Monday, January 29, 2007

One last stop in La La Land

After saying goodbye to everyone, kisses, hugs, and buckets of tears, Scott drove us 100 miles from Bellingham to the Seattle airport. Our flight had a L-O-N-G stopover in Los Angeles, where Curt's brother lives, so we arranged for him to pick us up at LAX and spend the day together.

His brother Kevin is a commercial artist in LA and has made a living at it for the last 30 years. He used to do mostly illustrations (for book covers, greeting cards, advertisements, etc.) but now does more murals and fine art (paintings). Curt is an engineer by day, but an artist at heart, and he is always excited to see the latest work in Kevin's studio.

Before we could get too excited about Kevin's paintings, however, we had an important errand to do: We had just discovered my mom's car keys in Curt's pocket. Oops. This is not where they were supposed to be. This is not the first time that Curt has possessed keys that he shouldn't have. Remember the time he went to work with both sets of keys and left me stranded? What is it with him and keys??? Regardless, we needed to mail them back to her, and decided to do it from LA rather than waiting to mail them from New Zealand which would take longer and cost more. So we were off to the post office with our little package. Sorry about that, Mom.

As we were walking throught the shopping district, we stopped at a card shop and I had an interesting discovery.
Kevin was looking for ideas for a Valentines card to make for his wife. Apparently, he paints a card for her every year, and she has collected them for the last 30+ years. OK. You can probably see how this interesting discovery would lead to an interesting conversation that goes something like this:
me - Curt, I have 2 problems with you neglecting to honor St. Valentine (and me) year after year: a. Kevin gives his wife a Valentine's Day card every year and 2. he paints it himself.
Curt - Oh.

Now back to the artwork: Kevin is the one who introduced Curt to Yupo, a synthetic watercolor paper, and in fact Kevin now works almost exclusively on Yupo. Curt, too has become a Yupo convert. His painting of sunflowers in blue watering cans is done on Yupo, as is his larger painting of me standing in a field of sunflowers. I can remember him working on that painting years ago: my dress was blue with a little white flowered print, and he "painted" the little white flowers by lifting off the blue paint with a cotton swab.

Kevin's website is if you'd like to see some of his work. While we were there, we got a painting of sunflowers to go in our kitchen with all the other sunflower paintings.

Too soon, our visit with Kevin was over and he took us back to LAX. There, we had a strange experience: We happened to be entering the airport at the same time as somebody famous named Sasha. The poor thing was protected by her handlers, but still surrounded by paparazzi. People were yelling "We love you Sasha." Only in LA. We saw her again later, beyond the security area, and she was blissfully paparazzi-free. What puzzles me is that we had no idea who she was. Perhaps someone out there can clue me in? Is there a singer named Sasha? Or an actress? She looked like she was in her twenties, and was tiny and waif-like, but that describes almost everyone in Hollywood. Her boyfriend had a LOT of tatoos. We were clueless.

After that bit of excitement, we were off. Away from America and its Hollywood stars. Away from snow and into summertime!

Goodbye, Bellingham

I spent almost 3 weeks in Bellingham and dare I say I had fun? I know I was there for a funeral, which isn't supposed to be "fun" but the reality is that hanging out with family IS fun and I refuse to feel guilty about it. I suppose there are families in which spending 3 weeks together at a stressful time like a funeral would be excrutiatingly uncomfortable, full of arguments and disagreements. Thank heavens my family isn't one of those.

At one point my younger brother gently accused my mom and me of actually having TOO much fun, and I had to point out that we'd already cried 3 times that day: We cried over a photo of my dad sitting in his wheelchair on one of his final days. He looked so frail, slightly slumped down, with his head cocked to one side, and a blanked wrapped around him. He was looking out the window at the bright white snowy yard and it seemed as if he was going towards the light. That photo was a real tearjerker. We also cried as she described going in to say goodbye to him one last time before they came to pick up the body. And we cried with the minister who had come over to help plan the service. So we did our share of crying.

