Tag Archives: fishing

Addendum to a Eulogy

Yesterday my dad should have turned seventy. He passed away this year on my birthday, so this weekend we’ve been missing him on his.

canoe and canoeist

daddy-daughter canoe trip, Northern Idaho 1987

Ironically, I could still practice my favorite joke-ritual, which was not to call my dad (whose depth of phone-phobia was rivaled only by my sister’s and my own) on his birthday. I even found him a card one year that offered a “no-call” option as a birthday present. (Actually, I usually did call anyway—and this week I’m glad of that.)

One of the horrible ironies of memorial services is the fact that grieving people are expected (worse: expect themselves) to brilliantly and eruditely sum up LOVE, as it applies to a suddenly-missing person, at a point in time when their hearts are most broken and their brains are most fried. In such a case, the best you can hope for is that God will get some of the right words into your mouth (or out of your pen), and that the other people missing him will be able to fill in the rest through their love and memories.

The single story I most wanted to share about my dad didn’t seem appropriate for either the obituary I wrote nor the eulogy at his service. Somehow, alcoholism (in the speaker or the deceased) doesn’t seem like it would be a welcome subject in those venues… But this story says SO much about my dad, and here’s a place where I can tell it.


My Thanksgiving Daddy-story…

When I first started thinking about getting sober, I’d string together 30 days and fall on my face again. Repeatedly. Furious and frustrated by my own “weakness,” I wasn’t above some blame-shifting into the bargain…

Facing my first (post-divorce) Thanksgiving without my kids, I’d accepted a plane ticket from my parents to spend the holiday with them. My godparents were arriving from out of state, and my mother planned to entertain in her usual exuberant and extravagant style, great-grandma’s china and all. It would have been a solid coping strategy… except for my dad’s drinking. Having just (again) made it to 30 days, my Sobriety was raw and shaky and completely lacking confidence. I knew I would end up drinking at that house.

image

my mother & my husband planting a rose bush the day Dad died

Still, I couldn’t very well tell my mother I wasn’t coming for the big Thanksgiving! So I swept aside the concerns of my new A.A. friends, packed a bag, took a cab to the airport, went through the security screening and sat at my gate… And didn’t get on the plane. Of course, that was even worse than if I’d made the decision rationally and in good time—now I had to call my mother and tell her I wasn’t on the plane she had already left the house to meet! And told her why. And to compound the awfulness, I took my miserable butt home and got really drunk.

Any guesses what my parents did? You won’t guess, so I’ll tell you. They cancelled their big Thanksgiving, called off the out-of-town guests, put the turkey and side dishes (everything but great-grandma’s china) into their car, and drove the 300 miles to my house.

Thanksgiving rose

Thanksgiving rose!

Dad walked in the door crying, folded me in a hug, and told me, “I love you. I’m an alcoholic.”

And that was the beginning of the end of his drinking. He took about a month to wean himself off of alcohol (safely and scientifically, as he did most things) and then he never drank again. If I have to pick one story to tell about my Dad, that’s the one I want to tell.

This year on Thanksgiving day my mother sent a photo to my sister and me: a single rose that had materialized (in November cold!) on the rose bush we planted the day Dad died. I agree with my sister’s idea: “Dad is saying hello!”


Impossible to “summarize” a LIFE! (BUT someone is expected to attempt it…) Dad’s Obituary, Sep 2016.

We lost a kind and gentle soul when Bob Dwelle died on Sunday due to complications of congestive heart failure.

Bob Dwelle

Daddy

Bob Dwelle arrived in this world on December 3, 1946, to the delight of his parents, George & Edith, and the possible consternation of his older brother Dick. Bob shared his brother’s impish sense of humor, as well as a penchant for getting both into mischief and out of scrapes. The stories they would tell on themselves and each other in later years might not fall in the traditional category of “moral storytelling,” but Bob’s young daughters delighted in the tales of their Wisconsin childhood.

An active and athletic young man, Bob enjoyed camping and canoeing, and spent his college summers leading  groups of teenage boys on lengthy canoe-treks through Wisconsin lakes and Canadian wilderness. As a Freshman at Carleton College in Northfield MN, Bob met Anne Zier, and the two of them married in March of their Senior year, incidentally becoming the first Carleton couple to be permitted to marry, or live off campus before graduating.

With his Carleton degree in Biology, Bob was admitted to the graduate program at University of Montana, where he bypassed the Masters program and went directly to work on a Ph.D. in plant physiology.  After completing his Ph.D., Bob accepted a position at the University of Idaho’s potato-growing Experiment Station, located in the small farming town of Aberdeen ID, despite the fact that he had never seen a live potato plant.  On the way to his job interview, knowing that potatoes were in the tomato family, he stopped at a likely looking field to scope out a real potato plant.  From that shaky start, Bob cooperated over the years in research projects with scientists around the globe, and gave papers in locations ranging from Peru to the Ukraine, from Israel to Germany, and taught Potato Physiology for years.

