Thursday, May 22, 2014

Remembering Gary Gardunia

I debated what I should write here about this, if anything.  What do you do when someone dies now?  Do you post it on facebook, write it on a blog?  In the past the only option was a notice in the paper, but I don't know where this should go, or who to tell besides my Mom and my brothers and my sister.  I didn't know what to do with anyone's condolences, because as much as I loved my father my feelings are complicated by all that has happened over the years. However, I don't know how else to let the world know.  I don't want to forget or have my father be forgotten.

Early Monday morning, the medical examiner from Hawaii called me.  The police had found my father's body in his tiny, dirty apartment in Honolulu.  He was sorry to inform me that my father had passed away.  I didn't know what to say.  He was sorry for my loss.  So today I mourn three men, the father I lost so long ago, the man that left us and I hated, and this man in Hawaii that had my brother's voice.

In many of my memories of my father, he is asleep.  Asleep watching TV, falling asleep in church and then getting up for the closing prayer and blessing the food, being quiet playing inside because Dad was sleeping.  He worked swing shift at physical plant at Ricks College, cleaned chimneys, was a part time plumber, handyman, store clerk, cook at Big Boy or near the end at a pizza shop. I can remember going with him while he worked on plumbing under someone's house to look for salamanders.  I can remember him cleaning chimneys for a chocolate cake, or helping a neighbor with their cows in exchange for some milk.  He made things around the house and yard - flagstone fireplace area, a metal shoerack that could poke your eye out, a sheet metal slide that had a sharp edge that could cut your pants if you didn't lift your butt just right.

That man would talk to anyone, anytime.  If you went to the store with him, it could take all day.  He would run into someone in the store, usually a stranger, and talk for hours.  I went back to visit Teton before my mission and met some of his old friends and heard a lot about Gary and the times he went hunting with them or helped them. He was kind, hard-working, and would do anything he could to help other people.

That man disappeared long ago.  When he went to open a pizza restaurant in Utah, he was unprepared for the investment it would require.  After only a few short weeks, he was forced to close up.  But, instead of coming back home to Teton, he went to Nevada to work in the mines.  I can remember driving to visit in the middle of a June blizzard in our broken down van.  He was staying with my Aunt Sandra and Johnny.  We watched Star Trek, and talked awkwardly with this man with my father's face.  We went home, sold our house, and moved to Boise where my Mom could finish school.  She had been going to Ricks and graduated with her associates and then worked at Me and Stan's in Rexburg.  But without help from Dad we had to move and Boise was close to family.

We only saw or heard from him a few times after that.  He didn't send money, probably because he didn't have any.  One of the last visits I can remember seeing him carrying a six pack of beer.  There was pornography in his truck.  He talked about living with this old Indian on the reservation in Nevada.  After that he totally disappeared.  I guess he sent letters that one time, awkwardly written and neurotic.  He called once as well.  He told my brother he was coming home for Christmas.  I told him he was a liar and he hung up and never called again.

I hated that man.  The many hours I saw my mom work and study to try and hold our family together stoked that fire.  I don't think I saw her sleep during that time.  She was up studying when I went to bed.  She slept in the living room of our apartment and was awake before 5 when I started my paper route.

Other people filled in the gaps.  I went to father and son campouts with men from the ward.  We learned the hard way that Deseret hand soap was a foul smelling green bar and that the Deseret orange drink was better than Tang.  So many people helped us out.  My aunt gave us a car when the van finally died in the middle of an intersection.  My grandmother helped with the bills.  People from church brought us to activities, looked out for us, and helped pay the rent, brought us food from the Bishop's storehouse.  Br. Hall helped me rebuild mailboxes when I forgot to set the parking brake and my car rolled down the hill, destroying mail boxes, someone's garage, and ruining any chances I had with Lisa Meyers.  Bro. Field was my friend and confident.  He tried to reconcile my brother and I and made us sing "Let us oft speak kind words to each other."  Bro. Phillips comforted me after I screwed up in yet another church basketball game and I swore would never play again.  Bishop Lyndstrom was there when I needed to talk and I envied his family so much. My orchestra teacher bought me tickets to see "Phantom of the Opera"  and bought me a school year book. My English teacher loaned me her typewriter to do my homework.  My violin teacher arranged for me to have a practice room. I told my girlfriend that all I wanted to be in life was someone not like my Dad.

