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My Life with Cindy
It began in August of 1975. I was still enlisted in the Air Force at the time, and as it so happened, I was home on leave while my own mother was battling cancer. Unable to face the reality of the situation, I escaped by “Cruising Belmont,” which was the main drag at the time. Sitting on the hood of my brand new black on black Plymouth Duster, with some friends, we would holler at girls driving by, inviting them to join us. Cindy made the mistake of pulling in. Our journey together would last for 38 years.

She worked at the Foster’s Freeze in Clovis, not far from where I lived in my parents house. So going to see her was easy! I think she was genuinely surprised to see me the following day when I showed up to Foster’s. We dated for the next several months, although I was still in the Air Force, and could only come back every other weekend.

My mother passed not long after meeting Cindy. And then just a couple weeks later, another life altering event occurred for me when my father, legally blind, was unable to care for my 16 year old sister by himself. My younger sister was the wild one. He arranged for my early departure so I could help care for her, and I got employment right away with his friend and business owner Gordon Crabtree, as a machinist.

That sealed our fate. A few months later and just before Cindy was to go to Hawaii for a vacation with friends, we announced our plans to get married to her family.

Cindy’s mom was somewhat less than thrilled. What needs to be pointed out was that by this time, I had started to revert to my long haired, scraggly teenage beard former self. Obviously not “prime son-in-law material!”

She had a one-word expletive when we broke the news. Rhymes with "Hit."

We were married on May 29th, 1976 at the Methodist church on Pollasky Street in Clovis. Cindy’s mom pretty much arranged everything. To her dismay though, I refused to wear the “Dusty Rose” color she had picked out for my tux. “It’s PINK! I ain’t wearin’ it!” was my position. The color was changed to a burgundy red. I figured I could live with that.

The reception was a raucous affair, held at the Clovis Veterans Memorial building. A rock & roll band called “Southern Pacific” was booked, and they rocked the house! Both Cindy and I remembered her Grandmother, Nola Smith, (Clovis Rodeo Queen of 1919) tapping the table to the beat of a rendition of Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine.” We thought it was hilarious. We never did tell Nola what the song was about. Dancing and drinking went on till late, and Cindy and I didn’t make our exit till close to midnight.

We stayed at a local hotel that night so we wouldn’t be bothered, and headed to Carmel the following day for our Honeymoon. Once again, Cindy’s mom had made arrangements for us. A “cottage” near the downtown area. It was very nice. Carmel was nice too. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to experience any kind of night time activity, such as taverns or dance halls. We were both still under-age. Didn’t matter all that much to us! We were newlyweds after all.

We struggled those first years financially. We lived in an apartment at Bullard and Villa avenues in Clovis. It was a corner apartment. It seemed advantageous at the time we picked it out, but the reality was somewhat less than ideal. Both of us were making close to minimum wage, yet we still craved entertainment. We were still kids. Pretty much all we cared about was having a good time. As youngsters, we still enjoyed sleeping late on weekends, but it seems every Saturday morning some kid came slidin’ around that corner on a Big Wheel…over and over again. Damn. The things we remember!

Cindy has always been an animal lover. I don’t recall a period in which we didn’t have at least one critter. Early on, we had this scraggly mutt, part poodle, part….who-knows-what. We had an incident at the apartment we lived at when this mutt brought fleas in. Not just a few. And they didn’t stay on the dog. We discovered them while sitting in the living room with friends, and fleas were jumping onto our legs and feet! Not knowing exactly how to deal with it, and not being able to afford an exterminator, I took things into my own hands, and sprayed the whole house, including the carpet with Black Flag bug killer. Not the most intelligent approach, but it worked!

Another funny recollection from those apartment days, (funny now at least), was the "Unplugged Clothes Dryer Incident." Our washer and dryer were on the apartment's outside patio. I had a little arc welder plugged into the 220volt dryer outlet to weld some stuff together, and had forgotten to switch the plug back to the dryer. Cindy always got mad at me about that because it happened quite often. On one occasion while friends were visiting, she made the attempt to change the plug herself. She unplugged the welder, and with her hand wrapped around the dryer plug, and with thumb and forefinger on the plug blades guiding it into the socket...

