2017 Oregon Book Awards

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George and Jennifer outside the Gerding Theater.

It wasn’t the Oscars and it wasn’t the Grammys. But it was my first time attending an awards event and it was pretty cool.

On Monday night, I joined my friend Jennifer Brennock at the 2017 Oregon Book Awards, held at the Gerding Theater in Northwest Portland.

No red carpet in sight. But in the lobby there was a pop-up book sale going on staffed by the folks from Broadway Books, my neighborhood book store. Also, there were plenty of animated conversations going on among book nerds of all ages, young adults to retirees.

For those of us who love words, it was a night to celebrate seasoned pros, first-time authors and everyone in between who strives to inform and inspire us readers with works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. If you’ve ever written seriously — whether for work or as a hobby — you know the feeling of facing a blank screen and wondering when or how the first words will materialize.

If you’re patient, they will come. Eventually.

Knowing a little something about what that’s like, I felt nothing but admiration for these accomplished writers who faced the blank screen and won the stare-down. These are the diligent, creative folks whose characters, plots, scenes and dialogues — imagined or real — come to life on the page, often after years of research. Such work is impressive and every one of the Oregon Book Award finalists deserved the whistles, whoops and hollers they received.

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Before the event, I met Jennifer at a coffee-and-wine bar a short walk from the Gerding. We met several years ago when I attended a writing workshop she was leading on Orcas Island. I was impressed by the way she led the class and since then I have been dazzled by her writing.

Read Jennifer’s contribution (“Baby Shower”) to my Voices of August guest blog project.

She’s taught English at the community college level and I’m now teaching communications classes at two universities, so we have that connection, too. Jennifer’s students are blessed to have someone whose writing prompts challenge them to think and feel deeply and whose own intelligence and passion explode off the page.

The awards program, sponsored by Literary Arts, itself was entertaining — probably more so than you’d think given the absence of live music, video clips or other such stuff that you see at the Academy Awards.

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The Portland nonprofit Literary Arts sponsors the Oregon Book Awards.

A California author, Lysley Tenorio, was a charming master of ceremonies, filling the same role as Jimmy Kimmel, Ellen DeGeneres and others have done at the Oscars.

Anis Mojgani, a spoken word artist based in Portland, performed a poem. Téa Johnson, a Grant High School senior, reprised her winning entry in the citywide high school poetry slam competition known as Verselandia.

Read a profile of Téa Johnson in Grant Magazine.

Finalists were announced in eight categories, and the judge for each one read an excerpt from the winner’s book before calling that person to the stage.

Turns out that I had met — ever so briefly — the winner in the first category. Kate Berube took home the award for Children’s Literature for her book “Hannah and Sugar.” Last summer, I took part in a fundraising trivia contest sponsored by a nonprofit that provides books to low-income children. Kate, an author and illustrator, was at that same fundraiser and donated a portion of profits from her sales that night to the same cause.

Even better, Jennifer knew the woman who won the Creative Nonfiction award. That would be Walidah Imarisha, who is currently a lecturer at Stanford but also has taught at Portland State and Oregon State universities. Walidah was honored for “Angels Without Dirty Wings,” a book about life behind prison walls that weaves together the stories of three people — her incarcerated brother and his fellow inmate and herself..

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Reunited: Jennifer Brennock and Walidah Imarisha

Jennifer and Walidah have known each other since graduate school. In the lobby afterwards, the two embraced and Walidah autographed the book I bought on the spot. Gotta make room for it on my always crowded bookshelf.

***

Two quick anecdotes that illustrate what a small world we live in:

Walidah’s companion that evening was a young man who had participated years ago in a summer journalism program for minority high school students that brought him to The Oregonian, my former employer  John Joo, then a student at Beaverton High School, remembered me from the program — probably one of those times when I popped into a room of teenagers wolfing down pizza and soda during a visit to the newsroom and said a few words. What a great memory.

Before leaving, I introduced myself to Cindy Williams Gutiérrez, the only Latina/o among the Oregon Book Award winners. Cindy is a poet who’s worked with Milagro Theater, the bilingual theater group where my wife and I saw a recent production. Her new book, “Words That Burn,” dramatizes the World War II experiences of three men, including Lawson Inada, a Japanese American internee who later taught at Southern Oregon College, where Jennifer met him as an undergraduate student.

