Gibraltar, an illustration

My Father’s Death Journal; Entry 01

My father passed away on August 22, 2008. In honor of Veteran’s Day (he served as an Electronics Technician on the USS Reclaimer) I thought I’d start posting the journal he kept shortly before he died. I’ll keep posting them as time permits. A few photos are included.

***

July 16, 2008

OK here’s the deal –

After discharge from the service in Feb ’69, my buddy Tom* and I flew to Europe and began hitchhiking around. Bottom line – we end up in Algeceras, Spain which was on the Mediterranean coast. It was the only way to get to the Rock of Gibraltar. The Rock was occupied by the British as it has been for hundreds of years. The Spaniards were trying to squeeze them out, so they closed off the land route to Gibraltar and you could only get there by boat. So we stayed in Spain (’cause it was cheap) and rode the ferry to the Rock, to snoop around the stores and, of course, climb the Rock itself.

So, one day, while on Gibraltar, we decide to walk out to othe airport on the peninsula @ La Linea. It was a small airfield, perpendicular to the Peninsula and right up against the Spanish border.

Gibraltar, an illustration

There was a small terminal building containing: the tower, a couple duty-free shops, a money exchange (more on this later), and an upstairs duty-free bar. The money exchange place was necessary because the terminal was British-run. Only English money could be used in the various shops in the building and, indeed, anywhere on Gibraltar.

So Tom and I got some English money and went upstairs to the bar for a drink. We sat overlooking the lower terminal floor, watching people come and go. We noticed this tourish come through the door, past the sign explaining only English money was used, and up the stairs to the bar. He nodded to us as he headed to the bar. He was a big man, a little overweight, about 50 years old, dressed in khaki shorts, a Hawaiian type short sleeve shirt, and flip flops. He had a 35 mm camera around his neck.

Stepping up to the bar he ordered a drink and a bottle of Scotch to go (being duty-free, it was a good price).

The bartender was a tall, quiet Englishman about 50. Handing the Scotch and the drink to the tourist, he said, “That’ll be 2 pounds 6 sir.” 

The tourist handed the bartender a $50 US bill. The bartender said, “We only take English money here, sir. You need to exchange this downstairs.”

The tourist smiled and said, “Would you do it for me?”

Now the bartender gave this man a long careful look. It was a look that spoke volumes about his feelings about this situation. With a sidelong glance at us, he muttered, “Certainly, sir,” took the money and went down the stairs, leaving us and the tourist alone in the bar.

The man turned to us and smiled. “Yeah,” he said, “Just flew in from Marseilles. Going to Madrid for 2 days, then Lisbon. Then back to the US. Spent 2 days in Paris. 2 in Copenhagen. 2 in London.”

My friend, Tom, studied the man through half-closed eyelids, then he spoke – “Why’d you bother?”

The man was taken aback – “What do you mean?”

Tom said, “Why come here if you are going to skip around so much. You won’t get a feel for Europe.”

The man turned sullen. “It was a cruise deal.”

Tom said nothing. There was an awkward silence, broken by the return of the bartender with the proper coinage. He counted out the American’s change and handed it to him. Said, “Thank you, sir,” and returned to tending his bar. The tourist finished his drink and left. Tom and I rose to leave and, in doing so, exchanged more glances with the bartender. He knew that man was an American and he also knew we were. I felt bad being associated with that insensitive type the but the bartender remained non-committal. He bid us “Good day” in an honest and forthright manner.

*not his real name. His real name was R___ T___ N___ but everyone called him Tom.

Happy Veterans Day

By the way, I called Tom this afternoon – thanks to Google, I was able to find him. I miss my father very much.

My Father's Obituary

 

you know our kids are huge now but still curl up on our laps, at home & in public

Phoenix = "Rockstar Pirate Witch"

There is something indefatigable about an intimate family life, something most beautiful when things are darkest, or most absurd. It’s like, the cynic in me, the girl-then-woman raised in a “militant agnostic” home (my father, anyway), some of the reasons I’ve written here for years is an attempt to communicate what it’s like to live my experience. The more I’ve written, the easier it flows, and the happier I feel. I mean often I don’t even think how valuable or interesting this might be to others, I’m just compelled to try to tell you about it if you want to read. I think there’s a lot to gain in relating to one another.