I noticed the lights dim, heard a pop, a scream, and Cindy stormed into the apartment and let me have both barrels in front of my friends! Yep. she used a couple of expletives herself!

In those days, we spent a lot of time hanging out with so-called friends. I say “so-called” because as things turned out, they weren’t really friends at all. Just acquaintances. It was those early years that really taught me the value of true friends. After a time, Cindy and I realized we were each other’s best friends. I think that was the underlying success of our marriage.

Cindy had embraced my obsession with fast cars early in our relationship. We had taken our ’72 Dodge Demon to the track a few times the first year we were married. I think that pretty much “set the hook.” Over the course of the next several years we had a few ill-fated projects until we found a beautiful 1970 Dodge Challenger. Almost immediately, we were involved in illegal street racing.

Things were different back then. It was before cell phones and well before the Japanese “fast & furious” era of the activity. Back then, we used to congregate at Eddy’s Speed Shop late on Friday and Saturday nights. Sometimes we would just hang out. Sometimes we’d choose someone to race. We’d get a couple of pairings arranged, and head to an industrial sector, away from traffic, and well out of view. We’d all take different routes so as not to arouse the suspicions of the local constabulary. There’d be a gallery of maybe 30-40 people. We’d make a couple of runs then leave.

Once, we were at a place called “Martin-Oil.” It was in south Fresno in an industrial park, and it was popular because of the large “spectator area.” The police knew about it too. One night after a couple of runs, a Fresno PD car rolls up. We thought we were busted.

The cop said he had been observing all night. But, he let us know that the Highway patrol was on the way and they didn’t have a sense of humor about this kind of stuff. It would be best to vacate the area.

On another occasion, I was lined up with a buddy about to make a pass. Cindy was flagging us. Two cars, side by side, ready to take off, Cindy standing in between ready to give the signal to go….Suddenly she is bathed in light... The light from a police helicopter’s flood light! My buddy panicked and took off at a high rate of speed. The copter was on him like stink on poop. Cindy calmly walked over to our car, got in, and we calmly drove away. Everyone involved met at our house afterwards to calm down. It was a frightening, yet thrilling moment. My buddy, Mark Bier, actually served a bit of jail time over it. In large part because he had numerous violations already piled up. For us, it was a turning point. We stopped street racing and “went legit” not long after.

By this time, we had moved out of our apartment and into a rental house in Clovis. It was a regular meeting place for friends, and it seemed we had people over almost every night. We thought the big attraction was that the pool table had something to do with it. But I think the big attraction was a family friend that was renting a room from us. An attractive, single young woman.  Yeah, that was more of an attractant to twenty-something guys than a pool table I reckon!

Sometimes when things ran late into the night during the week, Cindy & I would just go to bed and tell our guests to lock up when they left.

In 1982 our first son Mark came along. At first, I was scared. I was afraid of the responsibility. Once he was in my arms, my entire view on life changed. It changed for both Cindy and I in ways that parents can understand.

To say that his arrival put a dent in our recreational activities is an understatement. We still found time to go racing though. Mark was going to the race track before he could walk. Looking back, I was probably oblivious to what Cindy was going through carting him to the track and caring for him all day.  For me, it seemed everywhere we went, I was dragging that portable playpen with us.

In 1984 Cindy and I bought our first house. We bought it from a family friend. We had made several attempts to buy a home of our own in the past, but always came up short in what we were qualified to borrow. This house was an old two-bedroom, one bath house, under 1000 square feet but on a massive ½ acre lot in Old Tarpey Village. It was near Clovis, but outside the city limits on a county island. Lots of grass and shady areas for Mark to play in.  The previous owner had installed a hot tub in the back yard and had built a wood fired water heater for it as a college engineering project. It was unbelievable how well it actually worked. However, to take a dip in the hot tub required a bit of planning. A fire had to built about an hour or so beforehand to heat the water. Temperature was regulated by how big the fire was.

We would host volleyball games in our back yard because the size of the yard was such that six person teams were easily accomodated. Of course we had BBQs and other forms of entertainment. Cindy thrived on the social aspect. Of course when Mark was young, he was always trying to get in on the volleyball action!

