Friday, December 19, 2014

remembering dad: in my sister's words

i wanted to share some words of gratitude and a bit of remembrance that my sister wrote to the people of our little hometown for their kindness after dad died (complete with capital letters and everything):

Each year, a small bank in Eastern Iowa runs a holiday spending campaign around which they’ve developed a nice logo. It’s called the “Shop Local” campaign and that is a theme I’ve heard from my father for my whole life. I see that logo and while the concept warms my heart, but I can’t help but feel annoyed by Hills Bank for the grammar error. “Shop” is a verb and it needs an adverb descriptor. You know your adverbs often end in “ly” because you watched those Saturday morning Schoolhouse Rock videos. It should be the “Shop Locally” campaign, but I digress.

Hills Bank points out that each dollar spent in your hometown stays in your hometown a few more times before leaving. But each dollar spent elsewhere is gone forever. It’s easy for me to overlook the significance of this while living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, we’re near the intersection of  two Interstates and money probably moves around pretty easily. But when you imagine the consequences of those dollars leaving Platte forever, you can’t deny the significance of that for your local business owners, your friends and neighbors.

I might have chosen a more glamorous way for him to go. But Dad perceived himself as healthy and able to the very end. And while shocking for us, it’s good for him. No lingering or withering away. He had a life well-lived and it’s surely best that he never had to deal with the word “leukemia.”

My heart is full of love and gratitude for you fine people of Platte. When we phoned from McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls to say that it was time to say “goodbye” to Ralph, you walked into his room two and a half hours later. When we threw a party to tell stories about Ralph, you filled that clubhouse with laughter and gave generously to the donation jar.

Dad’s service featured flowers with garden vegetables and a brilliant hand of poker cards. A wonderful young trumpet player gave us his remarkable rendering of Taps. The Presbyterian ladies brought Dad’s favorite pecan pie and folks lingered afterward and then they went on with the business of the day. I think Dad might have approved of the whole thing, and trust me, gaining his approval was no easy task.

Mom has extraordinary friends looking out for her. Cards and long letters have come in from far and wide because my father seemed to make a lasting impression on the people he encountered.

I’ve always been proud of the clean streets, storefronts and yards and back yards in Platte. There are young entrepreneurs in Platte and folks who know how to get things done. And you’re raising money to build new community attractions. This is not a community in decline, it’s a thriving and vibrant place.

The Platte Avera Health Center was near and dear to my father’s heart. Please remember to donate to the hospital in his name. Maintaining that hospital is good for your family and generations to come.
When you’re finishing up your Christmas shopping this year and next, cancel that trip to Mitchell or Sioux Falls and look for the things you need in Platte. Do this and think of the dollars that stay at home and benefit your friends and neighbors. Do this and think of my dad. He’s somewhere smiling on you.

And from the bottom of my heart, thank you for your love and support.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

a submariner's personality

an old friend of dad's wrote a wonderful column about him and i had to share it. there were a couple of stories in here that i'd never heard before. they really made me laugh. it's so interesting to see my dad through the eyes of others. i think it's very hard for us to do that as children, we have one perspective on our parents and while it can be complex and multi-faceted, it's completely unlike the perspectives of friends and others in the community. it's sad that it took his death for me to get this new perspective, but i'm also grateful to have it. good that so many of dad's friends were awesome writers.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

how do you resist the borg?

every year, i bristle at the tyranny of the gift list in denmark and every year, i swallow and succumb to it. they're like the borg*. and i've even become so assimilated that i passed along my child's gift list, including a bunch of links, to my sister in the states. much to her quite understandable dismay. the child, now a teenager, is hard to buy for and only likes very specific things. so that's why i passed along the list this year. but i'll admit that i hate it. with a passion. and i feel i should be raising her better than that. and i'm disappointed in myself for sending the list. i think i'm pretty much completely failing as a parent because of this.