He and Anne soon added a pair of “tater tots” to the family with the arrival of daughters Janna in 1974 and Karin in 1977.  He was deeply involved with the Aberdeen community, within the church (St Paul’s Lutheran) as well as in community groups like Rotary and Girl Scouts (yes, Bob too), and served for some time on the Aberdeen City Council.

After a decade in Aberdeen, the family relocated to Moscow, where Anne had enrolled in UI’s Law School. With his typical generosity, Bob rearranged his career to accommodate this goal, and in the process discovered his deepest professional calling: teaching! The “temporary” teaching reassignment transformed into one of the most fulfilling aspects of his professional life.

The family remained in Moscow, where Bob continued to teach and rose to the position of Plant Science Chair in the College of Agriculture.  Bob’s graduate students became Family Friends, and wherever in the world the family traveled, they could be assured of welcomes in the homes of Bob’s colleagues and former students. During his career as a Potato Physiologist, “Dr. Spud” was able to indulge his own love of travel, and instill the same in his daughters. The Dwelles’ 1984 European Sabbatical (just one of many memorable trips) spanned six months and eighteen European countries, all meticulously planned in advance by Bob (by letter in that pre-Internet  era).

deep-sea fishing trip

deep-sea fishing with Dad off the Oregon Coast, 1992

Bob had to retire early from the teaching he loved, when his cardiac health became precarious. Before ill health took its toll, he served on Moscow School Board, but even later he continued to serve in positions such as Treasurer with Emmanuel Lutheran Church and preschool, and the Campus Christian Center.

“Plant-Guy” that he was, Bob delighted in his garden—but his greatest joy in his last years was the arrival of his three grandchildren, Christian and Elena Grace (both of whom affectionately called him “Boboo”) and Clara.

Bob… Dad… Boboo… We love you. God’s got you!


Project Petroglyph

my sketch of Keoni (whittling a stand for one of his petroglyph carvings)

Keoni and I make a running joke about his age—not because he’s incredibly old (though of course that’s the joke), but because he was in college when I was born… So I tease him that when he used to carry girls’ books after school, they were clay tablets… Or that his birth certificate was chiseled in stone…

Maybe my teasing sparked an idea, because he recently picked up some pieces of sandstone that have been piled in a roadside heap since the dismantling of a wall at the entrance to our neighborhood. He started looking up traditional Hawai’ian petroglyphs, and next thing he was playing with his dremel tool and carving into his sandstone squares.

In Hawai’i you can find petroglyphs (literally, “rock-pictures”) near sites of old villages, around the volcano, or the sacred grounds of heiaus. I’ve always enjoyed the fact that they aren’t cordoned off or marked out like museum-pieces; you can just be poking around a lava flow and realize you’re standing on a story… The petroglyphs (or, to use the Hawai’ian term, ki’i pohako) tell stories about the sea life and plant life of the islands, family and social relationships, birth and magic and food and sport (Hawai’ians invented surfing, of course)… As a writer, I’ve always felt a special affinity for these enduring image-stories.

L to R: the “bird” petroglyph (carved by Elena Grace), the pu’eo (owl) petroglyph, and “paddlers” petroglyph

We’re both familiar with many of the traditional petroglyphs—hunters and fisherman, canoe paddlers and boats, and of course the honu (turtle) outline that’s all over the merchandise in tourist shops. I hadn’t realized until he started researching, though, that there’s a petroglyph for the owl, my own totem. So the owl was his first carving, followed by a pair of paddlers in memory of my Hawai’ian friend Al (an outrigger canoe steersman, whom I wrote about last year on the anniversary of his death).

He went on to make a pair of carvings for the two youngest kids, each one representing a family name we use for them. I nick-named Christian “Turtle” when I was pregnant with him and didn’t know know his gender, so honu is the obvious choice for him. Keoni carved a sandstone version, and then another on a circle cut from a gourd, which he put on a braided cord for a necklace.

Petroglyph of Honu (turtle) for Christian, and our made-up Monkey for Elena Grace

Elena Grace was trickier to match with a design, but she’s been a “monkey” since I first saw the movie Curious George… She was two years old and so exactly like George that I jokingly began to call her by that name when Christian and I came home from the theater. I didn’t anticipate the repercussions, though. For a month or two afterward, she insisted on being called George, persistently referred to herself as “Jooj,” and wouldn’t answer at all to her given name! If I felt ridiculous about the incredulous looks I got when I addressed her as “George” in public (because she wouldn’t acknowledge any other form of address)—well, I guess it was my own doing…

She was also born in a Year of the Monkey, which she particularly celebrates because she has that in common with Keoni. They’re the Monkey-Twosome of the family… But sadly for us, Hawai’i doesn’t have endemic monkeys, and therefore no monkey-petroglyph in the traditional line-up. No matter, though—we made up our own, adding a tail to the conventional “man” symbol.

Elena Grace carving a bird (and wearing her monkey necklace)

The kids were thrilled with their carvings, and I got even more of a kick out of Elena Grace’s determination to try her hand at carving herself. She went through the stack of index cards on which Keoni had drawn different petroglyphs, picked out “bird,” and after a quick demonstration of the tool, went to work on a piece of sandstone. Maybe that one is for the chickens we’ll be adopting soon.