I was reminded recently of our "June Bug Races" that we had at some of the mid summer events. This house was notorious for June Bugs. Probably the sandy soil made prime breeding ground. In any case, I had built a June Bug Drag Strip. This was a plank with dividers to separate the two lanes, and a plexi-glas cover to keep the june bugs in their own lane. Left to their own, june bugs "handle" like AA/Fuel Altered dragsters, prone to swapping lanes in the middle of the run. The lure to get then down the track once they were released by the handler, was a bug zapper light. The competing june bugs were lined up in their respective lane, then released when the signal was given. They would zip down the track toward the light and the winner....I reckon was more of a loser!

A lot of good memories in that old house!

We were still trying to race at that time, but it was becoming more and more difficult.  By the end of the 1987 racing season, the car was gonna need a bunch of expensive maintenance. As I looked at the car, then looked down at Mark digging in the dirt with a spoon, then looked at our run down little house with ratty old furniture, I decided it was time to hang up my racing jacket for a while.

Not long after, Cindy and I had decided that it was time to try to have another child. It was a little heartbreaking watching Mark play by himself. After a few months, Cindy became pregnant and Will was born in December of 1988.

This was also about the time I started to make some extra money putting my artistic talent to work by doing artwork for t-shirt printing. In a short time, I had built a multi-color shirt printer, and little by little, by putting profits back into equipment, I had all I needed to print t-shirts full time.

The unfortunate side-effect of this is that while this was going on, Cindy was dealing with bringing up the boys almost alone. Between my full time job and this t-shirt side line, there were times I’d work from the time I got home, till midnight or later, plus all day on weekends. I missed out on what Will was like as a baby, and I missed out on what Mark was like between the age of six and ten. This is one of my regrets in life. I just don't think I realized how much of a burden this put on Cindy. She rarely complained, but looking back, I know it was difficult for her.

I finally had enough business to quit my day job and do the t-shirt thing full time in 1991. This lightened the load on Cindy, as the boys could come home after school, and I was able to walk Will to school till he was old enough to walk by himself.

Also in this time period, I had gotten into bicycling in a big way. Our vacations revolved around bicycle events. Happily for Cindy, many of these were near the coast. She so loved the ocean. So, with cab-over camper on the truck, we’d have extended weekend vacations several times a year. We learned the intricacies of getting camp sites at popular places, and Cindy, the boys and the families of those we were with would relax, enjoy the beaches while the guys and I were out pounding the bicycle pedals. Sometimes, rather than camp, we would share a beach house with two other families. This time period was much more enjoyable than the years before.

The stress of trying to make a living printing t-shirts started to take it’s toll on me however. 1995 was not a good year for the Lawless’.  Maybe it was stress, maybe it was mid life crisis, I don’t know anymore. But working my tail off for such meager returns just got to me. I did some pretty stupid things at that time. Many of which I regret to this day.  I got rid of all my equipment, we sold the house, and moved into a rental house. As much stress as I put her through until I came to my senses, Cindy found it within herself to forgive me.

Things were starting to change in her life too. She was working at Equitable Life Assurance Company and had been there several years. They had decided to downsize and centralize their operations in Charlotte, North Carolina. They had offered to move her out there. All expenses paid. I was doing freelance artwork at the time, and I was 100% into a new adventure. After months of indecision, as well as a bit of pressure from me to make the move, she decided to stay put. Although it put us in a difficult position financially, it turned out to be the right thing to do. Being near family is something a price simply cannot be put upon.

Seems she always knew what the right thing to do was. Sometimes I was too pigheaded to realize it.

Things turned out for the best. She landed a coveted position with Clovis Unified School District after serving a short stint as a substitute clerk. As for myself, I started working for Malcolm Media Ag Publishing late in 1998. We bought the house we were renting, and it seemed life was good….finally!

We both had the itch to get back into racing. The boys were old enough. So, in 1998 I brought home this rotted out hulk of a VW. After a year-long restoration, we started hitting the track. One thing led to another and soon we had made acquaintances with a group of southern California racers. We started doing events farther and farther away from home.