But yeah, there are these great moments in a family that are kind of … terrible moments. Like yesterday while we drove out to a birthday party, with three kids packed in the back of the car, one kid holding a cake and another a cat in a carrier (for a “pet show” of sorts), and suddenly the cat starts puking. Like you can really hear the chunkage, back there. And then there’s this sudden silence from three previously-rowdy kids and my daughter silently rolls down the window and somberly says, “You in the front: you’re lucky.” I mean I felt terrible for my kitty – who ceased vomiting upon arrival, only hours later to start up again as soon as we got back in the car – but it was one of those deliciously ridiculous FAILmoments that is best experienced with those you love, love, love.

Cake and birthday wishes. An honor to share them with others:

Birthday Cake

“Pet contest”, Harris was given special consideration for his sadness. Those are my two kids at left in the eared-hats.

Harris Really Wasn't Feeling Well

Life has been lovely the last couple days. Today I’m having another painful series of episodes with my kidneys. That is never encouraging. I have accepted my illness in full (except for one nagging caveat, see below), and I am grateful for these repeated bouts of pain as they have taught me a great deal about acceptance. These experiences have also taught me a great deal about unconditional love, to wit: I receive it from many of my friends, and all of those in my close family.

Having this ailment has taught me a lot about humility.

I know it seems like I wouldn’t have anything good to say about a supposedly zero-sum illness, but I do. Still, sometimes the remnants of denial rear their head. I keep thinking, Why me? (not out of self-pity, just a genuine bit of confusion), or thinking, any minute I’ll be “cured” and this won’t be happening any more. Still, these are only blips on my radar, persistant as they are. To the extent I am serene and genuinely grateful through such a puzzling experience, I can put that at the feet of first my alcoholism and then my resultant experience in Recovery.

I know I’m going to learn more about why I’m sick in this way – if not the nuts and bolts or a scientific explanation – and one day I’ll be able to tell you, Why Me.

***

By the way. In honor of Father’s day I’m re-linking a couple posts about my father’s influence on my life (and my thoughts on his death), recent writings if you didn’t see them the first time around. If you have seen them, apologies for redundancy. I didn’t need to write another piece, so soon, and I didn’t make time to write one about Ralph or any other fathers in my life.

i’m grateful for cancer

I know I recently wrote a bit about my father… this piece, however, was written a while back, at the request of the editor of Grays Harbor College’s zine.

I’m grateful for cancer
by Kelly Hogaboom
Originally published in “The Diversifieds”, Grays Harbor College Aberdeen WA, Spring 2012

Happy Father's Day, Dad

Caption: My father and I, Huntington Beach CA

My father was first diagnosed with cancer in 2000. I remember where I was when my mother told me – I was eating a white fish sandwich and fries at, of all places, the Southshore Mall food court. I was stunned to hear the news, although even in that split second it wasn’t the spectre of Death and Doom I sensed. I was shocked, sure, and over the next eight years I’d experience a lot of sadness and sorrrow. But I don’t remember being frightened or angry.

I learned so much during his illness as he received treatment and surgery, then went into remission. During this time I discovered much about him, a lot about my family and friends, and a great deal about myself. I took time out of work when he’d have his first radiation, his first chemo, then his surgery. I travelled to be with him. I do not know how glad he was that I did this, but over time it made me more centered, stronger, calm in my convictions that if I was a welcome presence for someone, I wanted to there for their big journeys. And, thankfully, he was there for mine – I remember he had a fine new growth of hair for my wedding, some months off chemo. That day we all celebrated his life and that of my new family.

Don’t get me wrong, there were disappointments along the way. His illness had been missed a full year before by a doctor who dismissed blood in his stool. I think my mother might have been angry about this. I accepted things as they were – for the most part. Sometimes my mind would churn on the “What if…?” I remember this mind would also hook on strange yet strong desires – like that he could live on and be there when my children graduated high school. Why this particular milestone, I do not know (funnily enough, they’re homeschooled now anyway!).

Always Bitchy
My father, during one of innumerate rounds of chemo. The staff were always so kind and professional.

During this time my grandmother in California fell very ill to a stroke, and my experiences with grave illness were very much with me. I packed up my new husband and baby and we flew down to be with the family, despite some protestations of my employer. She died after five days and I grew all the more. I was living life, not avoiding its terms.

