Friday, May 19, 2023

Life And Death

Montana. 4:30am (local time).

Last Friday, after the kids got out of school, we drove out from Seattle to Missoula, arriving Saturday morning (we stopped for the night in Spokane). Monday night we set out back to Seattle, arriving by noon on Tuesday. On Wednesday, we had the funeral Mass for my mother and interred her ashes at Holy Rood Catholic Cemetery. On Thursday afternoon, I boarded a plane back to Missoula.

I'm sure I've mentioned my grandmother before, but I probably haven't conveyed just how much she means to me. If I loved (love) my mother a little more (and I love(d) my mother quite a lot) it is mainly due to the fact that she is my mother...the person who gave me life and, thus, gave me everything.

But Jeanne, whose name I gave to my daughter (Sofia Jeanne is named for my wife's only living grandparent AND my grandmother) is/was almost a second mother to me. When I broke my leg at the age of three, and was bedridden for weeks, she came out to Seattle to care for my infant brother and aid my mom while my father worked. Every Thanksgiving, we travelled back to Montana (where we stayed in my grandmother's house); every summer we spent weeks, or months here...often, just my brother and I. Often she came out to Seattle to be with us (usually at Easter time). 

I started dating the woman who would be my wife in March of 1998. In June of the same year, we drove to Montana so that she could meet Jeanne. The immediately hit it off (of course...they are both extremely lovable), and ever since we've made the effort to travel here in the summer for Jeanne's birthday (June 27th), often staying through the 4th of July. My wife has remarked, more than once, that she married me because of Jeanne. Truth be told, she loves my grandmother a bit more than my mother. And she loved my mother quite a bit.

In the Montana fashion, my grandmother taught me to play cards: cribbage and rummy and hearts. She was a competitive bridge player and tried to teach me bridge on more than one occasion. She is the reason my wife and children know how to play cribbage and rummy and we often play while traveling or waiting in restaurants, instead of staring at phones and tablets like so many families (unfortunately) do these days.

My grandmother never played Dungeons & Dragons. However, many of the D&D books and supplements I own were purchased here in Missoula, at a used book store called The Book Exchange (it is still here, just a 5 minute walk from my grandmother's house, since 1979). My grandmother (like my mother, like myself) is a great reader of books: one wall of her bedroom is entirely taken up by a book shelves filled with books on Missoula, on Montana, on the native peoples of the region. Going to that bookstore with my grandmother, and poring through the treasures it offered, was one of the highlights of every trip to Montana in my youth. I purchased many comic books and Steven King novels there. I purchased my copies of White Plume Mountain and Against the Giants there, as well as boxed sets of the Stormbringer RPG (1st ed.) and Frank Mentzer's Companion set.

Today, sitting by my grandmother's bedside, I saw a copy of my own book, The Complete B/X Adventurer, on her shelf. I don't remember giving her that...perhaps my mother did? Regardless, I was surprised (though pleased) to see it there.

I will be here through Sunday (at least). Skipping the school auction. Missing a basketball game and a piano recital (the latter, at least, I can watch via the zoom link). I am here to help my aunt, to lend my strength to my uncles. I am here to be with my grandmother during her last days. It has been a rough 2023 for the family what with the deaths of my aunt Linda and my mother. I am here in my mother's stead, as her representative. 

I know she would be here if she could. 


  1. A tough year right enough. In an hour or so I'm away to the funeral of my best friend's wife. She was 49 and suffered a heart attack and a stroke on her way to work. He is utterly desolate and his kids (20, 15) are keeping him together.

    Great that you've got so many definite memories of your gran' place and great that she got to meet you wife and kids.

    1. Fucking pseudovaccines are probably what is taking a lot of people by stroke this years, even otherwise young people. Sorry pal

  2. Strength to you, JB. If I'm allowed, try to remember that this is also a valid part of "life". Their love is eternal and they will always be by your side.

    1. Oh yes…I know. Far better to lose a parent than lose a child. I am grateful for the time I’ve had with them, I will carry them always in my heart, and I have faith that we will meet again.

      Even so: it is exhausting work (physically, mentally, emotionally). But I am glad I can be here to help my family.