Cindy really enjoyed this aspect. There were a few events we made mini vacations out of, similar to our bike days. We became close friends with this group from Southern California, and we spent a lot of time together. We’d get hotel accommodations at the same places, we’d dine together, relax together. This was prime time.

These trips took us to Vegas every year, Phoenix, and a couple of times as far as Denver. Cindy particularly enjoyed the Vegas trips. She liked to play the nickel slot machines. We'd have a gambling budget of around 100 bucks. We would leave Clovis right after work on the Thursday night before the event and roll into Vegas at about 1am. Traveling at night was much easier, and when we arrived, the slot machines were quite a bit looser, so she would win a good chunk of money that night. More times than not, it was enough to carry her casino play the entire weekend. On one occasion, she had enough in winnings to buy a fancy purse she had been hankerin' after at one of the shop in Caesars Palace.

The Denver trips were very nice. We’d take a few days on either side of the event so we could take our time. In 2004, we took Will along. We stopped at almost every scenic viewpoint along the way. We stayed in Moab Utah the second night of the outbound part of the trip, and the next day, we did a tour of Arches National Monument. We were towing the car through the park, and it seemed everytime we stopped, we would attract a group who wanted to check out the car. Cindy liked that! Secretly, she liked the attention.

Our truck struggled getting over the Rockies towing the race car, but we made it. After the race, we took the long way home. We went through Black Canyon in the dead of night, stopping in Montrose. We vowed to return there on our next trip, and we did. But on this trip we visited Mesa Verde. The Anasazi Indian cliff dwellings near Cortez Colorado. It was one of my "Bucket List" destinations. We watched native American dances in the town square. We had genuine indian tacos at a food stand in Four Corners, where Will and I stood on four states at the same time. Cindy wanted the old indian woman that we bought the tacos from to come home and live with us. She loved the food so much!

Over the span of the last dozen years, we’ve covered a lot of ground. Ground that because of racing, we were able to see. Had it not been for racing, we never would have made the effort.

I have to say that she was the driving force for all of this. It was her that wanted to get so involved. It was her that wanted to do the traveling. It was her that wouldn’t let me do anything half way. When it came to the Bakersfield March Meet, Cindy was all over it. She LOVED the atmosphere. She did all the planning outside of race preparations. She’s the one that made it such a great experience. She liked the extra amenities of course, which made it costly. Neither of us cared though. If it meant we’d have to cut back on other events, that’s what we did. The March Meet for her was all about the socialization. That’s what she loved. Winning our class at the 2009 March Meet was the high point of our racing career, and we were able to share it with the Palmers, a couple of our best So Cal friends.

Ironically, it was at the March Meet in 2010 that her first symptoms began to appear, and finally at the 2013 March Meet that the steep downhill slide in her health began.

On May 5th,  2007, we celebrated the marriage of our first-born, Mark, to a lovely young woman named Sara. Later in 2010, Cindy got the news she had been hoping for since the marriage. Sara was with child! Cindy was overjoyed, and immediately set to the task of making sure that child had everything she would need. Mallory Abigail was born in April of 2011, and that day was the happiest moment of Cindy’s life. The entire family is convinced that Mallory extended Cindy’s time by a good margin. Even if she felt bad, Cindy was always up for the hour long drive down to Visalia to see her grand-baby. Mark and Sara saw to it that they visited Clovis as often as they were able, and were quick to come when “Nana” needed some Mallory time. She loved that child more than any words can relay.

Cindy really wasn't a "Material Gal" but one thing that she really wanted was one of the new Dodge Challengers. She loved the original one we had way back, and when the new version came out, she hoped to one day get one of her own.

For Mothers Day in 2012, I decided to pull the trigger and make it happen for her. She couldn’t drive the little green Karmann Ghia convertible I had gotten for her years before due to the stick shift nature of the car, coupled with loss of sensation in her feet. A side effect of her chemo treatments.

I always took her out for dinner on Friday evening. This had become a ritual for us over the last several years.It was “Date Night.” She rarely let me off the hook to take her out. I could never refuse her! But to be honest, I enjoyed our time out as much as she did. It gave us a chance to unwind and reconnect after a tough week’s work.

