We mentioned in the previous post that we had rearranged our itinerary to include a stop near San Francisco, which we’d talk about later. That will be this post. There is also a post titled ‘Skyline‘ that I wrote during our trip two years ago that provides background that is relevant to this one.
In the Skyline post, I talked about my Aunt Ami and my Uncle Dick. A few weeks ago, as we were driving off the ferry to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, the phone rang. Ami was calling to tell us that Dick had passed away.
I did not intend this post to be a memorial tribute to my uncle, although if you wish to read between the lines I hope there is plenty to be found – I loved him and respected him, and it would be impossible for me to write about him and his (also my) family without letting that show. My reason for writing, the reason for the blog, is to document our life on the road, and this is not the first time the death of someone close to us has happened while we were out here. My Aunt Gerdi died two years ago, shortly after we visited her, and we were glad that we were able to be at her memorial service. As Sue said, writing about her cousin Richard when we attended his memorial service one year ago, “We are occasionally reminded that our life on the road includes more than just traveling about, and no part of life is left out.”
While we toured Vancouver Island, we were also waiting to hear details about a memorial service for Dick. If it was in the first half of October, we could run down to the bay area and get ourselves home on schedule. If it was much later, we’d have to head east from Victoria, drop the truck in Vermont or somewhere along the way, depending on the timing, and fly to SFO. When we learned there would be a gathering at the family home on Skyline on October 12, we made our plans to drive directly there.
We got to the ranch a couple of days before the memorial service. Ami had asked me to be one of several speakers at the service. My cousins Aaron, Paul and Rebeka were at the house. Rebeka’s daughters Anna and Monika were there. Aaron’s daughter Jayne arrived the next day. Wendy’s daughter Yvonne came by. Dick’s sister Niecie and her son Scott arrived from Tulsa.
The afternoon Sue and I arrived, we all went down to the family memorial site. Here, among the oak trees, are memorials to my grandmother Gerda, my Uncle Carl, my cousin Wendy, my cousin Daniel’s wife Carol, my Aunt Gerdi, and my mother and father. Now, there is also one for my Uncle Dick.
The next day was a full one – lots of visiting and remembering, lots of setting up for the 150-200 guests who were to show up the next day, lots of laughter and games (a longstanding family tradition), lots of wide-ranging, thoughtful conversations and discussions, a little music making.
The remembrance gathering of family and friends was amazing. My uncle was a very special person who made a strong impression on his many friends. A couple of his friends spoke, three of his children spoke (two also sang), as well as two nephews (Scott and me). The notes for my talk are here. The event concluded with a recording of Dick and a friend playing Cu Cu Ru Cu Cu Paloma, which had all of us there in tears and smiling at the same time.
It was truly wonderful to see all of the people at the gathering. Many of them I knew, some of those for a very long time. I also met family members I’d not known before, and I got to know my cousins’ families much better.
The next day was given over to cleaning up, quiet reflection, more conversations and discussions, more games and laughter, and a nice hike through the hills in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The following morning, we headed east.
So long, Uncle Dick – we’ll miss you.