Thursday's Child ... has far to go ... (0nm10wn2feet) wrote,
Thursday's Child ... has far to go ...

Saying goodbye is NEVER easy...

It was a weekend of "Hellos" and "Good-byes." From seeing faces that I haven't seen since practically my own wedding, to my father-in-law's funeral. From visiting the "Big Lake," to watching it disappear in the rearview mirror. From leaving a declining, but still active, beloved pet, to finding a shocking decline upon return.

So, we went north to the Upper Peninsula for our usual 4th of July gathering, but it was MOST unusual as well. We were there on Friday to lay MSK's father to rest, and the day was a blur of faces, murmured greetings and condolences, reminiscing and laughter, song and solemnity, pomp and circumstance.

People came from all over to say farewell to the patriarch of our branch of the Krempa clan. Felix Frank Krempa was a complex, hard-working, brilliant, hard-partying kind of guy. Through his four children, he spawned a sprawling family that includes 10 grandchildren and, as of now, 10 great-grandchildren (mine aren't procreating yet, thank GAWD!). We are somewhat scattered; some in Virginia, some in Traverse City, some in Kalamazoo, some in Grand Marais, and a couple families here in southeastern lower Michigan.

Friday was a whirlwind of activity that my son and I were the least prepared to face, after having only arrived in Grand Marais at about 3:00am. We were not late, though, and right at 9:00am, we were scrubbed, appropriately attired, and greeting the multitude of people who came to celebrate Dad's life and mourn his passing. The service at Holy Rosary Catholic Church, where Dad spent many, many hours and donated goodly sums of money and goods to, was all planned exactly as he wished. All the music was selected by him prior to his passing, all the readings, all the things he wanted were included. There was so much music... all the responses were sung... and it was beautiful.

The centerpiece of the Mass, without a doubt, came from MSK's sister, Judy. She penned a brilliant, deeply moving, all-inclusive eulogy that had the entire church in laughter through our tears. And I don't doubt, judging from the amount of sniffling coming even from the stoic next to me (MSK) that there wasn't a dry eye in the house. Then came the service at the graveside. I have never seen a service with full military honors before, and it was impressive.

Dad was a veteran of WWII, highly decorated, thus entitled to such a service. The Honor Guard from the VFW Post in Munising was flawless. They had everything, right down to the gun with the helmet standing before the grave. I am still getting goosebumps as I write this, it was so evocative. It was an oppressively hot day for a town on Lake Superior - easily one of the hottest days that I've experienced there. Still, there was enough of a breeze that it was bearable for those of us in our somber clothes, but it must have been sweltering for the men waiting for us at the cemetery.

The Captain spoke movingly of honoring a fellow serviceman, of Dad's sacrifices made for his country, of the deep respect all servicemen feel for their fallen brethren. The priest led us in the graveside ceremony of the Catholic faith, the military chaplain led us in prayers for our fallen hero. This was followed by the lone bugler playing the "Army Song," otherwise known as the "Caisson Song." Even MSK choked up over that. My downfall has always been "Taps," which was played next. More wadded up tissues in my bag!

Then came the salute. It is one thing to see the "three rifle volleys" (often erroneously referred to as a 21-gun salute) on television, but is is quite another to see it in person, honoring a family member. Following the salvos, the chaplain recovered three spent shells, explaining the meaning of them (Duty, Honor, Country) as he inserted them into the folded American flag that he presented to Mom. Afterward, the honor guard recovered the other spent shell casings to present to family and friends as keepsakes.

Of course, impatient man that he is, MSK was trying to rush us all out of the cemetery back to the church for the luncheon (which is customary at most Catholic funerals). Jessa and I hung back, though, to exchange hugs with family members... and were among the few to actually witness the urn being lowered into the grave, along with each adding a handful of dirt while whispering final good-byes. My final message to my father-in-law? "See, Dad? I wasn't late." I could practically hear the man laughing while he told me that it was the first time ever (long-standing family 'joke' - we were always the last ones to arrive at any family function).

The luncheon afterward was another blur of faces, introductions and re-introductions, more reminiscing, more laughter, more hugs and love. Frankly, I think Dad would have been totally puffed up with pride over how beautifully his family executed his wishes, down to the letter. Somewhere, I could just hear him saying, "Ah, they did good." Then, with a sly, sideways glance at me, "Even you."

The weekend rolled onward, with an impromptu gathering of friends and family at the Seagull (a house we co-own with MSK's siblings). Several of the guys took off for a spur-of-the-moment fishing trip, while some of the ladies wandered off to visit other friends and relatives in town for the occasion. The kids and I hung around our place, and gabbed the night away with Nikki, our nephew Nick's girlfriend. I ended up crawling off to bed early, totally drained from all the emotion and activity of the day.

The next day, we kind of laid low. The boys took off for the shooting range and, according to Steven, finally sighted in Great-Grandma's .22 accurately enough for even MSK to hit things other than the neighbor's house. That's another story, though! After that, we loaded up the 'duppy' and took his furry butt to the beach. I have NEVER, in the almost 30 years I've been visiting that town every 4th of July, seen so many people on that beach. And SWIMMING in Lake Superior, which has an annual average temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius). Srsly, it was so danged hot people were swimming in the 'Big Lake,' as we call it.

