Sunday, September 29, 2019

Goodbye, Colonel

Last November I wrote a blog post when Chris’s dad passed away, comparing the older generations in our lives to pillars, that they were the foundation that we build ourselves upon. I said, at the time, that growing up you have that first generation of “pillars,” your grandparents. For us, there was also a great aunt and great uncle who functioned, for all purposes, as an additional set of grandparents. Just under two weeks ago, we lost our last pillar. My great uncle who we called Colonel will be buried today.

Colonel, or Col as I tended to write his name,  is one of those people in your lives that is simply indescribable. On the surface, he was a farmer, an auctioneer, and loved his family. But if you’ve ever been to any of my family gatherings, you would have heard a story or two about him. You might shake your head in bewilderment, humor, confusion, or simply become incredulous. 

Those would all be appropriate reactions.

Last night some of us gathered for dinner and I was telling my cousin, Col’s granddaughter, that some of Col’s stories inspired events in my two books. I looked at my cousin and said, “You simply can’t make some of this stuff up, it is too unbelievable.” 

And that he was.

As it happens in our family, I’d guess most families, when someone passes the stories begin to flow. With Col, they flowed on a river of laughter and could have entertained us for months, if not years. 

There is the infamous Samsonite luggage and wingtips he wore on the canoe trips to Canada, where he was known by visitors to the north woods as “the Samsonite guy…”

There was dice playing at random hours.

Shirts that shrunk in the stomach only, “washing” his teeth, and “Kaboom!”

There was tall tales of strength, of impossible furniture moves.

There was the time that his wife, my Great Aunt GG, called my mom and said, “It’s finally happening…” when he began the long talked about addition to the home.

There were my days volunteering at the auction when he’d tell me to put some random piece of, what I believed to be, crap up and people would go crazy to bid on it. “That there is a dog, a mean ole’ dog, WOOF.” 

There was Chris’s Day with Col.

And more, and more, and more…

Our lives are built on these pillars and their stories weave the tapestry of memories for us to hold, long after they're gone. My Great Uncle Col was a man unlike any other. There is no describing him. Any words I type are simply inadequate to describe the person he was. And yet, I had to try. To mark his passing in some way is important. 

Today we’ll say a final goodbye, but in my head I’ll be thinking, “Ryskie, be a good boy and go get me a…” 

And while I’m sure there might be some tears, laughter will also bubble up. I’m guessing he’d be pretty pleased about that.

Goodbye, Col. The world is sure a bit dimmer without you.