My father’s cancer returned, this time blooming throughout his body. Again: chemo, pills, appointments. He had to stop long-distance running, a passion he’d excelled at since we’d moved to Grays Harbor. In September of 2006 he called us where we were living – Port Townsend, Washington – and let us know there was a job opening in Aberdeen that would be appropriate for my husband. I’m smiling as I write this, because my father rarely called me for any reason. We knew we was asking us to his home, asking us to bring our small children and spend time with him before he left.

When my father died in August of 2008 I was with him. My mother and I nursed him at home with the help of hospice. This too had its surprises and challenges, but it was deeply satisfying work. On August 22nd I stroked his hand and held him and spoke, only a little, and calmly, as he struggled through his last breaths. I felt brave and very Present, filled with transcendant love, shining bright within my body out through my fingertips. When he finally drew his last breath my mother jumped up to make a phone call. It was as if I had all the privacy in the world. I put my head on the bed and cried sobs from the very heart of me, the deepest I have ever cried.

After he died, many expressed sentiments. Some seemed to understand my mind, many did not. A surprising number couldn’t bring themselves to visit, or speak to us at all. I learned a lot there, too.

Brevity prohibits me from listing the many things I learned along the way from my father’s illness, treatment, and death – and especially that year and a half after we moved to be close to him, when every day I saw him I was filled with joy, a knowledge of how precious he was to me. It wasn’t remission or pills or chemo that gave me these things, although I am grateful such options are available to those who want and can have them. But cancer gave me these things, that enlightenment, that knowledge of how deeply I loved, the ability to slow down and savor our time together.

I could write so much and the many moments of deep satisfaction and awareness this process afforded me. But it is not necessarily afforded everyone – my journey was not my father’s, nor my mother’s or brother’s, and they may have very different experiences to report. When it comes down to it, this is what I believe: the journey my father took is one we all take – in some form or other – and I am grateful I do not experience anger about this. Just sadness, and then: gratitude. Life is an incredible blessing and experience.

Kelly

So tell me, tell me did you really love me / Like a friend?

Ed- this post was written for the Unschooling Blog Carnival’s tribute to fathers.

My Father, Sailing To Catalina

My father was intelligent, soft-spoken and thoughtful. He was educated but more importantly, self-educated and confident in himself. He was an atheist, but one of the more spiritual people I’ve known. He had a sharp mind. He could finish any crossword puzzle and remember any fact he’d read. He could conduct himself like a gentleman, and often did.

But he was also irreverent and profane. One minute he’d be telling a simple and profound Buddhist koan and the next he’d be loudly cursing at the dinner table, bitching that the utilities company had sent him a cheeky mailing for being a few days late on the light bill. He’d be all wound up and talking about what jackasses they were. He’s probably sitting there with his shirt off. And his teeth, a half-gold-filled mess from a barfight in the Navy years ago, talking a little too loud with like, scrambled eggs flecking into his beard.

My father was a long-distance runner, a pursuit he started in his forties when we moved to Grays Harbor in 1984. He was avid and solitary in this pursuit, patiently and daily working running into his schedule. I always understood he was taking care of his mind and spirit as well as his body. And his daily work in taking this time for himself was a wonderful example for me. Later, when I got my hardest assignments ever, the boot camp of early parenthood (so many diapers and cleaning and breastfeeding and constant housework), and then the daily work of managing my own Recovery from alcoholism, my father’s own patience, persistence, and daily diligence already lived within me, a wellspring to help me take care of myself.

Burger King, I Think

My father taught me the honor of any work well done. My first memories of him as a working man were in southern California where he suited up and showed up as a janitor (we didn’t say “custodian” back then). Later, my Buddhist practice taught me the same lessons. I could have my elbows in soap suds and spraying diapers day in and day out, and have the ringing commentary of my ex-coworkers in my ears (“It’s a shame you’re home with kids… you had such a good brain”) but I honored myself and my work.