Cindy chatted warmly, jotted her email address on a card, and invited me to get in touch. I think I’ll do just that.

All in all, a fun evening spent in the company of someone who loves words as much as I do. Who needs the red carpet anyway?

Season-ending selfie

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Blazermaniacs: Deborah and George during the first half. Smiles went away during second half.

You can stick a fork in the Trail Blazers now. After last night’s gut-wrenching loss to the titanic Golden State Warriors, my favorite basketball team is one loss away from having its season come to an official end.

That should happen Monday night when the Warriors seek to put the finishing touch on a 4-to-0 playoff sweep of the home team.

On Saturday, I went with my friend, Deborah Heath, to see Game 3 of this Round 1 matchup between the Blazers and the Warriors, the defending Western Conference champions.

The Blazers played beautifully in the first half, inspired by the presence of their injured big man, Josuf Nurkic, and brilliant play by their star guards, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Deborah and I wore giddy smiles as the Blazers took a 67-54 halftime lead.

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A fellow fan shows her support of the Blazers’ new center, a 7-footer from Bosnia who’s only 22 years old.

Unfortunately, Golden State is loaded with talent and the visitors came back to steal a clutch 119-113 win that tore the hearts out of the Blazers and their fans. So much for those halftime smiles.

The loss meant that I went winless as a spectactor. Yep, all six games that I attended this season ended in a loss.

LA Clippers. Dallas. Golden State. Boston. Washington. Golden State, again.

What a contrast to last year when every game I saw produced a win and a shower of confetti. I didn’t expect a repeat of last season but even one win — especially last night, when the stakes were higher — would have been nice.

Predictions: No. 1, Golden State is going to win it all this year. And why shouldn’t they with four All-Stars on their team? No. 2, if Nurkic is healthy next season, watch out for the Blazers.

Lab Girl

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Hope Jahren in her research lab.

Science has never been my forte. High school chemistry and biology were challenging enough, so I never went near physics. In college, I took a single general science course and was thankful I wasn’t required to do more.

So why would I put “Lab Girl” on my list of hoped-for Christmas or birthday gifts?

Two reasons: 1) I spotted the title late last year on a New York Times list of notable books and the thumbnail review sounded interesting; 2) I thought it might give me better understanding of the kind of work our youngest son wants to do.

I recently finished the book and I’m happy to say it’s a gem. It’s beautifully written and it’s illuminated the path that lies ahead for Jordan, who’s graduating next month with a bachelors degree in biology and hopes to become a research scientist.

One critic says of the author: “Hope Jahren is the voice that science has been waiting for.”

Indeed.

Jahren is one of those people who is multiply talented, almost astonishingly so.

lab girl coverHer academic credentials? She’s received three Fulbright Awards in geobiology, has a Ph.D in soil science from UC Berkeley, has taught at Johns Hopkins and Georgia Tech, and has been named by Time magazine as one of the world’s “100 Most Influential People.” Still in her 40s, she is a tenured professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and currently is a fellow at the University of Oslo, where she studies fossil forests. She’s fluent in Norwegian, by the way.

Her writing chops? Impressive. It’s hard to believe this collection of essays is her first book. Part memoir, part introduction to the science of trees and plants, she has the ability to explain concepts and procedures in lay terms that even I can grasp. And her prose at times is downright dazzling. (You’ll see for yourself in the excerpts the follow.)

She writes with authority born of expertise, with wisdom born of experience, and with self-deprecating humor born of perspective. Binding it all together are the passion that she brings to her work, and the determination and discipline that have fueled her success in a male-dominated profession.

As a female scientist, she has been the only woman in a college class, the only woman at a professional conference, one of few women among a university’s science faculty, and certainly one of few among her colleagues who’s had to take a career break to give birth.

“My desire to become a scientist was founded upon a deep instinct and nothing more; I never heard of a single story about a living female scientist, never met one or even saw one on television.

