I recently returned from a trip to the United States. Normally, that means I’d go to New York, but not this time. This time the destination was Colorado.
The purpose was to take another step in saying farewell to my father, who died last year. We’d already had a memorial service for him back in November, but we still had his ashes to think about. My oldest brother had the idea to do this in the mountains of Colorado, an area that my dad loved, and the rest of us agreed. Nobody knew how it would logistically happen, though– my other brother and I both live in Australia (and on opposite sides of the country as well), which is about as far away as you can get from Colorado without going into space.
But a few months ago my middle brother (I’m the youngest) starting initiating things and as a result we all wound up in Denver, a land where the mountains are big and the ads for peanut butter chocolate is even bigger…
..and where they promise that your French Fries will be perfect!
“All” referred to pretty much everyone in my immediate family aside from my wife and two of my daughters. The eldest, Elissa, I traveled together, and indeed she celebrated her birthday while we were there.
The connection for us with Denver is that that is where my Mom’s parents lived when we were growing up. Her family moved there from California during the internment of Japanese Americans near the start of World War II. My grandfather, who died when I was maybe around ten, was even a minister in the internment camp for a while. Later, they settled in Denver, and that’s where my parents met, while they were both in university.
The house where I used to visit my grandparents when I was a child is still there, still owned by a family trust.
My aunt was there for a while until she had a fall some five years ago, and it became apparent that with her increasing invalidity, she would not be able to live alone any longer. From there she came to live my parents in New York.
But the house is still there, and in spite of a lot of energy that’s been spent in side of it, it’s still full of lots of stuff.
I think it’s fair to say that my grandmother, and later my aunt, both had or have issues with hoarding, which I can only imagine stems from the difficult experience that the family must have had being uprooted from their home and forcibly moved back in the 1940’s. There are lots of random odds and ends all over the house, some of which have become gifts in the past (see a whole bunch of posts I did recently about spoons, starting with this one), and others of which have become gifts now.
For example, my mother thought my wife, who was born in the Netherlands, would like this.
And she was right. I also thought she’d be amused by this glass, which seemed to be part of a series on international capitals.
But I opted against trying to take it with me!
Anyway, the assumption is that it won’t be too long before this house (and more importantly, the land its on) will be sold. This, as my brother pointed out, will basically be the end of our connection with the state of Colorado. Of course, anything could happen, but neither of us have any real expectation of seeing the house again.
This is sad, of course. Not because I have all sorts of joy-filled memories of the place, but simply because it was a fixture of my childhood. My memory is that my dad and my brothers would travel out there during the summer by car–camping along with the way–and then stay there for a few weeks on our vacation. I don’t really remember how I occupied myself during those lazy days, although that is where I had my first encounter with certain formative films in my life, including Singin’ in the Rain, It’s a Wonderful Life, and some early Godzilla movie that I saw.
Anyway, we were in Colorado for about a week, but only half of it was at the house, although we did get out to Roxburgh National Park for a day…
…where they are kind enough to warn you about what to do if you run into a bear or a mountain lion.
Before I left to come back home, I saw a picture of my grandmother in a frame and asked if I could have it. I remember her a lot better than my grandfather–she lived long enough for me to tell her I was moving to Australia, back in 1997. The picture shows her more or less as I remember her–elderly, but not infirmed.
I decided to take the picture and not the frame, but when I took the picture out I found this other photograph behind it, showing some sort of monkey.
Anyway, like I said we were only in the house in Denver for a about half of the time I was there. The rest of the days we were in the town of Estes Park and in Rocky Mountain National Park, where we had the actual “event” for my dad. I’ll share about that next time. Until then…