My father enjoyed my children, and he defended my fierce desire to do better by them. My brother and I attended public school, but my father always told me he thought homeschooling was the better choice for any child. This was said so simply and I always understood that whatever reasons my parents had to send us to school, they had done the best they could with what they had. And yet later, when I brought my kids home from school, I knew I had his support in pursuing a different path than how I’d been raised. He said to me simply, only months before he finally succumbed to cancer, he worried I wouldn’t have enough time to myself if we homeschooled. 2008, and he was the one person who asked me how many hours I’d had to myself since the kids were born. It brings tears to my eyes to remember today.

Always Bitchy

Earlier in life:

My father watched me at age seventeen as I sat at the dinner table quietly, broken and hurt from the failed and abusive relationship I’d tortured myself with during my young adulthood, culminating in an abortion that had left me empty and sad and alone. I stood up from the table and went up to my room and sat on my bed and he alone followed me and held me when I cried, because it hurt so much. I don’t think we said a word about it.

My father was a gentle man, and this quality is amongst my most treasured to reflect upon.

Despite his example, I didn’t grow up to be a gentle woman. In fact, I was not a gentle child,  teen, young adult, or mother. I have a violent nature. But throughout my troubles my father was patient, and persistent, and he loved me. He was a lighthouse, because throughout my problems I perceived that Gentleness was possible.

My father was nurturing and loving. He was quiet and his actions spoke for him more than his words did. I miss him so terribly that I can’t write more than a reflective sentence or two without crying. I will always be grateful for not only the gift of life, but the gifts of nurture, serenity, and personal integrity.

My father was there for me when I entered this world, and we were there for one another while we shared the road together. I was there for my father when he died. I had this profound honor. I nursed him and held his hand and tried to gently guide him as he breathed his last. When he died I was left alone with him.

And I put my head on his chest and I cried like I’ve never cried before or since.

My Father

My Father, Straight-Arrow

your one & only

Gifts: Flowers, Plant, Señor Mysterioso

Left to right: the plant was a recent gift from a woman in Recovery.
The grape hyacinths a gift from my son.
Señor Mysterioso was a present for my 30th birthday from one of my friends in Port Townsend –
(he has faithfully watched over my kitchen ever since).

***

A few words on a subject. We live next door to my mother now, and that probably wouldn’t have gone so well a few years ago – especially given she is sort of the de-facto property manager, as my aunt owns the house. Yeah I KNOW! Who gets themselves into such a situation?

Well, I feel pretty good about the whole business. We’ve had a few key learning experiences over the years, especially since we moved back to Grays Harbor in 2007 and my parents and the kids began to experience each other more. Both households have put a lot of good-faith effort into the relationship, and that has yielded a strong and loving family experience.

I remember at first my mom could barely handle watching the kids for the hour and a half it would take Ralph and I to go out to a movie. When she did watch them, she’d talk about the event like it was kind of a big hassle. Not the kids, but the work of watching them. Do you know how much this bugged me, my mind the way it was, also the fact I was like OH REALLY IT’S HARD WORK, FUNNY I DIDN’T NOTICE THAT DOING IT EVERY DAY LIKE I DO YOU COLOSSAL ASS, NO ONE GIVES ME A BREAK!!! Yeah… that was me, alright. (#LOLsob) I know she didn’t mean to speak in a way to cause me anxiety and irritation; she was a stressed-out kitten. And so was I!

Then there was just the occasional invasive weirdness. She’d do stuff like offer to take the kids on a walk, citing – aloud – the suggestion Ralph and I could use that time to have sex (um… Ew, mom. Also? Not always my first priority when I have a little time without responsibilities. Probably more like a distant sixth priority. And may I reiterate? Ew, mom.).

So, I wasn’t especially grateful for my mother’s help, conditional as it was. Like a laser-beam I focussed on her limitations, instead of acknowledging several facts. One, no one owes me SHIT. *ahem*. Two, my mom always had trouble with kids including her own, back in the day (hell, she has trouble with Responsibility, period, often feeling claustrophobic). I’m not proud to admit this – but I was judging her the way so many others judge mothers. Three, my dad was sick with cancer and dying, and during this I knew better than most, many of the ways this affected her. You’d think I’d have more sympathy. Finally, although it would be nice if the world assisted parents/carers of children more, especially in those early years, at least where I’ve lived they kinda don’t. Again, I was aware of this by the time we moved here. So why I thought my mom “owed” me more than what anyone else was giving, is beyond me (well wait, I know why – childhood resentments! More in a minute).