“As a female scientist I am still unusual, but in my heart I was never anything else. Over the years I have built three laboratories from scratch, given warmth and life to three empty rooms, each one bigger and better than the last. My current laboratory is almost perfect — located in balmy Honolulu and housed within a magnificent building that is frequently crowned by rainbows and surrounded by hibiscus flowers in constant bloom — but somehow I know that I will never stop building and wanting more. My laboratory is not “room T309” as stated on my university’s blueprints; it is “the Jahren Laboratory,” and it always will be, no matter where it is located. It bears my name because it is my home.”

How did she become a scientist? Raised in a small Midwest town with three older brothers, she essentially grew up in the lab where her father taught at the local community college. As a young girl, she became acquainted with the workbenches, the equipment, and the drawers full of magnets, wire, glass, metal and other stuff that all proved useful for something.

Culturally, she was born into a Scandinavian home where silence and emotional distance between family members were the norm, something that, for better or worse, contributed to her self-reliance.

That’s a trait that she had to rely on early in her career as she sought to establish her credentials and find stable employment in her chosen career. She describes several instances of sexism (no surprise) and early on introduces us to a quirky fellow named Bill, who she met as a grad student at Berkeley. The two formed an exceptional bond as fellow scientists and later as friends, and he continues to serve as Jahren’s senior research lab manager in Oslo. He’s instrumental to her telling of the larger story of “Lab Girl.”

Jahren describes the life of the research scientist as one that is both esoteric and often lonely. People don’t know what you do or why, and they don’t have the foggiest idea of how precarious the funding is for such work.

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Hope Jahren, scientist and author.

***

As I write this on Earth Day, thousands of scientists are marching in Washington, D.C., and hundreds of other cities on six continents to draw attention to the value of science and to their worries that “evidence has been crowded out by ideology and opinion in public debate and policymaking.”

Read The Washington Post’s story: “Why scientists are marching on Washington and more than 600 cities”

In one essay, Jahren explains that there is just one significant source of support for the kind of research she does — the National Science Foundation, which is funded by our federal tax dollars.

In 2013, the NSF’s budget was $7.3 billion, a sum that sounds large until you learn that the Department of Agriculture’s budget is about three times that amount, the Department of Homeland Security’s budget is five times as large, and the Department of Defense’s “discretionary” budget alone is more than 60 times that sum.

Jahren points out that the U.S. government spends twice as much on its space program as it does on all of its other scientists put together. Little wonder that those specializing in other fields are left scrambling to apply for three-year grants and additional university funding to pay for salaries and benefits, student help, chemicals, equipment, travel and administrative overhead charges.

“Ask a science professor what she worries about,” Jahren writes. “It won’t take long. She’ll look you in the eye and say one word: ‘Money.’ ”

***

As informative as the book is, the writing itself is superb. The author has a website called hopejahrensurecanwrite.com, where she maintains a lively blog. She also credits her mother with instilling in her an appreciation for reading and writing.

As a high school senior in the 1950s, Hope’s mom was awarded an honorable mention in a prestigious national science competition and hoped to study chemistry at the state university. But lack of money forced her to drop out and she moved back to her hometown, where she married, became a mother and homemaker, and some 20 years later took correspondence courses in English literature to get her college degree.

The daughter learned her lessons well. Consider this excerpt, where Jahren recalls her days as an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota (the same place her mom, dad and brothers attended) working in the university hospital during the 3-to-11 p.m. shift as a “runner” hand-delivering IV pain medications to the nursing stations where they were needed.

“That night in the hospital I walked in and out of the hospice ward ten or twenty times, and my eyes and hands moved through the necessary tasks. Well into the night and deeper into my brain, it came to me that as hospital workers, we were being paid to trail along behind Death as he escorted frail, wasted bodies over difficult miles, dragging their loved ones along with him. My job was to meet the traveling party at its designated way station and faithfully provide fresh supplies for the journey. When the weary group disappeared over the horizon, we turned back, knowing that another agonized family would be arriving soon.

