My Grandpa
My sister, the wonderfully prolific writer that she is, just sent this
to me...

"One week ago my parents, my sister Carol, her husband Todd, and my husband Joe, sat
around a small motor home in rural Escondido eating tacos, drinking milk and pouring
ample quantities of hot sauce on our meals. We laughed at how Grandpa had started this
tradition, if it qualifies as such, many years ago when we met for family occasions.
Grandpa died tonight and my sister and I have been on the phone looking through photo
albums. She is posting pictures on her website and I keep hitting the refresh button on
my screen to view them as she loads them. Many of them have been in storage for more
than a decade and I feel like we’re traveling back in time together. I remember
each photo as if it’s an old friend.

“Look at us sitting in front of Grandma and Grandpa’s tear drop trailer!� I
exclaim. We are seated in miniature nylon camp chairs. I had no idea how cute we were.
Carol is holding a cup and I’m posing for the camera. In another photo we are
enthralled by coloring story-books that Grandma and Grandpa have brought over. All
four of us are seated on a small couch in the tip-out section of our travel trailer. We
are obviously entranced by the gifts. It’s been years since I’ve even thought
about those years, living in small spaces, sharing a bed with Carol, running along the
rivers and mountains of the Eastern Sierra.

Carol is now living in Southern California and I am in San Francisco. I last saw Grandpa in
2004 when Joe and I drove from San Francisco to Boston for graduate school. Grandpa
asked to be driven to the grocery store and the pharmacy to find Gold Baum powder. He
moved slowly but deliberately and held my elbow as we sallied up the lengthy aisles of
the Fernley, Nevada grocery store. He didn’t complain too much about the multiple
drugs he was taking, the pain he was experiencing, nor the distance from any nearby
urban center. He was stubborn but stoic, living in the middle of the desert on a plot of
land with a mobile home and a garage. He was still able to see from the edges of his
eyes, but the corneas were damaged by macular degeneration and so he could no longer
drive, though he did on occasion take an electric cart on the dirt roads. My uncle told me
my Grandpa’s time was coming to a close. As we drove away I wondered if it would
be the last time I would see him. I secretly hoped it would not be.

Three years and several hospitalizations later, I ate Thanksgiving dinner with my
friends in Pleasant Hill, California, aware that this Thanksgiving could be the last one
for my Grandpa. But Joe and I planned to drive out to Reno in a week or two. After all,
it probably doesn’t matter to my Grandpa that we come on Turkey day or any other
day. He is very ill and in the hospital. Dad tells me he keeps pulling through. I believe I
have more time. I do not. He does not.

Carol and I are sniffling on the phone and I am telling her how I wish I could have spent
Thanksgiving out with mom and dad, Aunt Carolyn, Uncle Pat, Aunt Cora and Uncle Kenny,
our cousins Matt and Daniel and their families, in Reno, but that I didn’t know they
would celebrate (turns out they didn’t either, but a beautifully improvised meal
apparently came together and my mom and dad were so happy to be a part of it). I guess
I feel left out or that I failed to realize that this was it. I should have been there.
Carol says simply – “We saw them all the time when we were little, practically
every Thanksgiving was with Grandma and Grandpa.� And she’s right. I start
looking at Carol’s photos, then I begin leafing through my albums while we speak.
Strangely, I flip open to the exact pages with photos of my Grandpa. Like I meant to.
Or knew just where those pictures were.

I just finished scanning in my photos for Carol. I’m thinking of all the little
moments, nothing momentous really, that I can possibly conjure. Grandpa water skiing at
7 a.m. on Mission Bay, easily the most fit man in his 70s. Grandpa climbing down from his
truck and leaning over our car window to give Carol and me candy up in Mammoth Lakes.
Grandpa making tacos, pouring me a glass of milk, encouraging me to try the hot sauce
and salsa. I guess my Mexican food addiction can be easily traced to Grandpa. Grandpa
riding on a sidecar frame up Valley View Lane in Bishop, my dad laughing hysterically.
They couldn’t wait to put the sidecar itself on. They had to try it right away.
Grandpa hiking up the copper soil of Red Rock State Park, his silhouette on a butte.