But we also laughed and howled and hooted and snorted and had a great time together. We laughed when my two little nieces went in to say goodbye to Grandpa about 8 hours after he'd died, and one told her sister, "Come on in! He doesn't smell as bad any more!" We laughed when cat allergies caused one of my eyes to get puffy and red. Then the eyedrops I put in caused it to dilate so much I looked like I was possessed because one pupil was HUGE and one was normal (it was freaking everybody out). Everybody nearly busted their guts laughing when my #2 son serenaded us on his guitar with a performance of Buenos Tardes Amigo, complete with cat mask and fake Mexican accent. It was a highlight for all the little cousins, who couldn't stop singing that song for days afterwards. Thanks a lot, El Gato.

Yes, it was fun being in Bellingham for 3 weeks for my dad's funeral. Good times.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Best Bud/Worst Bud

Our four boys have nicknames for each other:
The middle two call each other Best Bud or Bestie for short. They say it with a certain amount of sarcasm, as if they're not really best buddies. But they are. They call and text each other almost every day, even though they live 250 miles away from each other.
It soon became apparent that they needed a nickname for the oldest brother, so naturally he became Worst Bud or Worstie. Note that his nickname is delivered with affection. Honest.
The youngest brother became Little Boonie Bud which comes from Boone which is what he goes by even though his real name is Byron. Got that? His brothers also call him Big Blinga. I'm pretty sure that one is delivered sarcastically.

#1, age 26: Austin/Worst Bud

#2, age 24: Nolan/Best Bud (to Carlin)/El Gato (don't ask)

#3, age 23: Carlin/Best Bud (to Nolan)

#4, age 21: Byron/Boone/Little Boonie Bud/Big Blinga

With 4 boys only 5 years apart, it's hard for people to remember who's who. And I don't expect anyone to keep them straight. So over the years, I started to refer to them by numbers. In person, I still call them by their name, not number, although I can't claim to always get the right name at the right time. And they call each other by name or nickname, not number. It's only when I'm talking about them to students or colleagues or friends (or readers like you) that I use numbers. It just seems easier for everyone.

People seem to have a hard time remembering which name goes with which kids because 1) they're close in age, therefore close in size growing up, 2) they look alike, and 3) they all have tricky names. Austin, Nolan, Carlin and Byron all end with the same last syllable. I can blame this on my husband's family. His mom had 6 (!) kids, named Kevin, Galen, Maren, Loryn, Quentin, and Curtin, which all end with the same -n syllable. Yes, Curt's real name is Curtin. It came from a great-grandfather, Samuel Curtin Davidson. Anyway, Curtin married Megan (mine was the only spouse's name that fit the pattern) and we decided to continue the tradition. I like the tradition, but I know it made it hard for people to keep them straight. Grandma used a famous amalgamated name Au-No-Ca-Byron (pronounced AnnikaByron) when she couldn't get the right name quick enough.

It's funny that they're all so close to each other because they're really quite different. Growing up, they fought plenty, but they also played together plenty and because they were so close in age, they often had the same circle of friends. When the youngest one was turning 21 last year, the people he most wanted to spend it with were his brothers. So they all 4 came from their respective cities and met in Seattle to go to a Mariners game to celebrate Little Boonie Bud turning 21.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Memorial booklet

Paul Roley 1927-2007

baby Paul held by his father Owen in Kansas City in 1927. This is the first photograph of Paul.

Paul in 2nd grade

“In my day the average boy was a walking arsenal, armed with a pea-shooter, sling shot, and other tools of aggression. My favorite weapon for everyday combat was the rubber gun, which was fashioned out of wood and shot stout rubber bands made from an old inner tube. It could inflict a memorable sting on its victim but was not otherwise dangerous.”

Paul (left) was a drill sergeant in the Marines

“There also were a few who always managed to be in forefront of the action. The most conspicuous of these was Larry Treff, a skinny Jewish kid from the Bronx in New York, who four days after his 20th birthday was made a platoon sergeant and given charge of 40 men. “ 6/3/94 (referring to the book Paul compiled, G Company’s War )

Paul & Joan’s wedding 1955

“I consider my greatest good fortune in life that I married into the Dorsey family: I acquired at once a legendary mother-in-law, an esteemed father-in-law, and an ideal wife for these 41 years.”