“The doctors, nurses, and I didn’t cry because the bewildered husbands and stricken daughters were carrying enough for all of us. Helpless and impotent against the awesome power of Death, we nonetheless bowed out heads in the pharmacy, injected twenty milliliters of salvation int a bag of tears, blessed it again and again, and then carried it like a baby to the hospice and offered it up. The drug would flow into a passive vein, the family wold draw close, and a cup of fluid might be temporarily removed from their ocean of pain.” 

Wow. Gives me chills.

“Lab Girl” is a great book for the young scientist in your life, and even better if that person is a girl. It’s also a great book for yourself, especially if you’re one, like me, who would have benefited from Science  for Dummies. At 282 pages, it’s a fairly fast read and one that will leave you with admiration for the work and life of a remarkable research scientist named Hope Jahren.

(Click on images to view captions.)

Snapshots from Silver City

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Looking west from Mountain View Road in Silver City. Buildings with reddish roofs in the distance are on the campus of Western New Mexico University.

“Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children and the younger generation.  For they are us, our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life. ” — Albert Einstein

Like births and weddings, funerals are one of life’s milestones that bring people together.

That was the case last week when we laid my dad to rest after 91 years of a well-lived life, the last big chunk of it spent as a retiree in his native New Mexico.

During less than 48 hours in this town of 10,000 about 70 miles east of the Arizona border, I was reunited with both of my sisters, a niece, a nephew, a great-nephew, an aunt, assorted cousins and in-laws. Some I hadn’t seen since I was a teenager and, trust me, that was a long time ago.

Here’s a look back:

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With my sisters Cathy (from Dillingham, Alaska) and Rosemary (from Oceanside, California).

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A trio of Rede cousins. My daughter Simone with cousins Austin Flavin (son of my sister Cathy) and Bernadette Hermocillo Rackley (daughter of my sister Rosemary).

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From right: My Aunt Linda, cousins Stephanie and Bob, and Bob’s wife, Ana.

“Watching a peaceful death of a human being reminds us of a falling star; one of a million lights in a vast sky that flares up for a brief moment only to disappear into the endless night forever.” — Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

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Four of the eight Hernandez siblings, children of my dad’s sister, Valentina. From left: Luis, Pablo, Tomas and his wife Lila, and Linda.

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At the Knights of Columbus Fellowship Hall with my cousin Shelley Owens, a daughter of my dad’s brother, Albert.

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My stepmother Ora, right, drew strength from the presence of longtime friend, Lydia Montez, in my father’s final hours.

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Luz Perez, with his wife Josefina, was a cousin of my dad. The couple live in Tucson, Arizona, and hosted a memorable family reunion there a few years ago.

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A colorful New Mexican motif adorns a wall of the Knights of Columbus Fellowship Hall in Silver City.

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John Sterle, an American Legion Post 18 board member and Navy veteran, spoke at the military funeral for my dad while daughter Simone served as one of the six pallbearers. Turns out Mr. Sterle’s ethnic roots trace back to Slovenia, just like my wife, Lori.

“Death is beautiful when seen to be a law, and not an accident. It is as common as life.” — Henry David Thoreau

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My niece Bernie and sister Cathy.

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My nephew Austin with Terrell, the husband of my niece Bernie.

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My lovely stepmother, Oralia Caballero Rede, with Simone.

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Ora and George.

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” — Mahatma Gandhi

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Rule No. 34: Before one hops in the rental car for a long ride on the interstate, one must take a selfie.

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Dad and Ora came to visit Lori and me in Bend, Oregon, in the years before we had kids. Photo is circa 1977 or 1978.

Quotes about death: BrockBlack.com

Road warriors

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Simone and I put nearly 600 miles on this compact rental car during our recent drive from Phoenix to Silver City, New Mexico.

If there was a silver lining to my father’s recent death, it was this: I got to spend two days with my daughter, Simone.

Though she and her wife live just a few miles away from us, I don’t see her as often as you might think. When they aren’t working, she and Kyndall are hosting dinner parties, attending political events and rising early for dragon boat practice on the river. Simone also belongs to a book club, sings in a women’s choir, and volunteers for a couple of nonprofit organizations.

Busy girl.

So, I was glad to enjoy her company from Wednesday morning until early Friday evening as we traveled to southwest New Mexico for my dad’s memorial service.