On the Friday before that Mother's day, I had a surprise in store for her. On this evening, the restaurant I chose was “Dai Bai Dang,” a chinese bistro in the Riverpark center. Afterwards as we were leaving, I went a different way and made out like I just took a wrong turn. She chided me for being absent minded. And then I missed another turn. “Where are you going?” she said emphatically. “Oh, I’ll just turn at Bullard.”

What she didn’t know was that I was going to Fresno Dodge. I turned into the parking lot, and she asked what I needed there. I said, “nothing.” Then I saw this big smile come across her face!

“Are we gonna look?”

I said, “Yeah. We can look.”

Four Challengers sat out front in bright colors. The sales guy comes out. “She wants to see a silver one,” says I. Off to the back lot we go. She’s really getting into it, and it seemed she was going back and forth between two silver ones. Still, she has no idea...

“Make her happy and we’ll buy today,” I said. Her eyes got big and the look on her face was priceless. I’ll not forget it as long as I live. She drove it home that night, and for a while, things were perfect. She immediately set to the task of personalizing it…making it hers. First the spoiler on the rear deck. Then the charcoal colored stripes front to back. And for an accent, a thin red pinstripe bordering the charcoal stripes.

She was so happy with it. That is until one day after coming out of a school district meeting, she walked up to unlock the car and the door wouldn’t open. Perplexed, she made repeated efforts until she noticed a high school graduation tassel hanging from the mirror. Another car EXACTLY like hers! Well now, that simply would NOT do. Off came the red pinstripe to be replaced with lime green. Known to Dodge aficionados as “Sub-Lime.”

We drove the car out to Montana to see her sister at her new place near Florence in the summer of 2012. We spent the week of 4th of July there. We took a bit of time, and made a few scenic stops along the way. Once there, Cindy’s sister Jennifer opened their home to us and made sure we were well taken care of. We had more than a few recreational activities to do. Sometimes all together, sometimes gals did one thing while the guys did something else. She loved being out on Flathead Lake watching our brother-in-law James and I “fish.”

I caught a stick. At least it was a big stick. And it put up a fight!

On our return trip, we went through the western edge of Yellowstone for photo opportunities at various points of interest, including “Old Faithful.”

That week was very good. Very good indeed.

The year 2012 was good in many ways, but the very beginning of that year was also a turning point in Cindy’s battle with cancer. In December 2011, she had undergone surgery to unblock her colon. The tumor had grown to that point and she was suffering mightily. The thing that drives me mad is that just before that, it seemed by her scans and bloodwork that she was a breath away from remission. It was SO close. Having to suspend chemo treatments to get the surgery done reversed that trend, and the cancer once again began its savage attack with renewed vigor. After a time, it became apparent that the cancer had become resistant to the current course of treatment. New, and extremely harsh medicines were added to her twice-monthly regimen. Little by little, the treatments took their toll.

She hid her pain from the world the best she could. Only those close to her knew how hard she fought. To those on the outside, her ever-present smile told the world that she was OK, that she was kickin’ cancer’s ass.

She didn’t let it interfere with us living life. We did as much as she could tolerate. Sometimes it was intolerable, but she fought through it anyway. I knew she was in pain before the Memorial Day VW racing event in Sacramento. She would NOT hear of bailing out on it. She wanted to go no matter what. In retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t pull the plug on that. It did her good to be out among friends, and everyone, and I mean EVERYONE did what they could to make her as comfortable as possible.

She fought so hard. She fought with everything she had. She loved her life and her family and she wanted to live. She was an inspiration to all. She fought until she had nothing left to fight with. She did NOT go quietly into that good night. She went kicking, scratching and punching. She was a warrior to the end. She was my warrior princess.

We’d known each other for nearly 38 years. From that night in 1975 in early August, I’ve been the luckiest man on earth.

She made me a better man than I otherwise would have been. Yes, we had our disagreements, our rough patches. She forgave my shortcomings because she loved me.

I loved her. I will love her the rest of my life.