Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Traditions

Today marks the second anniversary of dad’s last night on earth. Christmas Eve 2007 was a peaceful and almost joyful experience as his grandkids spent time with him, rubbing his head and feet, talking to him about school, friends, and reading to him from the Bible. Dad passed away shortly after midnight.

The traditions of our family on Christmas Eve were kept that evening as an honor during our vigil. We ate the family meal off the kitchen while dad lay in the hospital bed nearby.

Dad always took us downtown Seattle during the day to do our Christmas shopping for Mom. I particularly remember the suede coat with the mink collar. She was so happy and looked so beautiful.

Our traditions of Christmas included seafood on Christmas Eve; fried oysters – extra small for everyone but me. Mom always made fried shrimp with cocktail sauce for dipping. The appetizer was a fresh Dungeness crab cocktail. Greg and I each opened one present, sometimes from a cousin, but often a gift between the two of us.

Christmas morning was about eating a big breakfast and unwrapping presents; usually an overflowing gluttony of gifts. Each one was special. The looks on our faces and those of parents, or visiting grandparents are firmly ingrained in my memory (I hope!). I never met a Christmas morning I didn’t love.

Our tree varied over the years, but we have never had an artificial one. Many years were spent traipsing the mountains a day or two after Thanksgiving searching for the perfect one; Douglas Fir, Scotch Pine, Shasta, and Noble have all adorned our homes. Sometimes we encountered snow; sometimes rain. Dad and Mom made this a tradition that lasted even for them until a few years before Dad’s passing.

The afternoons were consumed with food, fun and football – the Hula Bowl (since replaced with the Hawaii Bowl). We visited with friends, the Starks, the Westpfahl’s, the Lee’s and the Smith’s. It was always a day full of stories and laughter.

Pool, board games, many times playing poker (I call this Casting for Lots, while more appropriate for Easter, it was a tradition of Thanksgiving and Christmas) became the afternoon entertainment. A Disney movie or pinnacle or bridge occurred occasionally as well. As often was the case, the genders separated to different parts of the home as the Christmas day dinner took shape. Usually it was turkey, but it was also interspersed with an occasional prime rib.

My immediate family traditions are similar today. Traditions often are embedded in our lives much like our values. When we are with my parents, we follow my childhood traditions, and when we are with Julie’s we follow hers. We go to the mountains for our tree when schedules allow, or a tree farm when they don’t – weather has never stopped us even when miserable.

We take days decorating the tree, and leave it up until the fire marshal implores us to “be safe.” It seems it never comes down until the day before curbside pickup.

We don’t have a set menu for Christmas Eve dinner but it is always a favorite food (yes – the list of my favorite foods are too long to include here J). Tonight it is spaghetti with Julie’s homemade sauce.

As I write this with tears in my eyes, I see my dad smiling and laughing at a story or joke. I love you and miss you.

-- Craig

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Eve Memory

Christmas Eve marks the first anniversary of the last evening spent with Dad. I haven’t written in a very long time. Sometimes the words just don’t come to me – at least ones I want to share.

This is surprising. Most of the time they spill out – usually without regard to self-consequences.

When it comes to memories of my dad, most would seem insignificant or even boring.

On Christmas Eve, I will be clock watching, waiting for the minute hand to pass by that moment when we know dad passed away. The family as a whole will strive, much like last Christmas to proceed as normal. A dinner with family, wrapping the last of the gifts, getting the stockings hung by the chimney with care – all the while, my eyes darting and sometimes merely glancing at the clock.

I plan on sitting silently and praying, taking slow breaths trying to hold on to the moment as well as let it go. I feel guilty that I didn’t get up at midnight as planned. If I had, I would have been by his side just as Mom. I lay there in bed, ten after midnight, trying to pull myself to wakefulness before what I presumed would be long early Christmas morning. At twenty-six after I was springing to my feet, throwing on my scrubs to join my family in tears.

The children were roused from bed or the bathroom brushing their teeth, all of us surrounding Mom and Dad, touching and kissing good-bye. He was at peace but I was not there when I thought I should be.

Rather than our typical calls to family of “Merry Christmas” it was “Merry Christmas. I want you to know that Dad passed away just after midnight getting his wish to see Christmas.”

A year has passed and this is the memory which I dwell on most.

- Craig

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Smell of Old Shoes

This might be an odd title, but appropriate for today’s blog entry. While in Wyoming, my brother and I played a number of tricks on each other – he, trying to sell my “work” laptop – I, the axe blade in his carry-on luggage…

But Greg wins! I unpacked my car trunk upon returning home and found a pair of dad’s old sneakers. They don’t really smell like old shoes. However, they do bring back memories of dad wearing these (or ones very similar) with white socks and walking shorts. The vision is vivid.

The shoes smell of memories.

