Day two of my family visit in Oregon was an emotionally rough day. The picture above is the former home of my grandparents, Ed and Elsie. I spent most of my summers there. That house meant freedom to be a kid. I was able to sleep in, play in the nearby woods and open fields, use my grandpa's tools and scrap wood bin to build stuff without adult supervision, and watch as much MTV and Nickelodeon as I wanted - believe you me, it was a lot. Happiness was much simpler then. In the daylight basement I made a basketball court out of a cardboard box and a beach ball, played darts (the sharp kind, not the wussy magnetic ones they sell now days), and rode my little Schwinn banana seat bicycle. There was always some type of model rocket experimental vehicle or wood shop project in various stages of construction, reinforcing a life long appreciating for designing and building things. A vertical scale stapled to one of the support posts in the basement with a giraffe graphic kept track of my height throughout my life. Most of all my grandparents made me feel loved and appreciated from sun up until sun down.
Grandpa was a manual labor guy most of his life. Union until retirement. Growing up in North Dakota meant being familiar with farm work and driving an ambulance in World War II meant being patriotic. He was always asking me why this and that couldn't be built in the United States. On a more comical note, he was also best known for earthquake simulation snoring.
Grandma held a full time job until retirement as well, but being raised as a mid-west girl she kept the house and prepared all meals. She would call every Sunday like clock work at 7pm to catch up on the family gossip and remind us that she was thinking about us. If there was anything I really wanted I knew to just go to grandma. One summer I even got a brand new electric guitar (to which my mom snarled in disgust of my triumph). That meant being one of the cool kids with a nice ax to show off. It meant the world to me. Even when I saw my grandma for the last full day of her life I made sure to thank her specifically for that gift.
On Sunday morning I made a trek out to Mountain Home to visit their shared grave site. Everyone dies. I still have to learn to be more accepting of that. It's still heartbreaking to know that all that's left of them are memories. The lonely, isolating nature of a cemetary quickly reminds you of that. The last time I had been to this location the grave outline was still readily apparent by the yellow rectangular cut out in the green grass. That's the point when reality really sets in that someone is gone and you're powerless to bring them back. I spent an hour just sitting beside my Grandma and Grandpa with the birds chirping and pecking away at the cemetery grass. I don't really believe in the afterlife, so talking out loud to them didn't seem appropriate. It was hard to get the words out anyway so I just thought about positive memories of them. What this experience does reinforce is that I have to work harder to create good memories to leave others with. That little grave marker and memories are all that are left in the end. I was able to tell them that I love them and then I had to leave.
Before heading back to Bertie's for brunch I decided to clear my head a bit with a drive up to Bald Peak State Park above Scholls. A long time ago my grandpa decided to show me a challenging cycling route so he drove ahead a mile and I followed him all the way up that brutal hill to Bald Peak and back. It seemed like a good place to be that morning. The beautiful northern Oregon countryside is still transitioning from spring into fall, so there's green everywhere. Someone from San Diego once told me that San Diego was green and I gave her a look like she was loco. Growing up in northern Mexico she had absolutely no clue. The panoramic shot is in the eastern valley just below the peak. The remaining pictures were taken up at Bald Peak. Returning to nature typically leaves me at ease. I grew up playing in the lush forest with my friends. Clean air, blue skies with fluffy off-white clouds, the sound of wind in the tall grass, and the crackling of tires on back country roads have always been my oasis. Once re-centered I headed back to Beaverton to rejoin civilization.
Coping with loss in life typically means something changes within yourself. I'm learning to be more comfortable with saying "love you mom," even though it's mainly been non-verbally inferred in the past. My family is getting older and most of them will be gone sooner than I would like to accept. Time flies by too fast when you're busy working to build something you think will be your permanent legacy, which it probably won't. Create positive memories with your family. That's all you'll really leave with them.