The End of an Odyssey
“Ana’s mother needs a triple by-pass so she needs to go [to Brazil]. She wants Gabriel to stay here and keep his life as normal as possible. She’s wondering if he can stay with you during the day while Frank and I are at work,” I said into my cell phone to my husband Dave, who is driving home from his odyssey as a commuter husband that’s lasted sixteen months.
“Absolutely,” Dave said. “I was just talking to Phil about how he and Eva put their lives on hold for the last six months to take care of our parents. That’s what families do.”
“I know,” I said. “That’s what I told Ana. She cried.”
We’ve all been crying too much of late. When Dave made the decision to return to work in June of 2012 it was to pay off some debt and give him some closure with his job which had ended abruptly when Lockheed Martin closed Seattle Flight Service and moved their services to Prescott, AZ. It was devastating for me personally, but despite my belief that it would not get easier, it did.
At that time I told him that our parents were aging and fragile, especially his mother, and that it was possible that one or more of them might die while he was gone. As it turns out, both of Dave’s parents passed during his time in Arizona. Fortunately, he was able to see them several times and was actually at home in Gig Harbor when his mother died in August. I am glad that he was not alone. He was not so fortunate, when a day shy of a month later, his father joined his mother. In the words of his brother Corky, it seemed that he could not do without her.
We are comforted by the fact that Dave’s brother Phil and his sister-in-law Eva stepped in to care for the boys’ parents when their mom’s health took a nose dive in April. I know that their loving care of Walt and Dottie eased the guilt that Dave felt about being 1,500 miles away and prolonged their mother’s life by several months. Actually, Phil and Eva uprooted their lives to come from Temecula, California to care for the parents. They have been the embodiment of how we ought to all treat our loved ones. They put their lives and creditors on hold because caring for my in-laws was more important than anything as far as they were concerned. Ultimately my mother-in-law said, “Phil, you need to go home and we’ll go with you.” That is how it came to be that both of the boys (there are seven brothers) parents died in Temecula and how it came to be that three of the boys—Dave included—are bringing their father’s ashes back to the Puget Sound area for internment with their mother at Tahoma National Cemetery tomorrow.
The trip back to Washington has been a sentimental journey for the boys (if you can call men in their sixties boys) and a fitting end to Dave’s time in Arizona. Phil, the romantic and most tender hearted of the bunch, decided that the best way to return the parents’ motorhome and their father’s ashes was to take Walt on one last road trip, stopping along the way to visit with family including the graves of both grandparents in Idaho and Eastern Washington. Dave left Arizona on Sunday and in Sacramento on Monday met Phil and Eva who had picked up Steve who’d flown in from Seattle. They stayed with cousins and then began caravanning home. Tuesday was their long day. They drove for nineteen hours, only stopping for dinner in Salem, Oregon where they met my best friend, who grew up with all of us, and had dinner.
Of their stop my friend Nikki wrote, “It was a privilege to spend time with all of them and hear them reminisce about their parents. Phil got teary eyed when he talked about Walt dying--I could tell he was a feeler! Eva is very sweet and Steve was quite thoughtful about everything. It is really a beautiful tribute to their parents and such a touching way to honor them. Just because the others haven't joined in will never, ever take away from what these 3 brothers have done--together. They will always have this memory and will be helped in their grieving by doing this.”
They pressed on until midnight where they stopped in Walla Walla before going on to Lewiston/Clarkston where their mother grew up.
Yesterday they went to Nez Perce, Idaho where their father was born and raised, visiting the graves of their grandparents. It was on their way there that I was able to get ahold of Dave and tell him about our daughter-in-law’s mother. He did not hesitate for a second to say that he would become the grandpa version of Mr. Mom, seeing that Gabriel gets to his lessons and activities and does his homeschool work. The events of the past year and a half have changed all of us in many ways.
It seems like we will have little time to catch our breaths from Dave’s Arizona odyssey and the internment and memorializing of his parents before he steps into his role as stay-at-home-grandpa. He’s coming home none-too-soon!