I regret that the past decade has gone by without much in the way of visits with
Grandpa. I went to the Pennsylvania for college, then to France and England, then
worked in Washington, D.C. Still, I always thought of him on his birthday, March 17,
being as close to mine as it was.

But my family reminds me that Grandpa knew where we stood. He knew I loved him. I
knew he loved me. I hope he was proud of me. He met Joe a couple of times. He met
Todd. He heard about our whereabouts from my Mom who spoke with him every week.
They had a special father, daughter-in-law bond. I’m grateful she held his hand
yesterday. She let him know Carol and I were there too.

Was my relationship with Grandpa all that special? I don’t know. Lots of kids have
grandparents that give them candy, five dollar bills, hugs, coloring books and take them
camping. It doesn’t add up to anything extraordinary, until you peel away all that
Grandpa was. A World War II Naval veteran who I heard saw action in the Philippines,
who came back unscathed, but obviously had seen the Japanese aggression at close
range.  He didn’t talk about it. Last time I saw him I wanted to know everything. He
told me the name of his ship. He said some of his fellow sailors had tried to stay in

Grandpa was a father; one of my favorite photographs is of him and my dad on a
motorcycle in the 1950s. My dad’s grin is wide as he sits on the back of a new bike in
the Allied Gardens neighborhood of San Diego. Just last week my dad and I rode on his
BMW 650 cc bike across interstate 15, the warm wind blowing our lips into permanent

We all tend to think we are our own unique creations with our own sets of interests and
attitudes, but there again is Grandpa inside of us – exploring the asphalt from the
seat of a roadster, be it a Harley or a Honda Civic. I think of my sister’s career in
the Forest Service and her myriad hiking, camping and road trips, my own desire to run
and feel wind, to experience constant wide open spaces, my own job as a fundraiser to
preserve wild places all over the world. My incessant craving for tacos. Carol’s
addiction to milk. It’s Grandpa all the way.

Another layer of Grandpa, and perhaps the most incredible, is his 62-year marriage to
my grandmother Josie, a woman who was forcibly removed by law enforcement in the
1950s to spend several weeks in a state-run mental hospital. She received electro-
shock therapy that permanently altered her personality. My Grandpa continued to work,
feed the kids and provide a modicum of a healthy childhood, if you can call having your
mother stuffed into a cop car and carted off to a mental institution healthy. Dad doesnâ
€™t dwell on it and has only talked about it once or twice with me, but I can’t help
thinking that Grandpa must have suffered far more trauma than he ever let on. He took
care of his wife for many years and not only accepted her illness, but went on with life
as if it were nothing at all, just a little something that made her angry sometimes or
distant. If Grandma didn’t hug us, Grandpa always would. And Carol and I never
thought to ask questions. It was just Grandma. 62 years. You could say that’s just
the way the World War II generation was – they didn’t talk about their combat
service, nor their troubled marriages. Or you could say they put up with more than any
of us, what with our interpersonal therapists, counselors, anti-depressants, self-help
books and endless websites dedicated to relationships, would ever put up with today. He
did it and he never once complained.

Carol and I are talking about organizing a memorial service. Well, “service� may be
too formal a word. We should do things Grandpa would want to do, she says, and we
agree a barbeque on Mission Bay, some motorcycle riding and maybe a boat ride would
capture it best.

By the time I hang up with Carol we’ve looked through almost all of her scanned
photos and I’m feeling immensely better. I realize how much a part of my life
Grandpa was, how he was there to tie my fishing hook, help me paint an Easter egg, read
a book, cook the taco meat, drive out along the dusty roads bordering the Owens River,
and how he was there to chuckle in his trademark way, giggling and grinning wide. I guess
he was just happy to see us.

