Sunday, August 30, 2009

Losing it...Cowboy Joe

August 26, 2006

The much awaited, highly anticipated Dahl girl’s race last weekend was pretty much a bust. Instead of running the Silver State Marathon, we held an impromptu family reunion in the waiting room of the intensive care unit of Washoe Med. Our dear, sweet dad wrecked his plane on Saturday along with an inordinate amount of himself.
What started out as a nasty compound fracture to his ankle and basic fear and worry on our part, escalated into a list of damage that included a collapsed lung, a torn aorta, and a room full of hysterical daughters.

He’s on the mend now, but it was a week of ups and downs. From walking into the ICU after his surgery, knowing he didn’t know we were there, but looking desperately through tubes and machines for anything that resembles your dad, to the next day helping him write a frail note and deciphering the chicken scratch to find out all he really wanted was a Coke and for Harvey to go back to play football. There are just so many emotions to deal with.
One of the lessons we all agreed is most valuable is how to be a better friend. So often I think, we just don’t know what to do when someone gets hurt or dead, but it was such a good experience to talk with all the friends and family who called and sit with the people who came to visit. It breaks up the monotony and gives you something else to think about and it reminds you how much he is loved, and how many people love all of us.

At one point my Aunt Olivia, Dad’s sister who lives in Sparks, brought in a complete meal including dessert and a table cloth and we all sat around with a batch of friends who happened to be in the right place at the right time and had a fairly normal family dinner right there in the first floor waiting room. It taught me that it’s ok to bother people in trauma and that friends aren’t really a bother at all, but a huge blessing.

Another lesson was a reminder of the power of prayer. This week we have been blessed by all the people we know who talk to God and who sent their prayers for our dad and we are so grateful.

Molly told him yesterday with a little laugh that he pretty much had the religions of the world covered. One of her friends brought a Tibetan prayer scarf that we tied on his bed, and another lit a candle for him in the National Cathedral in Washington DC. The Mormons in Boise, Washington DC, and Reno were praying for him in their temples, and some of my cousin’s Jewish and Muslim friends were doing their praying. The Nazarenes, and the COGIC churches in Fallon along with all of our other friends who asked what they could do, sent a reverse rainstorm of prayers on dad’s behalf. One of the nurses told my step mom that she was so glad he had so much support and praying. She said she had been a nurse for a long time and that prayers work. And from what the doctors told us on Saturday, they were the only thing that did.

I remember a subtle change in my dad a couple of years ago when his dad died after a long and productive life. My dad seemed so happy and almost boyish and I couldn’t understand it. When I asked him what the hell was wrong with him and why he wasn’t sad, he said that his dad had lived a full life and was at peace with himself and was not afraid to die. He also said that we needed to remember that we are still alive and that life is so good and that we should enjoy every second we’ve got here. My dad told me then that he was not afraid to die, but I was afraid this week that he would and I knew he wasn’t done living. There isn’t anyone who likes being alive more than he does and I’m glad he still is.

Today he is fighting the tubes and the bed and the nurses. His doctors said they were pretty much done repairing him at this point and from here on out is just recovery. He keeps writing to whoever goes in to visit that he wants to go home, “I’m ok, let’s go home.” Yesterday he flung his mangled up leg over the side of the bed rail and was headed out of there. Who knows what he would have done with the ventilator but by heck, he’s still got things to do in this life. Let’s get on with it.

Losing it...Remember When

August 12, 2005

When we were little kids my mom would very often drop the “I remember when…” phrase as the beginning to stories about her life as a child. We would be in Reno shopping for buckle-up oxford Stride-Rites and she would say something like, “Oh, I remember in high school when there weren’t any houses out here and we would come out to the stable on Baker Lane and ride horses out through the fields. Things have just changed so much.” 
Maybe that explains my constant story-telling to the under-aged captives who have no choice but to listen to a similar theme as we drive from various activities and practices past the landmarks of my childhood. 
From Coleman Road south on Venturacci, I point out the houses that have sprung up where corn fields had grown for as far back as my memory goes. “I remember when the school bus came down this road to drop off the first and second graders at Northside and we were eye level with the tops of the corn when we looked straight out the bus windows.”
“I remember when they moved the train depot to Williams Avenue and turned it into a restaurant, when you went to the Rusty Spur for the best steak in town, my first “grown-up” job was being a clerk at Kolhoss Grocery on Maine Street and people came to buy cigarettes for a dollar-four. We got school clothes upstairs in the Penny’s building right across the street, and on the last day of school every year we got to have the PTA Day Parade.” 
My kids are amazed by the stories and they say horrible things like, “Mom! Did you live in the olden days?”
The other night after a city council meeting a small group of concerned citizens were gathered out back of city hall, solemnly chatting about the changes that have come with Fallon’s booming growth. They were resigned to the realities of development coming to their neighborhood, accepting the inevitable transformation of their world. An impromptu session of “Remember When” started up, that for a “sense of place” junkie like me, was pure oxygen. 
They talked about when Dairy Queen was on Maine Street and as kids they would cruise the parking lot. Since we did the same thing in the 80’s when I was in high school, I was amazed to know that they had done the same thing back in the real olden days. 
They remembered when Hillyard’s drug store was on the corner, and the Starvin’ Marvin’ restaurant was in the pie shaped property where Auction Road comes into Williams. 
And then they talked for a while about the old fair grounds, which used to be on Williams Avenue, between Venturacci and Auction Road, and the Dry Gulch—where every Labor Day everyone who had ever gone to school here went when they came home and you had to go down and see all the people you grew up with. 
They told about the hay palace that was built every year at the county fair, and the stock car races that used to be held in the arena at the fairgrounds right down town and how the kids would play under the grand stands and collect the empty soda bottles. 
I remembered that my 4-H sewing club in fourth grade was held in Dry Gulch on Wednesday afternoons after school and I had to walk there all by myself from West End, and that year I made a little blue apron that I still have. 
It’s funny how we are shaped by our landmarks and the shared memories of a place—the people we knew there, the experiences we had. Even though these places may have a different meanings for each of us, having collective memories of the places we have been is a very real part of who we are and in a large part what makes us a community. 
And the beautiful thing about Fallon is that it doesn’t take a long time to become a part of it. New memories are made every day, and the things we do now—the places we meet and the times we have together are going to be “the olden days” before we know it. Progress marches on, but we do a good job of reminding each other of where we’ve been and preserving the memories that define us.
My life has been defined by this community. I felt a part of it early on, and it felt good to know where I fit in the world. Perhaps the one permanent memory etched forever in the place that makes me who I am, is the reminder I saw out of the school bus window twice a day until fifth grade. The neon cowboy sign at the Lariat Motel burning an image of “God Bless American” boldly and permanently into my conscience. For me it’s the symbol of where I belong—God Bless Fallon.