John left on Wednesday and spent a few days with his mom, alone, and felt the better for being able to do so. They were both having some rough days, and having the company helped. I finished the edits for the next book that's being published in April with Dee on Thursday and promptly finished packing for the trip.
Jet and I took a very smooth, on-time departure, early to the destination Southwest flight Friday morning. Jet noted our parking lot numbers into his iTouch so that we wouldn't forget. I love and appreciate having a helpful kid. He played iTouch on the plane, and I finished a shawlette.
We arrived in the rain, and we started with a little jaunt for ourselves just to start, as we knew most of the rest of the weekend would be devoted to family.
It was a perfect light spit-rain, that just splattered here and there, and we loaded our tired selfs into the station wagon John had borrowed from Isabel, and took Jet and I down to Lake Union, where I Heart Sushi resides. It's our favorite, low-key sushi place in Seattle, where we go if we just want to order a few familiar things, rather than going to Shiro's downtown, where it's better to go for the adventure of having Shiro or one of his top sushi chefs do their thing.
I Heart's where we go when we're craving something particular.
We got there a little too early, though our bellies said that it was noon already, it was only 11 Seattle time. Jet and I had been up since 5:45, and we were hungry, but we took a little walk around the marina, noting the ships that were about the same price as our house. Jet said that we could live on one of those, though, and he was right. Ravens followed us all around the marina, a whole conspiracy of ravens were perched about a man eating his lunch on a bench before the water. Black eyes followed his every move, and they flew away as we approached and then watched us.
He didn't like it, but I was pretty proud of him for trying it without prejudice. I had a lot of fun eating a crab chiwanmushi, too, another thing I can't find in Boulder or Longmont, it's the very soft savory egg custard with seafood and a ginko nut at the bottom of the bowl. The nut always reminds me of Ginko of Mushishi, the beautiful anime that I love dearly. His attitude and the way his remedies work really makes me want to capture the essence of his gentleness and listening in my Misfit Toys' healer/shaman.
From there we went to Pike's Place Market, and it was a good thing that we ate before we went. First stop was World Spice Merchants, which is a long-time spice place that does a ton of business importing teas and spices, and their prices have always been just a little better than I've seen elsewhere. The boys and I shopped the walls of spices and blends, and I walked away with multiple pounds of spices and herbs, including another half pound of Valhrona cocoa, as the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook calls for prodigious amounts of cocoa.
We hit the fish markets upstairs and got our habitual smoke salmon, went through the alleys of little shops and I nearly bought a cheap bag/purse at the cheap bag emporium. I craved a single toasted crumpet, and we wove through the rain and stalls to the Crumpet Shop opposite the main area and I go tmy single buttered crumpet with a cup of chai. And we wended our slow way back through the open shops across the street, including the very first Starbuck's. We headed back to the car, and hit the Eastside Uwajimaya.
We bought various things plus mochi balls, which are ice cream in mochi, so we went directly to Isabel's to put them into the freezer. Nearly everyone else was there already, Paul arrived a day or two ago, Walt and Cathie flew in earlier in the day, and we were just in the apartment for a while, greetings again. I took a little while to wash and block the shawl on the floor of our guest room using Isabel's pins and the facility's towels.
That evening, we had dinner in the private room in the dining hall, with all four brothers and their partners were there. It meant a lot to Isabel. It was a more festive atmosphere than it was two weeks ago, and we went through several bottles of wine and relaxed together and remembered.
After dinner, we all went to Isabel's apartment and put a lot of pictures up on a lot of boards, seven of them, all filled with pictures of George from when he was a tiny baby all the way up to a week before he died. A little more wine was had, and I broke open my little bottle of shiro sake that I'd bought at Uwajamaya and had a few sips of the sweet, cool potent drink in George's honor as well. Isabel, Cathie, and Jan all played mah jong with Jet, learning from him as to how and what to do, and we all talked. It was an unwinding, I think, and a way to just be together for a while again.
By 11, Jet was exhausted, as it was midnight our time, and he'd been up since before 6, and unlike me, he hadn't been able to sleep on the plane or the car rides. I seem to have a knack of catching sleep whenever and wherever I can. I took him back to our room, one of the rooms the facility has for guests, and tucked Jet into bed.
We were up at about 8 and gathered for breakfast with everyone. From there it was back to Isabel's to put last minute touches on things. I kept falling asleep, as there weren't any specific jobs for me, and decided to go back to the room to unpin the shawl to return all the pins to Isabel. Given that the shawlette was in fall colors, and I'd given Jan a shawl in the fall and promised Cathie a sweater, I thought I'd give it to Mary, who hadn't had much knitted by me, yet. I asked her if she could or would use it, and she smiled at me, a lovely secret smile that was just so perfect, I handed the gleaming cashmere, silk, and merino shawl right over. It was exactly right for her, too.
That made me happy.
From there we headed to Target to get bowls for the many gallons of ice cream, Top Gun for dim sum, and then, in the rain, to the UCC church that was my first true church home. John's parents founded the Eastgate Congregational UCC church, and John went to it from soon after he was born until we left the Seattle area in 1999. It was a church that took a lot of George's efforts, time, and care, and everyone that went to it knew it.