Life went on.  We graduated from school, went on missions, got married, had kids, got jobs, and moved around the country.  We talked to my Mom on the phone and didn't think too much about Dad.  Except that I googled him sometimes, often actually.   The Salvation Army tracked him down to Georgia for me once, but he was only there for a short time in a shelter.  I could see he had moved around the Southwest.  Creditors called trying to collect on a hip and knee replacement.  At some point he moved to Hawaii, he got a job and for a brief time child support was garnished from his wages.  The caseworker told me he would send a message to my Dad.  We sent letters, but I don't know that he got them.  He changed jobs or lost that job, and the money stopped.

Six or seven years ago, he was in the hospital and a friend of his decided to look us up.  She sent my sister Anna his cell number and some of us called him and talked to him.  I was amazed to hear his voice.  He sounded just like my older brother.  He tried to talk to us about the past, but his memories clashed with ours. He was the injured party that had been rejected and told not to come back.  It was hard to be so angry with this rambling old man.

I changed jobs and for work went to Hawaii once or twice a year.  Each time I met him at a restaurant and bought him lunch or dinner.  I never went to his apartment.  His friend Bill was there the first time and told me my father was Baha'i now and they went to the same church.  He told me bits about his life in Hawaii.  He seemed interested in my growing family.  One time I helped him set up his computer and showed him my siblings blogs and pictures on facebook.  But, he was a stranger.  I didn't recognize him the first time.  The waitress pointed him out to me.  He was a regular.  She knew him better than me.

He didn't always pay his cell bills and often changed numbers.  Sometimes he would remember to call and give me his new number, but not usually.  Sometimes I called his friend Bill and he would give it to me.  I didn't call often.  Once I found out he had been in the hospital for months after having a stroke. He never told me.  Sometimes we had good conversations and I felt like I was getting to know him.  Other times he told crazy stories about the places in New Mexico where he saw the UFOs come down and when he did peyote with his Indian friends on the reservation.  He was paranoid about people sometimes.  His memories about the divorce and all the circumstances were always at odds with what I remember.

Then the medical examiner called.  I can't say that I really knew him well.  His landlord was surprised he had kids.  He had known him for 7 years and he never mentioned us.  His parents passed away years ago and he was estranged from the rest of his family.  I don't know who else mourns his passing.  If you knew him, send us his stories, because of the three men that I remember as my father I don't know which one was really him. I can't trust my own memories tainted with my own tall tales, anger, and regret.

Farewell, Gary Gardunia.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Orcutt Family Reunion

Please pass the word on to any other Orcutt relatives or friends of Shirley Orcutt.

We have reserved the LDS chapel at 1500 Smith Ave, Nampa ID for July 5th.

Please invite all of the descendants, friends and relatives of Shirley Orcutt to celebrate her 90th Birthday.  Grandma has insisted on providing the food and needs a headcount by June 1st.  Please email me or respond by facebook.

10:00 - meet and greet - I would like to have a photo display projected on one wall and we can congregate outside if it is nice or inside the gym if it is raining.
11:00 - Kickball or softball game?
12:00 - lunch, cake, ice cream.
1:00 - ?  Ideas?

Things to bring:
Memories of family
All of your kids

Who to invite:
Family and friends of the Orcutt family

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Becca is not Kate

It is surprising to me how each of my children's personalities come fully developed.  From the moment that they are born they are themselves and so different from each other.  The contrast seems the most between Kate and Becca because Kate was so timid and Becca seems so adventuresome in comparison.  Some of that is true, and some is perception.  For example,  Becca is starting to choose out her own clothes, and isn't afraid to go in the basement, but Kate still won't go downstairs by herself and is terrified that she might get left there.