- Craig

Friday, July 4, 2008


Over a lifetime you create an estate. Sometimes the estate is big, sometimes small. Bill Gates lives in an estate or so they say. I think it is a mansion. His estate might not be that big in fact. Well maybe it is depending on the definition.

Merriam-Webster defines “estate” as the degree, quality, nature, and extent of one's interest in land or other property (1):
possessions, property; especially : a person's property in land and tenements (2): the assets and liabilities left by a person at death. Other definitions of course include social standing or rank especially of a high order.

Many times people confuse “economic wealth” with “estate.” While I am guilty of similar association, I want "estate" to mean much more.

Sometimes the estate is also a legacy. The legacies of deeds or wealth, friendships, and love as well as property are all a part of one’s estate.

Today was the beginning of a two-day sale of Dad’s estate – not the family farm, but the many things collected over the years. It is only property. While memories exist – the camp stove, a tent or sleeping bag, a shirt or a tool – they are not “my dad.” Nor are they my dad’s estate.

His is estate is the legacy I mentioned earlier. Love and friendship are the most important, followed closely by his mentorship and respect for others.

It makes me think hard about the collections of legacy I will leave behind. I want my most important estate to be love and friendship as well. But I have this whole garage full of stuff to get rid of too.

- Craig

Friday, June 27, 2008

Road Trip

My dad loved to go camping, fishing, hunting and hiking. I grew up in an outdoor family. We camped, fished, hunted and hiked with family, friends, and in Scouts.

Combine our joy of the outdoors with vacation, and the Edmonds family spent many days on “road trips.” We stuffed the cars with everything but the kitchen sink – although we did have plastic tubs for washing dishes. Occasionally we stayed in a motel or hotel but for the most part it was “drive, setup camp, eat, tell stories, sleep, get up, eat, break camp, and hit the road again.”

Packing the car to fit everything was an art. My dad taught me to use the nooks and crannies under seats or the gaps between odd sized luggage and boxes. Make sure you can easily get to the ice chest while you were driving to feed the young ones with snacks or to give dad a cold beer. We didn’t have air conditioning.

Rest stops included an occasional picnic area with an outhouse, but with kids, stops were frequently “behind that tree over there.”

Tomorrow I start the road trip to Wyoming. I am driving by myself, so the road trip is “different.” I will stop at gas stations, but at the same time, grab finger food, a water bottle refill, and hit the head… 15 minutes tops, then on my way. I can play the radio as loud as I want and even sing. Usually my singing is not allowed when the family is in the car.

- Craig

Monday, June 16, 2008


Friday night Julie and I watched the 2007 movie “Savages.” A friend from work recommended and loaned it to me. He said it was based loosely on a portion of the writer’s life. He said “I think you can take it.”

A brother and sister deal very truthfully with the care of their aging father after he is diagnosed with dementia. The story begins with their father being evicted after his “common law” wife of 20 years passes.

There are not many similarities to my situation. I was never abused, and I was VERY close to my father. However, there were a couple of places which touched like a hot poker.

In one scene the brother says “we are not savages for doing this” as they leave their father in a nursing home. While dad was never in a nursing home I remember bringing up the discussion of “hospice.” How do you say “I love you” while proposing that you have given up the fight? Dad had not given up. It might have been a fronted positive attitude, or he may have truly believed he would beat the cancer. But there was either disappointment or anger, or frustration when I brought it up. He knew though I was insistent on him meeting with the hospice people. We (the family in general) simply wanted to ensure we cared for him the way he wanted.

It was also hard watching caregivers getting him ready for bed or handing diapers to the daughter before boarding the plane to take him “home.”

Dad never wanted to be in a hospital, let alone a nursing home. His home was designed around living there until he died. And, he did just that.

- Craig

Father's Day

Yesterday was Father’s Day – the first without Dad. I received a text from my brother indicating his sadness with this fact. It was tough for most of the day.

My kids were gone for the majority of the day, but Julie and I worked quietly in the yard. After a while, I went into the garage and worked on a project for the beach house. I needed to use some power tools. I did the same thing in August and September of last year after I found out dad had cancer. At that time, I built the top for a large round table for one of our decks – I still haven’t finished it, needing to put on legs and build the benches. Yesterday was a sign with the street number – but it will be completed today.

When Amanda got home from work, we went over to the in-laws. Chad went out on the boat all day with “papa” and Julie’s brothers. When they returned from the boat ride, we barbequed hamburgers and played bocce ball – much to everyone’s surprise (not!) – I was on the winning team (Mike). I know Dad liked bocce ball too – a game for all ages.

Mom called in the afternoon to wish me a “Happy Father’s Day”. She had been outside working all day, finishing yard work. She sounded great. Greg and I will join Mary and Ray in Wyoming late this month into the first week of July. It will be great to see everyone.

I hope all of you enjoyed your “day” too.

- Craig