i hate as well that i've been given a gift list for our nephews (not my sister's children) and i've gone out dutifully, if grudgingly, and purchased the desired items. and i didn't enjoy it. and i won't enjoy giving those gifts. because it's just a sterile transaction, it didn't require any thought on my part and it didn't require that i knew anything about them, nor will it evoke any delight in me to watch them open the item from their list. there's no surprise or moment of excitement on either side of the transaction. it's just that, a transaction. and i have to say that i think it really sucks. it's hollow and consumerist and well, lame. and every year i vow i won't do it.  and yet here i am once again, going through the expected motions. cultural norms are hard to resist. and i am apparently far too weak in the face of them.

actual meaningful gift which i made for my dad last year for christmas.
i imagine mom is snuggled up under it right now and that makes me happy.
but i realize that this gift thing isn't about me. it's about the receiver. but i have to wonder if they really appreciate just automatically getting the things they asked for. where is the delight? the surprise? the joy? i suspect it's absent on their side as well. case in point? i made the blanket above for my dad for christmas last year and he loved it. and it was not something he asked for. but it was perfect for him and it was handmade, so score all around.

but back to the tyranny of the danish gift that christmas doesn't really mean what it once meant, but is just a consumerist holiday and we are living in a society that equates needs and wants and just buys whatever we think we need when we need it, rather than waiting to receive things as gifts, do we really need this gift charade?

i've said previously that i'd much rather stumble across something in the course of the year and give it to the person in question, out of the blue. but do i act on that? no, i haven't. but maybe i should start. maybe 2015 will be when i start.

*star trek: the next generation reference. get it or get over it.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

condolences...or lack thereof

why do we have such a hard time talking about death? why all the euphemisms? passed away. passed on. why is it so hard to say someone has died? is it because it seems so harsh. so final. so cruel somehow. it seems that people just don't know what to say about it, so they try to package it inside more delicate words, like it will make it better that you don't have a father anymore. but it doesn't. and while you dread the next condolences, you also feel it acutely when they're not there from people who probably should say something to you, if only as a formality because it's the first time they've seen you since it happened. and then it's kind of worse if they go on and on about two recent funerals they attended, without even acknowledging that you've had one yourself. one to which you flew across an ocean to another country. that's just weird. and it hurts more than you would think. you're even a little surprised yourself how callous and hurtful it seemed, even tho' you realize it probably wasn't meant that way.

but then there are those who have precisely the right words for you. warm words about how happy they were to have had the chance to meet him and how much they enjoyed that. and others who just hug you and ask the right questions. and that makes it ok. or as ok as it can be.

but you do wonder if it will ever really be ok.

and you also wonder why a picture of a church seemed right with this post when you're not even remotely religious. but church buildings provide the frame for the ceremonies of life...baptisms, weddings and funerals. and maybe there is something to that.

Friday, December 12, 2014

cross-processed dreams of summer

i got a bunch of films developed when i was in new york. i had waited way too long. but somehow in these dark, dreary, pre-solstice days, where we are awaiting a storm, it seems good to look back on these bright, cross-processed memories of summers past. and dream of summers to come.

hmm, i do wonder where that pentax camera is...

* * *

and speaking of weather. 
and winter.
there is this marvelous piece.
i'm so glad there are still people and places like this in the world.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

he was really something

i'm afraid i have to go on a bit more about my dad. it's just how it is right now.
this week there was a very well-written piece about my dad in the mitchell daily republic.
alas, after a few days where it was open, they've put the bulk of it behind the firewall,
but here's a capture of it:

he was really something. they don't really make them like that anymore.

Monday, December 08, 2014

sorrow hangs in the air

faded colors.
a bit tired.
once festive.
leaky roof.
past its prime.

laughter fills the air.
good fun among friends.
everyone knows everyone.
everyone knows me.
tho' i don't necessarily remember them.
such are the ways of the small town.

sorrow in the air.
or maybe it's just hanging over me.
perhaps these are the right surroundings.

a bit nostalgic.
with a bit of color left.
and light pouring in.
and a few stains on the ceiling.
but still there.
despite it all.

still finding a way.
to laugh.
to remember forgotten lines.
to stumble through.
and keep smiling.

even as sorrow hangs in the air.
ruffling the fringe of the crepe paper.
carried by light.
floating in the breeze.
hanging there.
for tears to come.