The simple but kinda flooring fact is: my mother was the ONLY person in our lives who offered this kind of help with any regularity – even the ladies in Port Townsend were more like, “LET’S TRADE” – and my father, loving a grandfather as he was, seemed happy to have the kids over but didn’t actively try to help my mother much. He let her do most of the worrying, feeding, et cetera.

But from the beginning my parents respected Ralph and I were adults with kids of our own. They honored or even celebrated our journey caring for children they loved so very much, just like we loved the children. That was pretty damned cool and not something everyone has. My parents were also willing to hear how Ralph and I did things differently than they themselves had. I think that takes a lot of strength, or faith. When all is said and done, I consider my parents and my brother three of my biggest EVER supporters. I am really fortunate in this regard.

My father died before I got sober, but things improved between my mother even more when this happened for me. The resentments I’d long held, some subtle, some festering and large, those all went away. This has made a tremendous difference in my life, one I cannot overstate. When it comes down to it, it matters little if the wrongs done to me as a child and teen were real or imagined. I had held them too long and let them operate on me, to the detriment of all I came into contact with. I gave myself the gift of forgiveness. and it’s made me a better daughter, sister, friend, wife, and mother.

Living next door to one another, today we have a few courtesy traditions. We are clear – so far (grin) – on whose house is whose. Everyone knocks or rings doorbells, no one just enters. In fact, today after my mom invited me in for coffee, my son came over and even though he knew I was there, he still observed the doorbell-ringing. Class act.

Most days the kids are back and forth, either helping Grandma with her projects – like working on planting or building a greenhouse, or cleaning the fish pond – or just goofing off on errands. My mom helps take care of the kids, something she does with regularity. We can ask one another for favors, and, as far as I can tell, we give and take with willing spirits. The kids are getting some fine treatment. Once a day my mom takes them out for a burger or shake, or chocolate milk, feeds them steak for breakfast, or invites them over for a smoothie and cartoons. Ralph brings dinner over to her house, something he did at the old house but is even easier now. I make coffee when she comes over, stopping my work if necessary. She’s my mom, and I’m fortunate to still have her around.

From the very beginning I let my kids have their own relationship with most people, but yes, even my parents. I’m really glad I did this – it was really a deep-rooted choice for me that at times seemed contraindicated by others I saw around me. I guess when it comes down to it, even back in the day I trusted everyone to be themselves – and I really trusted my kids to form their own thought-life and relationships.

It’s good stuff.

waiting in a car / waiting for a ride in the dark

Just the other day a girlfriend told me a loved one in her life had metastatic cancer. I had the presence of mind to ask her if she’d been through this before – cancer; she said No. She also related she hadn’t been through death of someone close, yet. Over the course of the next forty minutes, we both shed some tears. What I believe, because I know this woman a bit and know some about her past, and know what kind of friends and spiritual practices she has in her life, is that this will be very good for her. And it will hurt very much.

All I have to offer is my own experience, or what others have related to me. I was remembering my dad got pretty low when his cancer returned. It’s like, we’d been all excited years back after he had his surgery (before I got married), and we were so relieved after he went through the gut-rending radio and chemo and all that. The surgery was deeply disturbing and it left him physically changed. Everything changed. He got back up to running but at times was too ill to do so (he was a long distance runner who adored the practice), he couldn’t even walk around in his tightie-whities anymore in the house, as he had a colostomy bag and was of course quite shy about that. His hair changed, his appetite changed. Our hopes for the future were smashed in some cases, or caught jaundice.

In the last year of his life the news just kept getting worse, I guess “worse” is a judgment – I guess what I mean is, we knew his time was ticking down. Anyway I remember visiting one afternoon and he was drinking this huge glass of wine and it was early in the day. My mom, dad, and I all drank alcoholically but my dad and I were a lot the same, drinking at night and rarely acting much different, at least to outside perceptions. Seeing him with a huge glass of Uncle Carlo, and him so quiet and depressed, it hurt. I talked to my mom later, likely unskillfully and without tact. But, I was just worried; it hurt to see him go through depression. The next day my dad showed up at my house and was all pissy. “You’re saying I’m drinking too much?” Believe it or not, this exchange meant a lot to me. We were talking about something real, something intimate. It seems like something families should do.