We have a pile of sandstone left, so the carvers are still at it. We’re thinking of pua’a (wild pig) for Kapena, since he’s so passionate about his “pigskin” (football)… Now we just need to figure out the other four kids, and the three grandkids, and we’ll have the whole family line-up in story-stones.


Pushing Past a Comfort Zone

my sketch of Grandpa fly-fishing

I’ve been laboring under a peculiar species of Writers’ Block for the last two weeks. It’s not that I haven’t had the inclination or the material for writing, but there’s Something Important that I need to write about—that I want to write about—but am apparently not ready to write about. And I’ve felt like I couldn’t (or shouldn’t?) write about other things until I had addressed this.

I’m not meaning to be mysterious here—I’ll share the gist of the matter. My Grandpa passed away two weeks ago. There is SO much to say about this man, about this life… but I think while I continue to work my way up to that, I need to revoke my self-imposed restriction and go on writing about The Rest of Life.

In the meantime, I can imagine the scene with perfect ease: Grandpa and God, hip-deep in a divine trout stream, trading stories. I imagine that God is as good a storyteller as my Grandpa… And perhaps, after all, telling a story is, in itself, a fitting tribute to Grandpa.

Which leaves me with just one problem—after some weeks without writing, there are lots of stories to tell! (Even the kids have begun to comment whenever something makes me laugh: “That’s going into the blog!”) Shall I begin with the completion of the chicken-house, or the shooting class, or our son’s introduction into junior high, or our other son’s re-introduction to football practice after his knee surgery, or Keoni’s foray into football coaching, or the Petroglyph Project, or the latest installment of the sewage-moat saga, or…

Shooting—I’ll start with that.

my instructor emailed a few pictures he took with his phone during class…

Keoni bought me a place in a concealed weapons class (intended for Mother’s Day, though presented earlier because neither of us ever manages to wait for the actual Occasion to give a gift that was nominally intended for that Occasion)… The class coupon was good until September 1, so (being the accomplished Procrastinator that I am) I emailed the instructor in the last week of August to inquire about scheduling. No problem (whew)—he had an opening in Thursday’s class.

We stopped at WalMart to pick up ammo before the class, and in his usual sociable way, Keoni struck up a conversation with the fellow behind the counter (“Bruce Gordon—they call me ‘Flash'”), who, like Keoni, has worked in prisons for a couple decades. Of course they turned out to have quite a few friends in common, so they chattered away while Flash unlocked the cabinet to pull out a box of Winchester 40-caliber bullets. As he wound up the transaction, Flash brightly inquired, “So this is your daughter?” Always amused when people make the (understandable) error, we laughingly corrected him. “Wife!

this photo is my new screen-saver :)

I dropped Keoni to coach his football practice, and headed south of town to the military shooting range. Laughable as this might seem, it didn’t occur to me until I was driving to the range that I might be in the intimidating position of being the only female in this class… And that much did turn out to be true. As pickup-truck after pickup-truck pulled into the dusty bay beside my minivan, it became apparent that I’d be the only girl in a group of Idaho hunters. But I will say this: if ever a girl needed to bolster her Inner Badass, there’s nothing to accomplish the job quite so quickly as strapping on a belt with a holstered weapon.

It also hadn’t occurred to me that there wouldn’t be a bathroom anywhere nearby, and after a hot afternoon drinking quantities of raspberry-green-tea, I badly needed one. Just to make sure, I inquired of the instructor, who was discernibly disconcerted by the question, and who started trying to think where the nearest “blue lagoon” might be found. “That’s okay,” I told him. “I’ll just step around the hill here.”  He called after me to ask if I were sure, if I were okay with that, if I needed a tissue… I reassured him over my shoulder, “Nah, I’m an Idaho girl.” (Although I did come back to report that it was a new experience squatting in the sagebrush with a holstered weapon belted on…)

token soccer-mom in the line-up…

I will admit to feeling intimidated and uncomfortable in that group, but I put on my best act of nonchalance, hid behind humor, introduced myself as the group’s “token soccer-mom”… And then we got down to it. Four hours of drills and target shooting, and I believe I may say I acquitted myself quite well. More to the point: my instructor commented several times that I must be having fun, because I had a smile plastered across my face the whole time!

In some situations I might have replied that a smile is my “default setting,” but he was absolutely correct. I was having a kickass time.

The only thing kicking more was my weapon—and there was some discussion about the advisability of a 40-caliber handgun for someone of my size… But then, I didn’t tire out in four hours, as the instructor had dubiously predicted I might, and {grin} there’s that “badass” factor…

My target from class. Don’t piss me off.

Anyway, I had a good time. I learned things. I shot well. I earned my Concealed Weapon Carry permit. And I won’t lie—I pulled my minivan out of that shooting range feeling pretty pleased with myself. I brought my target home to show, and glowed under the compliments of my husband and sons.

Chatting with my instructor, it turns out that he’d paid a visit to this blog before meeting me, and is interested in having me do some writing for his website. He proposed bartering some classes for some writing—and I’m tickled by the prospect.

All in all, there’s something to be said for pushing past a Comfort Zone!