in the tub with Scott and Megan

1958, three kids later:
Scott, Megan, & baby Ross

“For instance, Real Fathers don’t mind changing diapers, especially if it’s out in the front yard where they can hose the kid down afterwards. Real Fathers don’t mind giving the kids a bath, either, though their preference might be running them through a car wash. Real Fathers don’t want an expensive present for Father’s Day, but they sure would like to know they are appreciated. For you see, a Real Father really does care.” 6/18/87

family portrait 1962

camping in Wisconsin 1964

Paul began his career as a Soviet history professor, Boulder, Colorado 1965

the family moved to Bellingham in 1967

“I’ve long believed that our society would be in better shape if all the children and grandchildren of today had an old home place to return to. … This is the first and only house I’ve ever owned; I bought it when I was 40. Decades later, this red house is still home to our three grown children and a fixed point of reference for our grandchildren.” 4/4/91

family portrait 1968

Paul enjoyed working in his shop

“So who will emerge to provide the leadership this county so badly needs? I don't know, and for the first time in my life I am pessimistic about the American future. About the only comfort we can take is in the observations that "the good Lord looks after fools, drunkards, and the United States of America." 4/2/92

with Sen. Henry Jackson 1970

“Who would be so fair and honest in his judgments, so respected by the American people, to qualify for the position of "commissioner of politics"? The only possible candidate is, of course, Forest Gump, who understands that politics is like a box of chocolates--the choices you make do not always turn out to be what you expected.” 4/6/95

Paul looking at a painting of
Lenin looking at a painting
(Moscow, 1982)

He was extremely proud when his youngest son Ross entered the Air Force Academy 1976

dancing to Dixieland jazz

Paul was a voracious reader. Besides stacks of books and numerous magazines, he read 3 newspapers every morning.

at Megan’s wedding 1978

with Rev. Vince Crane 1979

pulling Austin, his first grandchild, on a sled 1983

kissing Rachel 1995

“Rachel Roley seems destined to be president someday – whether by popular election or by armed coup remains to be seen. Either is conceivable.” 6/1/95

with granddaughter Ruby 1993

“I have started drawing Social Security. While priding ourselves on our self-reliance and denouncing the welfare state, we Golden Oldies are the original Gimme Gang, particularly when it comes to that welfare system we call Social Security. Seldom do we consider that in about 3 or 4 years on average we will get back everything we and our employers paid into the system. After that we will be saying, in effect, "Just charge it to the kids." 9/5/92

Is he sleeping or reading to Ben?

“We senior citizens have to face the awful truth that we are over the hill intellectually as well as physically. You become like an aging pitcher who has lost his fast ball and has to rely on guile and experience to fake his way through. Still, that will fool the free-swinging kids every time.” 6/6/91

teaching Austin how to tie a tie 1998

with Ross’s family in Victoria 2005

at his 70th birthday party 1997

“I recently ran into the observation that since roughly World War I, there has been a tendency for people to be judged on personality rather than character. If this true, it explains much of what has happened to American society in the past 30 years.” 7/6/95

all men: Roleys and Davidsons

with Scott’s girls

“I have come up with a universal business salutation, a dignified term that is deceptively simple but brilliant in conception: ‘Dear Simms.’ This acronym combines into one word exactly what one is trying to convey: ‘Dear Sir, Madame or Miss.’ Will future social historians recognize the universal salutation for what it is, a giant step toward peace on earth, and reward its modest inventor (me) with the immortality of remembrance?” 11/4/93

with Col. Ross Roley

“I think the Yankee Doodle spirit is still alive and well across the broad face of the republic wherever work-a-day Americans go about the business of making a life for themselves and their children. And I think it will be beating in the hearts of most of us this Fourth of July.” 7/4/91

at Joan & Paul’s 50th anniversary 2005

“There was nothing special about my father-in-law except his innate decency and his deep attachment to the land. He married the finest woman I have ever known (though her daughter Joan comes close), raised a family, treasured the past and sacrificed for the future, and had hundreds of friends who mourned his passing. If that’s not success, then our priorities are badly distorted.” 9/2/87

“One thing seven decades of living has taught me is that there are no ultimate answers here on Earth, and I'm at the point where I yearn for some answers. I want to know if there is a heaven and if it is as beautiful as a 75-degree summer day here in Bellingham. I want to know how and why the universe was formed, and the full story of the descent of man, and if Shakespeare really wrote the plays attributed to him.” 6/18/99

Scott, Megan, Ross, Paul, Joan, and Duffy 2001

“Perhaps it would be a fitting epitaph to note on my tombstone, ‘He let the neighborhood kids play in his side yard.’ It’s probably the most important social contribution I’ve made in this life.” 9/1/94

looking at the snow out the window the month before he died

This is the last photograph of Paul.