Some people in our lives viewed my father’s cancer and demise as some kind of pathetic tragedy or whatever. I never felt this way. I felt sad, but I didn’t feel piteous about any of it. My memory is, I felt so gifted to be given this time to reflect, and love and serve, and really really really appreciate my father (and the rest of my family). And yeah, it hurt. It hurt him, I know, in his way, and it hurt me in mine. It hurt lots of people, in their own way.

I was privileged to be there with him while he died. I nursed him and I took it seriously. I learned a lot. I remember the last thing my father ate. A plum. I got to learn, while his appetite waned, that you can’t “make it better” by fixing food. Food is a kindness but there comes a time we are beyond it.

I cry when I think about my father, because I loved him very much. Despite a lot of difficulties, I did well during his death. I don’t know if he did or not; only he can judge that.

Death is like birth, an incredible opportunity to live life and to experience the incredible gift.

***

In my “writings” section, which if you haven’t figured it out is where I’m more likely to be all opinion-y and uppity and tell people how to live their lives, I responded to a question posed: Is unschooling a form of anarchy? I wrote that thing fast, as I had kids swinging off my arms etc. Anyway.

***

A bonfire with friends, just the other day:

Giant-Ass Fire

Skyline

 

of melancholy and patchouli

Happy Father's Day, Dad

Aw, I miss my dad so much. There’s so much in my life I didn’t get to share with him. He didn’t get to share the journey we’ve had in not-schooling our kids. He’s missed my sobriety in adulthood. He’s missed knowing my kids at an older age – and they’ve missed knowing him. He and my husband had a wonderful, wonderful friendship. Now that I think on it I’m not sure Ralph has had a friendship like it before or since.

I have a lot of my father’s nature. I am intelligent and I have a good memory. I have his beaky nose and tiny angry eyes. I have his suspicion of human authority and for many years I had his slightly pessimistic agnosticism coupled with a rather sedate moral code. I have his confidence; a confidence in my ability to do things well, if I want to do them. I have his knowledge of Choice, which lends me to playing the victim a little less than I might otherwise. Things are changing within me lately – and I am becoming calmer and less afraid – traits I associate with him. He was pretty calm. And he was pretty gentle in most all the ways that mattered. I’m not sure how many people have grown up with a gentle father.

I also, sometimes, display the dark and nasty sense of humor he had. A few weeks back my mom and I were in Olympia looking for a park for the kids (which they’d mowed down for office buildings, I think, bravo!). Mom and I saw this little wine shop she instantly adored. My mom exclaimed, “Oh look, that place looks very cool!” and I said without skipping a beat, “It’s probably full of baby boomer douchebags.” She laughed and swatted at me and said, “Okay, David!” It’s true, I’ll occasionally hear something come out of my mouth like that. My husband comments too. It’s pretty funny really.

Dad, I really, really miss you. We had so many laughs, seriously (seriously!). I remember I’d walk over and you’d be in the yard pulling a weed and you’d leave the weed where it was and come inside to sit with coffee, because you didn’t give a fuck much about weeding. You’d sit at the kitchen table and play solitaire with cards so soft and old and rounded-edged that new cards have always looked obscene to me.

By the way you were someone who gave me the right advice, and I haven’t found someone else to replace that relationship. That sucks.

I’ll love you fiercely until the day I die at the very least.

I Was Nine Months Old

Nine months old.

“to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with”

This weekend, due to this or another thing, we do not have money for gas for my mom’s borrowed truck – nor groceries. A problem, to be sure. In addition there is a particular sting in not being able to take the kids to the Relay for Life and grab them an elephant ear or whatever, but this sting doesn’t have the maudlin, intense, and guilt-laden feel the way it used to, way back when things were more grim and felt entirely unmanageable – and, in some real ways, were. For some time now we’ve been able to pay our bills, a circumstance which apparently, sadly, was needed for my spirituality and outlook to improve.

I try and mostly succeed in being patient we don’t have running cars (I had to hustle my ass via bike and bus twice yesterday). Working cars will likely come, in time. Yet it is hard to be so sanguine when we don’t have food and I am preoccupied with other work I need to do. This week I am considering what to do regarding the Conch, as there are some changes afoot regarding that enterprise (and you all deserve, and will receive, an update soon). I would very much like pay out for groceries so we can cook for people on Wednesday. I think I will not be able to decide on this, not in the next few hours at least.