We had a RIOT with the dog. Buddy was content to wade around in the water at first but, when MSK threw the tennis ball, that dog dove right in. He, like most Labs, is a strong swimmer and seems to enjoy it. Then Jessica threw a rock to divert Buddy from barking at some sunbathers - and I saw something I've never seen before. I swear to you, that dog DOVE in, headfirst, looking for the exact rock Jessa threw. More than once, he dove in that spot, looking for that rock. It was the most amazing thing I've seen a dog do in years (since Hobbes ate one of the melamine ashtrays and survived it). She did it a couple more times, with the same result. He'd dive under the water, come back up and shake, then dive again. Finally, she threw one in shallower water, and darned if that dog didn't come back with the exact same rock she threw. That's pretty hard to do on a shoreline that is NOTHING BUT ROCKS!

Saturday night found us out at Kamp, enjoying a barbecue and more family sharing. The kids heard stories of their Dad and Uncle in their younger days, more stories about their Grandfather and Great-grandfather, and learned things about their cousins that they hadn't known. All in all, excellent family bonding time. We also made an important discovery about Buddy. We were so sure that Jim's dogs would put Buddy right in his place. It turns out that our Buddy puppy, who is such a lovable dork most of the time, is a more dominant dog than we thought. He held his own with a dog that outweighed him by a good 20 or 30 pounds, and came to a truce with the older dog of the bunch. In the process, he played himself into utter exhaustion - we had always wondered if that was even possible!

The morning of the 4th dawned bright, sunny, hot and humid. We got to the parade in time for Buddy to take in all the sights and people. Somehow, in crowds, he's far less apt to bark at anything or anyone other than the occasional dog. He was SUCH a good boy for MSK. When the cannon went off signaling the start of the parade, he jumped a little. When the ambulance sounded its siren, he looked inquisitive. Otherwise, he wasn't fazed a bit by all the noise, shouting, clapping and cheering. I guess Buddy just has to have a 'job' to take his mind off all the commotion around him, especially given that he barely even glances at things when he's out with MSK for a bike 'run.' MSK took him into town that way twice - both times, the dog paid little or no attention to other dogs, people, bikes, ATVs, mini-bikes, motorcycles... nothing distracted him from his 'job;' keep up with Daddy!

He had a tough time at Mom's place on the hill, though, since we couldn't let him run freely with all the little kids around. We didn't need any of the family getting hyper because our moose-dog bowled over one of the little ones, y'know? The kids and I had to do the 'dine and dash' routine - as soon as dinner was ready, we gulped down some food and set about packing. For the first time in all the years the kids have been going to Grand Marais, they had to miss the fireworks. This was a fact that irked Jessa no end. Even the brief glimpses of starbursts on the freeway did NOT appease her. *sigh* That's life when you become an adult and have other responsibilities to attend to, as she is coming to realize.

We made really good time - not very much traffic - but what there was, was completely STOOPID! We have a law in Michigan that states that the left lane on any multi-lane limited-access highway is for PASSING ONLY. Another first for me - NEVER have I seen SO MANY people just driving along in the damn LEFT LANE. Not passing anyone, just DRIVING THERE. Talk about frosted cookies! That crap makes me foam at the mouth... I think I'll leave that subject right there. Still, we made the 365 mile trip in just a smidge over 5 hours. Usually, with three stops for gas and dog walking, it takes almost 6 hours - or it should. I drive like I mean it, though, so we 'shaved' some time off.

We left Grand Marais at 7pm, and arrived home a little after midnight. That's when we discovered that the old Manx, 'Emperor Manximilian' or Minkie, had developed an eye infection in both eyes during the three days we were gone. There was no doubt in my mind that the cat was ready to go after I examined him, but I agreed to take him to the vet this morning. Of course, the vet agreed with me... with all the cat's problems of late, it will be far kinder to let him go peacefully rather than continue to subject him to procedures that will not prolong his life that much further. We brought him back home and called a traveling vet in hopes that we can do the euthanasia here at home without disrupting the poor old guy again.

We haven't heard back yet, but we have enough pain meds for a couple more days. If we don't get a response by then, we'll take him back to our vet. We've already decided on his resting place (under the trees with the other cats) and I have my instructions from Steven as to how to accomplish that (put some catnip in the box, do something nice for him and make sure you dig the hole the right size, etc.). This is the first animal with which Steven has bonded that closely and I know this is a very painful loss for him, coming right on the heels of burying his Grandfather (also another 'first').

So there you have it. A lot of 'Hellos,' a lot of 'Good-byes,' and a ton of emotion in all. We're all pretty much drained, both physically and mentally. Methinks that recovery from this vacation will be a bit slower than usual. My heartfelt apologies to anyone who actually READ all this. Who knew my fingers were as chatty as my mouth?! LOL!!
EDIT: Just heard from the vet. She'll be here to help us let Minkie rest peacefully tomorrow morning at 10:45am. More wadded up tissues, for sure!!

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