This is how I remember Kate at that age - sleepy, timid and sucking her thumb.
Becca doesn't nap as much as Kate did - only and hour or two a day, but she still gets tired.  The other day Becca climbed up on top of the piano, and then fell asleep perched on the keys and the quilt blocks piled on the top amidst the cluttered piano books. 
I thought that no way would Kate do something like that, but here is a picture I found of Kate at that same age.  Kate did climb up on the piano after all, but you can tell it is her since she is sucking her thumb and twirling her hair.  I was wrong.  Kate was just as daring as her sister.

On a completely different topic, amazingly she has stopped sucking her thumb.  Leila put foul tasting fingernail polish on her thumbs - Kate says it tastes like lady bug legs.  She was traumatized for the first day and had a hard time sleeping.  She couldn't fall asleep and was so stressed about it that she started to throw up.  The next day she was a little better, and then from then on no more thumb sucking.  Two weeks now without regressing.  Breakthrough.

Here is an example where Becca seems much more adventuresome than Kate and I can document that in this case this is true.  We roasted marshmallows outside the other night and Becca was entranced by the fire and wanted to be right in the midst of everyone.

Here is that same scene in June of 2012.  Notice the head poking up by the stairs,  that is Kate.  That is as close as she would come to the smoldering coals. 

This is Colleen at about the same age as Becca and I think they look the most alike even though they have very different personalities.  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Spring break road trip

Warning.  This is a bit of a photo dump.  The kids and I wanted to get out of the house while they were off for spring break.  So, road trip!

First stop - prairie near Pella.  It was freezing, and Becca was asleep.  The buffalo were way in the distance.  And it was freezing. We kept going.
Aleah begged to go to Pella.  She went with Leila this summer (read more here) and fell in love with the place.  She almost loves it as much as the Statue of Liberty.  
The kids got to help paint the sails for the windmill.  
Then, more driving an napping.  
Becca and I enjoyed Nauvoo while the other girls finished their video in the car.  
In St. Louis, we went to the City Museum - Aleah informed me that it isn't really a museum it is a giant jungle gym.  I can't really express how cool this place is.  That tube  with a line of kids is really four stories up in the air.  The first three floors of the factory are riddled with tunnels and sculptures, swings, trees, and slides.  Lots of slides.  Ten story slides.  That you can only get to by climbing inside the mouth of a statue of a whale and into the ceiling.  
Aleah, posing all casual in the airplane. 
Kate was a little terrified of all the confined spaces.  
I gave Colleen the camera to take of some of the narrower tunnels Becca and I couldn't fit in. 
Kate came running out of this tunnel because she was scared of the skeletons. I assured her there were no skeletons.  There were skeletons. 
We spent the night at hotels with pools.  Becca has no fear of water and I had to watch her attentively.  Kate on the other hand was terrified. 
Our camera actually is waterproof we found out.  
Aleah demonstrating her backfloat skills. 
Kate took a bunch of cool photos of the hot tub bubbles. 
Here is to a fun vacation!

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Sew famous!

Leila wrote about me on her sewing blog.  Her skills have greatly improved while mine remain the same.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Photos and updates from the never-ending winter in Iowa


Becca is eager to help Leila work on her quilting and her book, including stepping on all quilt blocks laid out on the floor, pounding on keys at the computer and negotiating for turning on "Phineas and Ferb" with hand signs, shrugs, and grunts whenever the computer is on.

She also is the first to put on her winter clothes hoping that someone will take her outside to play.  She always knows where her shoes and coat are and most days dresses herself in them or grunts for help so that she is ready to go outside at all times.  Plus it is cold in our house. . . 

She also wants to do all of the same things as the big kids including finger and head painting.  Emily showed her how to write on herself and often she has marker scribbled up and down her legs and belly if she can find a marker.  We try to keep them hidden, but you know how it is. 