For Grandpa, his bald head often covered by a fishing hat or a white Bell motorcycle
helmet, accompanied by my dad or my Grandma or me sitting in the sidecar, seeing the
desert, the road, the river and the ocean never got old. He delighted in playing
outdoors, his children and grandchildren rooting him on. I remember being on San Diego
Bay one early morning in the mid-1980s watching Grandpa getting ready for a water ski
run. Look at the shape he’s in, someone remarked. That’s my Grandpa, I thought

And more from the family...

Hi everyone. Donald Mort here, I just wanted all to know what fun we had water skiing
with Uncle Frank with his hat on would ski the whole lake never falling down, he would
start dry and land the same way. Frank was a very good at skiing and many other things

                                   Love Donald Mort and Family

Hi Kristine & Carol,
   You were nice enough to email information about Frank's death, and your relationship
and a website dedicated to him. And I just copied George's 8mm home movies from the
late sixties and early seventies that have a few family get togethers with Frank
pictured. They may not stream very well from my domain, so it's probably best the right
click and save targets. They are huge as I've not learned how to compress them. (5 Meg) (37 Meg) (59 Meg) (66 Meg)
You are welcome to copy and/or link them to your site if you wish.
       Later, Bill Hughes

Dear Phil, Wanda, and Family,
    Very sorry to hear of the passing of Phil Sr. on November 24th.  Of all the platudes
that can and are offered to all remaining in the family, I know even when they are
offered to try to help, they remain just words compared to ones' insides, heart, and
soul.  I can only offer that I have experienced both my M & D's, Chris and Helen,
passing, so I know what it might be like inside to deal with it.  I respected Phil Sr. a lot,
also remember most of the times he gave the precious gift of his time spent on boy
scout activities, inviting me for water skiing, the family "taco feed" on occasion.  Phil Jr.
always beat me for quantity consumed and my introduction to "hot sauce".  Oh-yeah, I
never did understand the "military clock" in the garage but Sr. took the time and
patience to explain it to me.  Many, many more memories to recall upon.  I was honored
to have known him.  I'm sure he is at rest in a wonderful place in which we all will meet
up again in due time.  Passage of time did help me to understand memories to help me to
appreciate what once was, that my job now is to do the best works I can before my
turn.  Love and peace to all of you.  May God's blessings be with you always.  ~ Gordon
(my dad's best friend)

August 23, 2008
I just talked to my mom and she told me Grandma passed away in her sleep around
midnight on the 22nd.  We are all sad but like mom said she and Grandpa are together
now.  RIP Grandma.

September 7, 2008
Todd and I made a quick turn-around trip up to Fernley, NV to attend my Grandma's
Memorial Service.  We left Thursday evening at 6:00 pm after Todd got home from
work.  We stopped in Kramer Junction for a quick dinner and then drove up Hwy 395
most of the way crossing over into Nevada near Bridgeport.  The last part of the drive
was enjoyable as we saw a lot of wildlife - a bobcat, a coyote, lots of jackrabbits and
mice crossing the road in front of us.  We arrived in Fernley, NV (just east of Reno a
little ways, a distance of about 500 miles) at 2:30 am.  We slept in the car for a few
hours then took showers and got dressed in Mom and Dad's hotel room and then
attended Grandma's service.

The service was beautiful, held in an outdoor pavilion at the Northern Nevada Veteran's
Memorial Cemetery (my Grandpa was in the Navy during WWII).  My Aunt Cora sang and
Uncle Kenny spoke.  It was a warm day but a cool breeze was blowing across the wide
open spaces of the surrounding high desert landscape.  We buried Grandma's urn under
Grandpa's headstone...  soon a new headstone will be put in place with both of their

Then we all ate brunch at the Silverado Casino (of course, it's Nevada!).  It was good to
see family I haven't seen in a long long time.  I was 3 years old the last time I saw my
Great Uncle George and Great Aunt Loydine.  Uncle George reminds me so much of
Grandpa and Aunt Loydine actually looks a lot like my mom, they could be sisters!  I was
about 9 years old the last time I saw my two cousins Matt and Daniel...  They are both
married with kids now!  Jessie, Matt's wife, brought little Matt to the service and he's
a beautiful blue-eyed baby.  It's been about 10 years since I've seen my Aunt Carolyn
and Uncle Pat.  Aunt Carolyn hasn't been feeling well and Uncle Pat has been an angel to
the family helping to wrap up all of my grandparents' real estate paperwork and
everything else.

