have heard about a town in Montana where
asbestos pilings are harming
the residents still.
I know we can do nothing
against natural disasters,
but the disasters caused by Man's greed are
disgusting and supremely evil.
In dealing with environmental damage
we do the right thing for our country,
A local high school teacher
tells his students that even a dog
knows not to s___t in his own bed.
Why can Man not learn that lesson?

My dad could have died young from anything,
but he died from asbestos
poisoning his body.
It is hard to live with that fact.
He could have seen his grandson married,
his great-grandsons born
if not for the financial greed
of men willing to run fellow humans
through danger and poison like
sides of beef through a meat grinder.
Shame on a world where this continues to happen!


On to Craig's Story.