Memorial speech

This eulogy was delivered by Megan Davidson for her father, Paul Roley:

"Dad insisted that we all tell the truth at his memorial service. Above all else, intellectual honesty was his most cherished value.

My dad could be a difficult man. But as you can see in this gathering today, he had many loyal friends who respected his work ethic and his relentless pursuit of truth. He often arrived at a different conclusion than some of us, but he would be prepared to defend his position with published analyses from experts and intellectuals. He had a very low threshold for opinions expressed in ignorance. He didn’t mind a vigorous debate of the issues, so long as you could back up your argument with facts.

Listen again to those terms: relentless … defend … low threshold … vigorous debate … argument. It’s no wonder Dad and I had so many differences amid that kind of environment, BUT we also have many traits and values in common that I treasure and I know they were a gift from him:

1. Family: My dad did not come from a stable family environment, and he desperately wanted to be part of an American dream family not unlike a Norman Rockwell painting. If you look around you today, you will see that largely, he succeeded: a loving wife of 51 years, three successful children, and ten cherished grandchildren to carry on his legacy. His notion of the ideal family mainly came from my mother’s family – good, hardworking folk from Illinois who have farmed the same land for 8 generations. Although he did not till the earth like them, Dad sowed his seeds of knowledge in the minds of his offspring and his students. Some of those seeds germinated and matured to bear sizeable fruit. Dad can be forgiven for his frustration that much of the fruit rolled so far from the tree.

As for me, I stayed in Bellingham for 20 years and raised my kids here, and we even lived next door to my mom and dad for 15 of those years. Living in close proximity to family can definitely have its drawbacks, but I wouldn’t trade those years for the world. My boys were so fortunate to grow up with Grandma and Grandpa (who they called G-ma & G-pa) as part of their daily lives. The family bonds they developed in their early years led to their dedication during Grandpa’s final years and months, when Austin and Nolan came over unfailingly to transfer him into the wheelchair, or to watch over him so Grandma could attend church, or to take out the garbage on Wednesday nights. Grandpa can be proud of cultivating the close, ideal family unit that he always craved, for these grandsons are living proof of his having achieved that goal. Even more significantly, my older brother Scott and his family have recently relocated to Bellingham after 25 years away to help take care of Dad in his final months, and to be near Mom. Understandably, she is tickled to have a new set of grandkids who will be raised here among extended family. Dad, thank you for placing such a high value on family.

2. Politics: Dad introduced me to politics when I was about 10. As kids, we used to go doorbelling, stuff envelopes, and work at Democratic headquarters. My brother and I even served as pages in Olympia, and I went on to teach government and constitution to 8th graders. I certainly got my love of politics from him. Some of you may not be aware of this, but Dad used to be a loyal Democrat and he raised us to be liberal Democrats too. It was only later that he became a Conservative Republican. He always said that I, too, would “see the light” some day and become a Republican when I got older and wiser. With our differing political views, we had plenty to disagree about over the last 25 years, but I am enormously thankful that he introduced me to politics. He showed me what it was like to believe passionately in something, and to work actively to make it happen. Thanks, Dad. That lesson was priceless.

3. Intellect: Dad LOVED to learn new things. He loved to read and he was always soaking up new information, which he couldn’t wait to pass on to others. How many of you ever received from him a photocopy of an article that he wanted you to read? Well, I received plenty over the years. One of my strongest memories will be of him opening his briefcase and pulling out articles. Dad’s appetite for intellectual stimulation was boundless. As a result, he was never boring. He didn’t have much patience for people who weren’t interested in learning, however. He used to grumble about his history students who didn’t know the 50 states. He’d tell them, “I’ve got a 5-year-old grandson who knows all 50 states and so should you!” I am forever grateful that he passed on his insatiable intellectual curiosity to me and my brothers and to the grandkids.

Yes, Dad knew he wasn’t a saint. We all knew who the saint was in our family and she’s sitting right there. The remarkable thing was that in spite of his faults, Dad still had enough endearing qualities that we are all here today to pay tribute to him. Well done, Dad."