I got the job of making the Name Tags for everyone, and since I got to do it, I decided to ask all the ladies what they wanted to be called. It was kind of telling, that all four of us had a different 'label' on our name tags. Jan chose to be "Paul's Person", Cathie picked "Walt's Main Squeeze", I had "John's Domestic Partner", and Mary thought about it and said she wanted "David's Sweetheart". It ways something about the sons that their women were so diverse, individual, and also here, working, and supportive of the whole endeavor, and all of the sons spoke of how their father taught them how to love.
Dozens of people stopped me even before the memorial began, a few with questions, all with condolences, and all with a hug and sympathy. I loved those that wanted to catch up with me, and those that wanted to know how we were doing in Colorado.
By 3, the place was packed. All the pews were filled, the choir loft was filled, and all the remaining floor space was lined with folding chairs. There were so many people they were standing all along the back wall as well.
The service was simple, but got several spirituals in along with two pieces by Emily on her harp, the first one was Ave Maria, solemn and fitting with the greeting and beginnings. I got up and did the reading from Kahlil Gibran on Friendship, which perfectly described what George was for so many people.
For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill?
Seek him always with hours to live.
For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness.
And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.
For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.
Then all four of the brothers got up, in birth order, and gave their hearts in a three minute talk about their father. Each had a different take, a different way of seeing things, and each of them gave their talks with their own particular style. Each were eloquent in their own way, and each of them nearly broke down at the ending, where each of them said thank you and good-bye to George. John then stayed up and gave a small piece from Bernd, the German exchange student that they got during John's senior year, whom they've called the Number Five Son for decades.
They spoke of George being there for them as kids, of how he put family before everything other than work, and he did both with vigor. They spoke of his difficult childhood, of his service in the Army, of his work in the fields and dockyards, and of forty steady years at Boeing. They spoke of his ability to build anything, his amazing stamina and fitness, his world-hopping travels with Isabel, and his curiosity about how everything in the universe worked. His questions, attention to details, and voluntary simplicity over what was important in life were all lauded, along with tidbits of humor about the infamous home-built tent trailer, a love for ice cream, and a tendency to linger over his food. All four boys remembered that George loved their mother dearly and respected her with all his heart, and that the same respect was something he tendered all of them.
One of the quotes John gave was from Rabi Kushner, and the gist was the ability to regard life as a story. That death becomes, with that view, not a punishment, but punctuation. No story is whole without an ending, and how the ending goes is part of how the life was lived. No one really wants to know how long a story is, but how good it is, what truth or beauty one can see in it. John asked that everyone look at the part they played in George's story or how George's life played a part in theirs. He invited everyone to review and remember and celebrate.
Emily, who had insisted that her name tag not just be "Emily -- David's daughter" but that it also include "George's granddaughter", got up, encouraged everyone to sing the choruses with her, and proceeded to sing "Belinda". It was one of George's favorites of Emily's repertoire and soon the whole place was ringing with glad voices. At the very end, Isabel got up, with all four boys and their kids who were there, and then she invited everyone that had come to ice cream, cookies, and remember George with the help of the boards of pictures.
So hundreds of people went into the Fellowship Hall, had Umpqua chocolate and vanilla ice cream and a mountain of cookies that the church's women had prepared, and they all talked. Talked about the pictures, talked about memories, about being all together under such sad circumstances, but all happy be able to be there and give what support they could.
I couldn't go five feet without someone stopping me, usually someone I knew who was glad to see me, and many thanked me for my reading. Most of them stopped to tell me that they were amazed by the sons and how much effort they'd put into what they said. A few stopped to say that they'd either never seen so many people in that church, or that they'd never seen any memorial that was off-site from Emerald Heights have this many people. George touched so many lives by being who he was. Several people had stories that they simply had to tell someone, had to have someone listen as something had resonated in all the stories said before everyone. They needed witness, especially from someone connected to this amazing death and memorial.
It doesn't always go this way, but it was good to know that seeing this, witnessing this celebration, more people knew that it could be this way. With the whole family in harmony, with a whole community to support and care. Isabel had concrete evidence of all the people who had loved George and her, in many ways. They were all there.
It was amazing. I don't think I've ever spoken one-on-one with that many people in one afternoon. Ever. And I think that even includes my own wedding. Endings and beginnings are powerful events.
We started cleaning up sometime after 6, and everyone headed to the Mandarin Buffet for dinner. It was another of George's favorite spots, and he used to sneak red bean sesame balls out in a bag in his pocket for snacking on later. That amused me greatly. We had nearly fifty people, the ones that were invited by the family to dine with us, and we filled to long tables. It was nice to just sit with Bill and his kids and just have Jet have some kids to talk and play with while we ate. They exchanged origami, and Jet made his three-piece spinning top for them. That was fun.
By the time it was all over, we were pretty tired.
On the way back to Emerald Heights, Jet wanted to know if we could finally go swimming. Someone had mentioned it in the morning, and he still remembered. When we got back to Emerald Heights it was already 9 pm and the pool nominally closed at 10. Plus, we were going to lose an hour that night and we had to be up at 6:45 to get to a 7 am breakfast in order to catch our flight afterward.
We went swimming. *laughter*
It was a lovely warm indoor pool, and we did laps for a while. Jet used the exercise weights to build rafts and cannon while John and I lazed in the hot tub and talked over the day. It was a really good tired. We'd done what we wanted to do and we'd done it as well as we knew how. John remembered the days in the hospital and how privileged he'd felt at being there, part of the gathering, part of his father's choices, and part of how his whole family had supported one another and worked together. He'd wanted to impart part of that to everyone, and I have to say that I think they all succeeded in their own ways.