Kate probably will be more than ready for school next year.  Colleen sits her down and teaches her much of what she has learned each day, especially wisdom from "Life Skills" like the dangers of playing with sharp stuff.  Kate wants badly to submit drawings to the friend and will write her name on anything she can.

I put this up to show Emily's belly writing handiwork.  Kate and Becca seem to have perpetual belly smiles.

Colleen thrives at school.  She usually holds class after school for her little sisters and teaches them writing and drawing from school.  Our friend Doug sat down with her when he was here last summer and practiced drawing with her and it has made a lasting impact.  She often practices drawing eyes and shading, just like her practice with Doug.  She will regularly tell us about all that she learned during her art lessons with Doug and how that has made her drawing so much better.  

Colleen sees the world in black and white.  She regularly talks to us about how she is going to just grow up to be a mom and that she doesn't need to go to college because she will just end up taking care of kids at home. I don't know where she gets this stuff because Leila and I have always pushed higher ed and both of us are college grads.  Leila does stay home, but wow.

Colleen begged to take piano lessons at the beginning of the year.  She is the most eager to practice and loves to make up her own songs to stories.  She played me a long song the other day that was a musical version of "Goldilocks and the three bears" complete with a theme for each bear and Goldilocks and a scale progression for their trip upstairs and a pounding discordant escape at the end.  She has been begging to start the violin and I hope that it goes as well.

I will write more about the rest of the girls as soon as I find the camera to take some pictures of them.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Do you wish you kept taking piano lessons?

Aleah is my reluctant piano student. She swears she will never regret quitting piano lessons.  I have discussed with her there are a lot of people out there that wish they had kept taking lessons.  Are you one of them?  Do you have a story to tell her that will keep her playing piano?

So embarrassing

A week or two ago now, Leila was at her quilt guild meeting and I was home with the girls.  We were watching Phineas and Ferb on Netflix.  Becca was wandering through the kitchen.  Suddenly, the lights in the living room and the computer/library room went out.

I installed three ceiling fans in those rooms a few years ago.  Instead of pull cords, each fan is controlled by a remote control.  My first thought was that Becca was playing with the remote control, but it was high up on the shelf, out of her reach.  I tried turning them on and off with the remote, but it didn't work.

Next, I went downstairs while the girls watched TV in the dark to check to see if we had flipped a breaker switch - one of the joys of living in an old house that has been rewired when convenient ever since 1906 by not so professional handymen.  None seemed to be flipped and it seemed like the library was on a different breaker from the living room, plus the outlets were on the same switch and should be out as well.

I tried poking around and following cords to see if there was a problem, but I had a hard time tracking which cord from which junction box in the basement ceiling went to the lights in the living room.  I decided to call Mike - my neighbor and the previous owner of the house.  He did a lot of updates to the electric, plumbing, added a kitchen, finished the basement, added the built-ins, and on and on.  Whenever I am stuck, Mike knows how to fix it.  Mike said he would come right over.  Mike knew which junction boxes went where and pretty soon we had them open, but were confused by the eight wires that went into one box that should only have had four.  We opened the light switches and reconnected the wires.  Nothing.

Then we started taking down the ceiling fans to see what could be the problem there.  I had a crazy theory that a mouse had chewed through the wires and disconnected the fans.  No evidence of a mouse, only my less than stellar installation of the ceiling fans.  After dismantling the second ceiling fan, Mike suggested that we go get a light from his house and connect it to where the ceiling fan was to see, just to be sure, that there wasn't a problem with the fan.  The light turned on.

It was a problem with the fan, and it got worse.  Mike asked if we had changed the batteries in the remote control recently.  I had not.  I changed the batteries, pointed it at the remaining ceiling fan and the light turned on.

By now it was almost 11:00.  The kids were in bed.  Leila was in bed.  Mike was tired and went home.  I was alone with three junction boxes to hook back up, all my light switches take apart, two ceiling fans to reinstall and totally and completely embarrassed that I had turned our house upside-down and pulled Mike into the chaos for a burnt out battery in the remote control.