Fifty years later, we all gathered in your honor. What a day.
Your wife, our mom. All six of your kids. Six grandchildren (. . . who stood in for the other five who couldn’t make it that day) and a great-grandchild to boot, (. . . who stood in for the other two gr-grandkids who were elsewhere.) And a dear representative of the generation that came along after you passed on, and a new family was created when Mom remarried: our sister from the Oly Peninsula. Not to mention our spouses as well. All know the story. All know the impact.
In spite of fears how this memorial would play out . . . It. Was. Great.
Great food. Great memories. Great laughter as we gathered around a long table, for the first time in a long time as your family. First hand stories came spilling out. Tales of your vagabond child, who shall be nameless, who loved to leave home at an early age and strike out on her own. Treacherous car trips across the snowy Midwestern plains in the midst of winter from Seattle to Yankton–with a passel of kids in the back of a station wagon, one having no seat belts or car seats. Hauling a Thermo-King “Demonstration Trailer” across the Rocky Mountains in a blizzard, in a mistaken direction, and doing a bootleggers turn to change course and go back the way we’d come. Those trips between South Dakota and Washington, between your folks, and our home on the Pacific Coast, were epic ones. People, adventures, places that shaped us all. We’re thankful you brought us to this neck of the woods.
Black and white photos, in a digital format now that you wouldn’t have dreamed up 60 years ago, marched across the wall in your honor. Pics of you from youngsterhood to young adult. Your Coast Guard years, 1941 t0 ’45. Meeting mom. Getting serious. Marriage. Kids. Moves. More kids. Standing in the background of so many photos were our long-gone Midwestern relatives that we hadn’t spoken of in years. Photos followed by some old movie footage shot by our uncle so long ago. Amazing to watch people and places from sixty years ago moving on screen, to hear my older siblings recall things about our family from before I was born. To see you and mom so young. Just starting out. To see your crazy side, when you were in the backyard at the grill, decked out in a crazy barbeque apron/hat ensemble, and flipping the steak. To discover that your high school nickname was “Saucy.” Priceless.
It was fun to laugh–to laugh hard–to tease each other. To remember. And especially to hear Mom’s recollections about places and events as each photo brought up memories from long ago. The day ended with a chilly trek outside on a damp February afternoon so we could capture the moment before folks started heading home; we stretch across much of Washington’s northwest corner [and beyond], and it was time to be on our way.
It was good to mark this 50th anniversary milestone with a day like that. What a family you put on this planet sir. Some pretty unique whippersnappers for sure. I’m happy to say it’s trickling down to the next generations.