After brunch Todd and I checked into our hotel room and took a 3-hour nap.  Then we
woke up and went out to dinner with Mom and Dad and then had ice cream with Kristine
and Joe (Steve's Homemade IceCream in Fernley is delicious!)  Then we called it a
night.  On Saturday we woke up and had breakfast at the casino then drove out to the
gravesite once more so I could take some photos.  Since I wasn't able to attend
Grandpa's funeral this was my chance to say goodbye to him as well.  Then we drove
south to Silver Springs to see my grandparents' property one last time since we are
going to sell it.  Then we hit the road for home stopping at the Mono Lake Visitor Center
to stretch our legs and then Bishop to eat a quick dinner.  We got home around 10:00 pm
last night.  That's a lot of driving in two days!  At least it is through some of the most
scenic country in the US.  The Eastern Sierra and Western Nevada is so gorgeous, I
really do love the drive.  But needless to say Todd and I slept well last night and will
probably take more naps today to catch up.

Here are two wild horses we saw near Silver Springs...

Back to Tarol's Homepage
Grandpa, Kristine, and me

My Grandpa was a much loved member of our family.  I will forever remember him
smiling and chuckling (he had a laugh like Popeye) and taking us for rides on his
motorcycle, teaching us how to fish, and cooking us tacos in the camper.  He passed
away the evening of November 24, 2007.  RIP Grandpa.

If you have any photos or stories to share, please email them to me and I will post
them to this website as a remembrance to him...
Kristine, Grandma, Grandpa, and me
Grandpa fishing at the Owen's River, but he wore that hat
even when he wasn't fishing!  He even wore it at my Aunt
Carolyn's and Uncle Pat's wedding, lol
Grandpa and Dad were building a side car for Grandpa's
motorcycle and thought it would be fun to ride around on the
frame.  When they left Dad was on the frame, when they came
back Grandpa was, lol
Grandpa knew how to camp in style
Grandpa, Aunt Carolyn, my dad, and me
Grandpa and his brother George
Grandpa in a funny wig and ? (sorry I don't know the name,
probably a cousin I haven't seen since I was 2 years old!)
Grandpa and Aunt Carolyn
Great Grandma, Katherine, Richard, Helen, and Grandpa at our family
reunion in 1984 (I think that was the year).
My dad and mom, Uncle Kenny, Don, Great Grandma, Steve,
Sandra, Aunt Carolyn, Larry, Cheryl
(Thanks Cheryl for id'ing the others for me!)
Great Grandma and me, Kristine, Matt, and Daniel
Grandpa definitely knew all about the finer things in life!

My Grandpa's Kayak
Thanksgiving 1999

Kristine and Grandpa above
Me, Dad, and Grandpa below
Taking Grandpa's kayak out onto Lake Tahoe Summer 1998
Thanksgiving 2005
Dad and Grandpa, above
Grandpa and Mom, below
The kayak made possible my first solo wilderness adventure
Kristine and Joe enjoy taking the kayak out as well
Grandma, Great Aunt Helen (she passed away earlier this
year), and Grandpa
Uncle Kenny, Aunt Cora, my dad, my mom, Kristine, Grandpa,
and Grandma

Family Reunion in Utah 2000
Grandpa and his siblings
Grandpa and Grandma visit us at our house in Escondido in 1985
Uncle Pat and Grandpa
Uncle Pat, Aunt Carolyn, Aunt Cora, Uncle Kenny, and Grandma
on her 85th birthday