Simone flew into Phoenix late Tuesday night after work. I arrived early the next morning, fetched a rental car and picked her up at her motel. And so began a round trip of nearly 600 miles to and from Silver City – which meant about 14 hours on the road (including a time zone change and rest stops), much of it clocked at 75 mph on interstate highways.

It that isn’t a test of compatibility in close quarters, I don’t know what is. Happy to say we passed, with flying colors.

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Love hanging out with my daughter.

Simone is a great conversationalist. She’s well read, adept at social media and naturally inquisitive. Had she not become an auditor, she easily could have become a journalist, given her writing skills and her incessant questions of “Why?” and “What do you think?”

Not only that, she is a very attentive listener, a skill that’s also essential to journalism and a trait that I value in anyone. (Few things bother me as much as when people talk over me, so impatient are they to say their piece without extending the courtesy of letting someone else finish their thought.)

The only “rough” spot? Simone had to endure her father’s endless collection of CDs. What sounded so cool to me when I put together various mixes a few years ago still sounds good to me. But it’s that “few years ago” quality that desperately needs updating, she says. Simone came prepared, however, with a plan to introduce me to a couple of podcast stations on the internet. And so, wherever we could pick up a signal, we also listened to The Moth, a site featuring professional and amateur storytellers in New York.

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We shared a room at a budget motel in Silver City and that went well, too. Fresh-baked cookies and cold milk at check-in made for a nice welcome, and we indulged in some fun people-watching at the breakfast buffet in the lobby each morning.

In the evenings, Simone more than compensated for my domination of the CD player by binge-watching her favorite Food Channel shows. At times it seemed like a continuous loop of “Cooks vs. Cons” with all the faux drama of today’s reality shows.

It’s good to see her relax, knowing she has such great responsibilities at work and precious few hours of genuine leisure time to simply relax. And for me, I suppose it doesn’t hurt to see what kinds of dishes these chefs can whip up using leftover Chinese takeout as main ingredients.

***

On the way in to Silver City, we took the slower, more scenic route traveling east on U.S. 70, a two-lane road. We passed through the Fort Apache Indian Reservation and several small towns in southeastern Arizona, stopping for lunch in Safford (population 9,500).

We ate at a café on Main Street and afterward walked through the two-block business district, where we shared an ice cream cone dished up at a retro ice cream parlor.

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Pistachio for two at Candy’s Ice Cream Company in Safford, Arizona. I like to match my shirt’s color to the ice cream.

On the way back, we stopped in Tucson, where I knew an outdoor table and a fabulous menu awaited us at the Hotel Congress’ Cup Café. I’ve eaten there a few times before, starting when I used to travel alone as a newsroom recruiter for The Oregonian. To my delight, Simone thought it was every bit as good as Lori did, when I took my wife there (twice!) on our most recent trip to Silver City.

Perhaps the most fun, though, was introducing Simone to Silver City’s historic downtown district. In a sleepy little town of 10,000, where Walmart, CVS Phamacy and any number of fast-food chains predominate, it may come as a surprise to know that this former mining town also has a very alternative aspect.

On Bullard and surrounding streets, there are old-timey saloons, a food coop, modern restaurants, art galleries galore, jewelry shops and gift shops, a movie theater, a karate studio and two refurbished hotels catering to upscale tourists.

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The place to be in Silver City if you want coffee and a hippie (not hipster) vibe.

We stopped in to The Jumping Cactus coffeeshop Thursday evening and again Friday morning before we hit the road, charmed by the ambience and impressed by the array of drinks and pastries.

If we didn’t know better, we’d have thought we wandered onto the set of “Portlandia.”

Even before we went inside, a woman passed by on the sidewalk carrying a rolled-up yoga mat and a container of coconut milk.

At the counter, there was a transgender person, who struck up a conversation with us as if they were an employee or a city ambassador. Two middle-aged ladies sat at a table chatting over a copy of a thick book on astrology. A weathered old guy with bedhead and a backpack came in and ordered a double espresso. A young man, evidently just passing through town, got up from his corner table, earnestly hoping to join two older men in a philosophical conversation about faith and atheism.

