Saturday, September 3, 2011

Portland (or rather, Elko) Day 7 and 8


There was much to do in Elko to make the final preparations for Grandpa's service. One thing that was decided prior to my arrival, had to do with the music, which previously consisted of some big band music from the 50's and 60's, but was to be replaced entirely with music which I composed. It was up to me to select the tracks and I had to peruse my catalogue for something emotionally appropriate.  So, no Star Wars parody or werewolf music.

I assembled a list that everyone approved, so I made arrangements to burn a CD at Johnny's house that night.

Around dinner, Kelly, Johnny and I got together to coordinate our thoughts for the service which took place Friday morning.  Being so many years apart we had very different experiences:  Kelly still remembered Grandpa's first wife, Evelyn (who was nicknamed Teddy).  Johnny only slightly remembered her, and I never knew her.

Sometime after Teddy died, Grandpa married a friend whom many of the family knew.  I grew up with Grandpa Doug and Grandma Gen and didn't learn about Teddy until I was old enough to understand the bramble that is our family tree.

While I was growing up Grandpa was retired and he and Gen traveled a lot, and spent the winters near Vegas.  Kelly spent time with Grandpa growing up and even worked for him at his store while Grandpa still owned it, but of the three of us, Johnny spent the most time with Grandpa and Uncle John.  They were into hunting, fishing, and Uncle John and Johnny were into water skiing.  Grandpa owned an auto-parts and sporting goods store called PM Supply, and was a very good, and well-respected, businessman.  A few old timers commented about how that was when business was conducted with a handshake and your word meant something, and that, men like Grandpa built towns because of their business acumen and ethics.  It was a damn stirring tribute.

Grandpa was an early adopter and gadget guy, with things like color TV, a remote control TV, a microwave, and he was also into model airplanes and carpentry (skills he got from his father, who was born in Sweden and trained as a cabinet maker).

One of the cool revelatory things was that because he had invested in properties in the Ruby Marshes and out at Wildhorse, it basically provided a place for the family to gather, and all the guns and boats and other toys and various sporting activities provided a childhood for his kids and grandkids and great-grandkids. It was really neat to think of everything he had accomplished by doing this.

It was nice to reminisce and also to spend time together.  And I was all the happier that it really felt like a celebration of his life.  Grandpa was a very active guy, and only went seriously downhill in the last year or two.  All the hiking he did while hunting all those years earlier.  Cardio seriously pays off.

I have often felt that if you have been to one funeral, you've been to too many, but burying a high-school classmate, or a 40-year old in the prime of his life is a very different thing than burying a 98 year old man.  I know how I feel about death now, and it is different from a lot of other people's view.  I really did my best to put aside my cynicism, and steel myself against any needless emotion.

But despite my best efforts, seeing the cautious touch as his daughter brushed his cheek and smoothed his hair for the last time, effortlessly shattered any defenses I put up.  Don't get me wrong, I kept it together respectably, but on the inside my mascara was running.  Patsy lived with Grandpa for pretty much her entire life, and knowing the closeness of that relationship, how they had cared for each other especially in recent years, and seeing the reality of it sink in was just heartbreaking.  Like when you see an adult vulnerable for the first time.

There were a lot of tearful comments and readings at the service, but it didn't feel sad and regretful.  More like saying, "it was a good cry," but I don't mean that literally, I didn't really cry.

I mean I know it wasn't him, but damn it looked like him and--I don't know if I was the only one--but I kept expecting him to snore.

After the service was over, we convened at John and Phyllis' house for a reception and lunch.  The day was beautiful and cloudless.  There was a light breeze and mixed with the hot sun, it was a perfect "chardonnay and cheese plate" sort-of-day.  Unfortunately I had a three-and-a-half hour drive immediately following the reception back to Salt Lake, so no Chardonnay for me.  I left latish with the idea I wouldn't have to wait as long at the airport, but as Murphy's law was still in effect, my flight was delayed almost three hours.

So I type this from SLC waiting for the plane to arrive to return me to PDX where the vacation can continue.  It turns out the plane was delayed by closer to four hours.  It was coming from Denver and I can only assume it had to make a quick stop in Shanghai.  But now I am back in Portland, and we wrap this part of our trip tomorrow morning, and will drive to our next destination.

In the meantime, Gregory has told me about his two days with Meagan and Beth: the amazing sushi he ate, and the impromptu whirlwind trip to Seattle, and how cool the Space Needle was, and how much fun they had at Pike's Market.  I, in turn, made him jealous with my stories of Chevron trail mix and KFC.

1 comment:

gherlashdawn said...

The people of Elko seems so nice. Most that I've met will go out of their way to help you. The scenery is so beautiful. The trout fishing is great. Immigration is made for many reasons, including economic, political, family re-unification. All one has to do is visit some of the wonderful places in Arkansas and they will see what I'm talking about.

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