The 24 Hour Relay for Life is in it’s 25th year here in Hoquiam (we always used to call it “the cancer run” and I still slip up) and started up last night. I hadn’t been to the Relay since my father died. This year I walked quietly and thought on him, and all in my life he has missed, that I wish he could share in. I miss his advice as it spoke to the heart of me.

Relay For Life, 2011

The Relay here is quite impressive; Hoquiam’s Relay consistently performs in the top ten in America for money raised per capita. It is also now a party-like atmosphere with all sorts of barbecues, food, drunkenness and drug use, hugs and tears, joyful friendships and skirmishes, people fooling around in tents, drama, and grab-assery; in short, the whole beautiful mess of the human condition. I observed parts of the drag show and although it was a funny affair I felt sad to see the hints of mockery evidenced: mocking women, especially trans women, hints of homophobia. If I had the energy – and I do not today – I would (do more research, then) write the organizers with some commentary and advice on how to improve this feature of the Relay (for starters, a drag show that included the possibility of women in drag as men, would immediately benefit inclusivity).

But really, that whole bit was a footnote on an otherwise lovely walk with my husband and daughter – on a beautiful night.

Relay For Life, 2011

I miss my father terribly.

But you know?

It’s a good day, today.

how we touched and went our separate ways

Tonight my mom huffs and puffs a bit before taking the dinner she made upstairs for her and her paramour.  She and Sophie are headed to Portland tomorrow, to meet up with my brother, stay the night, and then head East to scatter some of my father’s ashes on the same lake his parents were interred (yes, I know you can’t really “inter” cremation remains).  Anyway, right now she’s a little pissed because I’ve reminded her that she just decided to leave a full two hours before Sophie’s first swim team practice (this is not the first time I’ve told her Sophie’s sport schedule, nor will it be the last I suppose).  My mom doesn’t want to leave later to honor Sophie’s swim date, and she’s rattled enough (or maybe hungry enough for the hideous hangtown fry she’s just prepared) that she kind of trails off before stomping upstairs.

This schedule thing is purely between my mother and daughter.  I tell Sophie, “Grandma wants to leave tomorrow at 3 – but that means you’ll miss swim team.”  And the next few paragraphs indicate why my daughter is awesome: first she thinks for a few seconds, then says, “Is there a different time Grandma can leave?” and I tell her, “Well, you should figure it out.”  She doesn’t cry or whine; she doesn’t want to give up swim team or the roadtrip either.  And she’s definitely able to hold her own talking to Grandma.

I’ve worked hard at training the kids not to run upstairs to see my mom, with pretty good success.  They are instructed to call Grandma’s cell phone first if they’d like to visit her.  Sophie pads on over to the downstairs phone (she’s adorable, barefoot in the WTWTA Max costume prototype) and dials my mother’s number.  She realizes the cell phone is downstairs in my mother’s purse.  A few minutes later (after reading a bit of her Japanese comic book) she tries again; this time she sneaks the phone outside the door to my mother’s upstairs bedroom, comes back downstairs, and calls.  I hear her say, “Grandma, I have something I want to talk to you about,” … pause, waiting for assent …  “OK, I’ll be up as soon as I’ve finished vacuuming.”

And then she fiddles about with the vaccuum attachment and asks me how to make it work, and I’m busy sewing so I don’t get to her right away, so she figures it out herself. And by the way, I don’t actually know how to work that particular vaccuum attachment, so now I know someone I can ask.

And then she goes upstairs and remembers (without a reminder) to bring up the plate of chocolate-chocolate chip cookies we’d made for the old timers.

You know what?  I want my kids to make their own schedules, and understand them, and keep them, and negotiate around them (and yes, do housework!).  As it turns out Sophie agrees to miss her practice and my mom later comes down and tries to convince me she didn’t pressure Sophie into this particular agreement.

As for my father’s remains, I have my own little bottle or two.  That skinny old bastard made a lot of ash.  So, I’ll either go to the lake on my own or I’ll take his remains somewhere else or I’ll put ’em in a coffee can and toss them off a cliff and the wind will blow them back into Ralph’s face.  Or something.  I just can’t bear to go with my mom and brother.