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Right

You must never be fearful of what you are doing when it is right.

Rosa Parks

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Grandpa

Baby Marvin

High School

Wedding Day

June 14, 1947

At home – the house they bought new in 1957. Grandpa will take his last breaths in this room.

This is how I will always remember him – wearing my favorite glasses, smoking a pipe, and driving the white LTD.

Fancy!

He and Juniper were good friends. He called her Juni and liked to give her lots of treats. She repaid his kindness by taking on the role of guard dog.

Marvin, Marv to friends, Dad and Grandpa to a very lucky few.

Grandpa L O V E D. He loved his family, my grandma most of all. He loved an afternoon cocktail, the stronger the better, “A touch more whiskey, please, Leenie” (what he always called me). He loved to camp and especially to fish, sometimes to hunt. He loved to eat: cookies, a good tamale, salmon, asparagus with hollandaise, biscuits and gravy, pecan pie. He loved to have fun: to laugh, to tell stories, to play Farkle and throw horseshoes, to while away the afternoon in the company of a friend. He loved whistling to the radio, playing his favorite big band music and standards of yore. He was one of those people that charmed the room, easy going and light-hearted; his whole being said, “Welcome.” And though it was less frequent, he loved solitude, too: immersing himself fully in the crossword, sitting alone on the back porch watching the birds, smoking his pipe.

He served in World War II, after memorizing the eye chart to gain entrance to the Navy. He was among the lucky who saw no combat while serving in Guam, though was not spared injury, nearly dying from typhus while his unit attempted to find a cure. Upon his return from the war, he met and fell in love with my Grandma in Albuquerque, selling his car to buy an engagement ring. His best man drove them so they could celebrate with a single night in Santa Fe, taking the bus home.

Tenacious and charming, it was no surprise that he became a salesman for medical equipment, Cutco Knives, and an independent insurance agent, earning trophies, accolades, and trips for his hard work. He and my Grandma got to take a proper honeymoon to Niagara Falls (where they saw Joseph Cotten and Marilyn Monroe – her dress was painted on!!), and flew to Mexico, New York, Florida, and California, even a solo trip to Canada for the best fishing of his life.

His health declined since losing my Grandma nearly three years ago, and it was my great wish that he would die on the same day as she did, a sweet reunion of souls. I am beyond grateful the last of his suffering did not stretch out that long. He contracted pneumonia and fell three times last week, doing awful damage to his already fragile body, bruises and sores and wounds. He hurt everywhere, the lightest of touches causing him to cry out in pain.

Greg and I, knowing the time was near, came to give much needed respite to my exhausted mom, aunt, and uncle. We arrived Friday evening, and though he could no longer walk, his spirit was intact, giving a hearty “Bless your heart!” for baking his favorite biscochitos. He ate one, and we chatted and laughed before giving him his medicine and going to bed. I awoke to him screaming at 1:15, in pain or in terror, I am not certain. He refused more medication, but I was able to soothe him back to sleep.

Saturday, he was surrounded by my cousins and our dear friend Sybil Ann, delighted to see everyone and calling each by name.  We listened to his favorite music, Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand. As the day wore on, he became tired and grew confused, starting sentences with clarity but ending them in gibberish or not at all. I asked him if he knew where he was, and when he nodded yes, I said, “Hawaii, right?” He exploded with laughter and smiled! How glad I am to have made him laugh one last time. He ate a bite of cookie and slept a lot. The pneumonia was awful and the blanket hurt his tender skin, so I helped him cough out the uglies and rubbed pain lotion on his withered leg.

He shouted out and grabbed the hubster’s hand, “Greg! Help me up!” The hubster asked, “Where do you want to go?” Grandpa replied, “I don’t know…” but kept a firm grasp on his hand, only releasing it to mine, then Sybil Ann’s, hours having passed, keeping a last hold on this life, I suppose.

When the family had gone, we kept the music playing and he lost consciousness. The nurse came, taught me more ways to keep him comfortable, and we talked about the signs – there were more and more. I swabbed his mouth and gave him syringes of water to keep his mouth moist. We went to bed.

I awoke at 2:30 to check on him, his poor body heaving. I swabbed his mouth again, gave him more water, and a dose of morphine to ease his pain. I stroked his hair and kissed his head. I whispered, “Good night, Grandpa. I love you. We all love you and will miss you. It’s okay if you want to let go.” Twenty-eight minutes later, he was gone. What an honor that my voice was the last earthly one he heard.

Attention

Do stuff, be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.

Susan Sontag

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Passing

Beauty passes, wisdom remains.

Turkish Proverb

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Perfectly painted skies for the beginnings of our Thanksgiving adventure. West to Buena Vista!

Breakfast, mmmmm…bacon.

We followed Cottonwood Creek on foot and by car to its namesake lake; dancing sun pennies, enveloping ice, ruby red rose hips, and the silence of near solitude every bit worth the effort.

Forgoing the hullabaloo of large family gatherings to enjoy a Thanksgiving for two (+ one beloved pup) in a wee cabin in the woods. Stuffing in progress in my favorite cast iron pan: apple, celery, cranberry, minus the onion I left at home. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful. True that. The pie, however, was both, my best yet.

Feeling nostalgic for the wooden cabins of my youth – humble dwellings of strong character, flanked by massive tanks of propane.

More humble dwellings and every manner of delight at Cottonwood Hot Springs – fish jumping, lily pads floating, creek rushing, crows soaring. We soaked for hours and hours, sunrise to the waxing crescent of moon and sky thick with a ribbon of Milky Way stars. My love for this life and this place ever-expanding, like the universe itself.

St. Elmo – slipping, not only from the Buena Vista temperatures of spring-like warmth, but more than a century in the past. Sneakers sliding on full winter ice while gawping at Mountain Lion tracks – the wonder of a single day.

Playing with darkness, eager to do some book and youtube learning to capture the wonders of night. How crazy is that green?!

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