On the porch, there were all sorts of fliers for local businesses pinned to a community board, including one advertising the discreet construction of underground shelters and man caves.

All this and Joni Mitchell on the in-house stereo system? You couldn’t have scripted this any better.

***

With a family as far-flung as ours, the funeral service provided an opportunity to see my sisters again (one from San Diego, one from Alaska) and other relatives, including several cousins, in-laws and a niece and nephew. For many, it was their first time meeting Simone. She socializes easily and I’m always proud to introduce my middle child.

I was especially gratified that Simone volunteered to be a pallbearer – the only woman among the six.

Circumstances didn’t permit Lori or either of our sons to make the trip. But I know my dad would have been very happy knowing his Oregon granddaughter had made the trip to pay her respects.

Though it would have been nice to make this trip while Dad was still alive, I will carry fond memories of time spent with my fellow road warrior. Though the bond between father and son was pretty special, so too is it between father and daughter.

If you’ve read this far, here’s a bonus video offering a taste of this former mining town:

A son’s remembrance

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Hanging out with Dad on his 90th birthday in 2016.

Catarino A. Rede: March 22, 1926 to March 28, 2017

We laid my dad to rest this week. On March 28, six days after he reached his 91st birthday, he suffered an early-morning attack at home in Silver City, New Mexico, and died hours later at the hospital with his beloved wife, Oralia, at his bedside.

Lori and I were on a spring break vacation, four states and one time zone away, when we got the word. Just a year ago, we had celebrated Dad’s 90th birthday, with my two sisters and their families. He was so happy then, surrounded by three generations of people who mean the most to him. He looked healthy, even if his vision and hearing had begun to deteriorate. And his first and only experience with Skype had him marveling at the wonders of technology.

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Since the beginning of this year, however, things had changed. He lost his appetite and pretty much quit eating, which caused his weight to plunge and his body to lose muscle. He drank so little water, he became dehydrated and sedentary. Finally, his heart gave in.

His death felt surreal.

More than three years earlier, my sisters and I were in a quiet, darkened hospice room when our mother died. We could talk to her, hold her hand, wipe her brow and feed her ice chips as we watched her life come to a merciful end.

In contrast, all of us were hundreds of miles away when the end came for Dad. It wasn’t until this Thursday when I saw him in repose in a mortuary in his adopted hometown, rosary beads draped across his hands and his handsome face stilled forever, that it sank in. Death had taken my father.

***

I loved my dad. I admired him and appreciated him more and more with each passing year.

Catarino Allala Rede was born in Artesia, New Mexico, the fifth of nine children, the third-oldest of seven boys who all served in the U.S. Navy. He was the last surviving sibling.

Like my mom, Dad came of age during the Great Depression and had limited opportunities growing up in a family of migrant farmworkers. He experienced discrimination early in his life and his formal education ended at the eighth grade, though he later obtained his G.E.D. in his 40s.

Read his obituary here as published in the Grant County Beat.

My parents met as teenagers in Salinas, California. My dad enlisted in the service when he was 18, saw action in World War II, and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area with my mom after they married. They had six children — three of whom died as infants. Among the three of us who survived, I was the middle child and only boy.

My parents divorced when I was 15. He soon met and married a wonderful woman with a gentle disposition, Oralia Caballero, a registered nurse at the same Oakland, California, hospital where my dad worked as a stationary engineer. Dad was a jack-of-all-trades responsible for the operation and maintenance of boiler and other mechanical systems, and he took great pride in his work.

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Dad and Ora came to visit Lori and me in Bend, Oregon, in the years before we had kids. Photo is circa 1977 or 1978.

Dad was one of those men who earned his living with his hands and a broad set of skills. He wore overalls with a name patch over his heart;  ate taquitos and black coffee from a metal lunch pail and thermos; and variously worked the graveyard, morning and evening shifts.

He became an officer in the International Union of Operating Engineers and I still remember vividly one of the tangible benefits of the health insurance policy that extended to us kids: my first pair of eyeglasses as a 13-year-old.