The memorial service

All the relatives have arrived.
All the speeches have been written.
All my boys are dressed up in their spiffiest suits.
It's the day of the memorial service for my dad.
My dad wrote his own obituary (see which was published in the local newspaper, and there was an even longer article about his death in the university newspaper, since he'd been a professor there for 27 years.

I've already had my first glitch of the day:
Curt and I were staying at a hotel for 2 nights because Mom's house was full with other visitors, and on the counter of the hotel bathroom were two little bottles. Shampoo and conditioner, right? So I used the shampoo to wash my hair. The shampoo seemed awfully thick so I looked at the label, but I didn't have my glasses on in the shower (of course), and the print was really teeny tiny (you really have no idea how microscopic it was), and the light was poor behind the shower curtain, so I couldn't read what the bottle said. I handed the bottle to Curt who went to get his glasses and declared that the bottle was hand lotion. I was washing my hair with a big blob of hand lotion. Great. So then I had to wash my hair 3 or 4 more times with real shampoo which was in a dispenser mounted on the wall. (Who looks on the wall for shampoo? Honestly.) I think I got most of the hand lotion out, but it still seemed a little greasy. Let's call it silky. I hope I look OK.

I've written a speech about my dad which was no easy task. My dad and I didn't always get along and everyone knew it. Furthermore, my dad had told us well before he died that he didn't want anyone to tell lies at his service or to idealize him. He was a bit of a curmudgeon and he knew it. (He rather liked that label.) Somehow I had to find enough good things to say, without dwelling on the bad things. Luckily, I had spent the last 7 days digging through all the old photo albums. My mom wanted me to make a color booklet about him to distribute at the memorial service. I had been selecting photos and excerpts from his columns and creating a lovely 10-page booklet. (see my blog entry called "Memorial booklet") The important thing about digging though all the old photos was that I saw pictures that enabled me to see him in a different light. I saw a photo of him giving me a bath when I was a baby. I never imagined he was the type of father to do that! I saw a photo of him pulling Austin at age 3 on a sled. I don't remember this ever happening, but I guess it did. The most astonishing photo was one of him in his seventies dressed as a clown! My dad took himself very seriously, and was not the type to dress silly for any occasion. I was beginning to realize that there were things about him that I didn't know. Maybe he wasn't such a bad guy after all. And on that note, I was able to write my speech. (see my blog entry called "Memorial speech")

Delivering my speech was another matter. It was a given that I would be concentrating on trying not to cry. However, I also knew I'd be nervous, and I was desperately trying not to wet my pants! No matter how many times I went potty before the service, it still felt like I had a few more gallons in me demanding to escape. My older brother Scott spoke first and started crying soon into his first paragraph, which got my #1 son crying. When I saw my #3 and #4 sons reach out to console their sobbing eldest brother, I lost it too. So much for trying not to cry. Fortunately, I was armed with a large wad of tissues.

I was next. I pulled out Dad's briefcase, opened it, and removed my speech. Dad's briefcase went everywhere with him, even on vacation. It was usually full of newspaper articles he had photocopied that he wanted you to read, in an attempt to cure you of whatever misguided beliefs you had - in my case: liberalism. Everyone at the service had received articles from him at least once over the years. It was one of his trademarks. I read my eulogy. I didn't cry; just a little choked up. And I didn't wet my pants. Hooray!

My younger brother went next. He's a colonel in the Air Force and was dressed impressively in his uniform. Dad would've liked that. He got a little teary during his speech, too. And then he made everyone cry when he presented a flag to my mom that had flown over the USS Arizona in my dad's honor. Dad would've loved that. We were all blubbering by that time.

Three of the grandchildren also spoke, including my #4 son who represented the grandsons who had grown up next door to Grandpa. My #3 son had accompanied the soloist on viola earlier in the service, and he also had created a slide show of old pictures of Grandpa that flashed on the screen with poignant music in the background. So we all got to cry one more time. It was nice.

My mom wrote a short thank you on the printed program which ended like this:
"We all know how strong and stubborn he was, which leads me to suspect that before beginning his new journey, he's hanging around to see and hear us today. So Paul, we'll be fine; be on your way; you loved to travel and I'll catch up. Joan."