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The Second Last Trip

Island Life

Yesterday morning at about 5 a.m. New Hampshire time I had a rather hollow and knotting feeling in my stomach. This wasn’t due to a lack of food, but rather an absence of a crucial document. As I came up to the ticket counter at the Manchester airport I was desperately trying to locate my driver’s license, which I was to learn about an hour later, as my sister got back home, was inside a bundle of boarding passes from my trip there and safely resting on the table by the bed. Prior to this happy discovery, the Delta service agent had already gotten my tickets changed to a different route and time. While this did serve to get me back home again, my arrival at SEATAC had been postponed ten hours, which also made the day a rather full one, going beyond normal waking time to what some might call a full experience of the 24 hour cycle. With my brain not working at this point, I have decided to borrow from myself and honor my Dad’s memory one more time with a repeat of my memorial service ramblings. I’ll try to get more sleep  before the next deadline- in the mean time I hope this will do for this go ‘round:

Over the past 30 years, I haven’t seen Dad all that much. During that time we were going in quite different directions. At just about the same time that I was starting a nursery on the other edge of the continent,  he was moving into retirement in New Hampshire. As I was trying to figure out where I was going, he was looking back at where he’d been. As it turned out, these two views were quite different- in some ways though they were quite similar. In starting out, both of our dad’s were bankers, and early on we both made trips from the east coast to the west- in both cases these journeys were transformative, as journeys can be. Dad returned to the east coast from his journey- I did not. I believe Dad understood my choice, because he had been there along his early path as well. While we really did not talk about this all that much, I think his many trips to my Island off Seattle were a return to his earlier sojourn west, and also seemed to be an affirmation of my choice to stay, while he had chosen otherwise.

In many ways, I am now where he was when he began that chapter of his life with Mom in New Hampshire. After having the corporate rug pulled out from under him, he and Mom decided to continue and expand their interest in travel. In 2008, when the money world turned upside down, my small part of the specialty nursery world pretty much disappeared, so I faced an unexpected change in much the same way he had, and at about the same time in life. In searching about for where I might go next, I also chose a form of travel as an alternative to what I had been doing, but mine was a kind of travel back through time, as I have become active with the Vashon Island Heritage Museum. In many ways I feel now that I now know more about Island history than I do about my own.

On his trips to my nursery, Dad and I did have talks about stuff in general, but mostly it was about what we had accomplished that day and what we needed to do on the next. As I have grown more familiar with the process of recording oral histories on the Island, I also came to realize that there were many holes in my own history that were wanting to be filled. As this was a most recent revelation, it also coincided with Dad’s worsening Parkinsons, which made communication with him about basics, let alone personal history,  a frustrating impossibility.

Along with my oral history duties at the museum I have been digitally scanning and cleaning many old photographs from Island history- from portraits of early Island settlers to photos of the native first peoples of the Island and the area, I have found myself looking into the eyes of history, wondering what they all had taken in. When my sister Karen asked me about finding some photos of Dad in his youth, I dug into the albums of Ray family photos I had stashed on my shelves from previous trips back east, and we selected the one for the back of the memorial service program. I think that even if this hadn’t been Dad, I would have recognized in his expression a certain intensity that seems to go beyond what can be seen in this two year old’s face and stance. Even now, I try to imagine what he is seeing in this photo from 1927- what he will see, and now, what he has seen. This picture, along with many others that are both in albums and in my head all now create a kind of continuum. While it certainly doesn’t show the whole picture or the complete story, I think that what I have is enough- enough to say both hello and goodbye.