Marrying Oralia was the best thing that ever happened to him. I told her this week that it was if my dad was born again, given an opportunity to live life to its fullest alongside an affectionate and dedicated wife who fully embraced his adult children and cared for him to the very end.

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Ora and C.A. Rede outside their New Mexico home in April 2014.

During their 46 years of marriage, Dad and Ora traveled widely — to Europe and Mexico, to Israel and South Africa — and became deeply involved in civic life in Silver City. Dad was active in veterans, fraternal and religious organizations, and accompanied Ora to music programs and other events at the local university, something he never would have done in his previous life.

***

On April 6, the day of his funeral, it was readily apparent that my father had made a mark in the little town of 10,000 people in southwestern New Mexico where he chose to retire. Not on the scale of a First Citizen or anything like that. Rather, as an ordinary Joe who had a big heart and could be counted on to participate in a community service project.

“He was a man of few words but a man of strong words,” a fellow veteran said. “He was always concerned about others. He was a man of his word. If he said he’d be there, he was there.”

Whereas my mom’s funeral drew mostly relatives, my dad’s was attended by family, of course, but also a wide spectrum of friends, neighbors, camping buddies, fellow veterans and Catholics.

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Dad’s photo hangs on the wall at the Knights of Columbus Fellowship Hall in Silver City.

I especially appreciated the presence of the Knights of Columbus, whose white-haired, white-gloved members, with their decorative hats, capes, cummerbunds and swords, took shifts standing at either end of the coffin during the church service. Afterward, I broke into tears thanking each one of these gentlemen for honoring my father.

Dad was buried at the nearby Fort Bayard National Cemetery under a sunny sky as a gentle wind riffled the U.S. and New Mexico flags, plus those of the American Legion and U.S. Navy.

Seven riflemen fired three volleys each — a 21-gun salute. A priest offered a blessing and a leader of the local American Legion post recounted Dad’s military service.

He enlisted June 15, 1941 in Salinas, California, a week after the Allies landed at Normandy. Following basic training, he was assigned to a unit that was posted to Hawaii on Dec. 29, 1941, shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He was deployed to Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands for training in anticipation of the invasion of Japan. The Japanese surrendered on Aug. 15, 1945, before the invasion could take place, and the unit was decommissioned. Back in the States, Dad was discharged on May 13, 1946, as a second-class machinist’s mate. He received $119.58 with which to resume his civilian life.

Born into a large family and equipped with little formal education, Catarino Rede nevertheless overcame a lot of life’s challenges. He became a husband and a father, a military veteran, a skilled laborer and a homeowner. He became a second husband, a grandfather and a great-grandfather, and a community volunteer in service to those less fortunate.

I will forever be proud to be his only son.

Bittersweet

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Sunrise on Orcas Island

Ordinarily, a trip to the San Juans is nothing but pleasurable. In the decade-plus that we’ve owned our cabin on Orcas Island, I’ve always known that whatever stresses might be weighing on me, I’d leave them at the ferry dock as we sailed away from the mainland.

This time, the coming back home was different. A week ago, Lori and I got up early and headed back to the ferry landing with the sobering knowledge that my father had died the day before on March 28.

Just six days earlier, he’d turned 91. The March 22nd phone call to wish him a happy birthday turned out to be the last time I spoke to him.

Today I’m flying down to Phoenix, then driving with my daughter to southwestern New Mexico for tomorrow’s funeral service and burial at a military cemetery.

There’s so much I’ve thought about, but not yet put in writing, as I think about my dad. I know I will share those thoughts in the coming days. But first, I owe it to myself to acknowledge the entirety of our five-night stay on Orcas. After all, the purpose of this blog is to serve as a digital diary. And we all know that life represents the stitching together of memories and milestones, both bitter and sweet.

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We arrived late Friday afternoon. Though we usually have the cabin to ourselves, this time Lori and I knew we’d be sharing it for a couple of days with our youngest son, his wife and their daughter.

Jordan and Jamie and our granddaughter Emalyn arrived earlier in the week, a welcome Spring Break reward for our son, who’s been working his tail off in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in biology. Jamie, too, deserved a respite from the 24/7 responsibilities of a stay-at-home mom.

We enjoyed two home-cooked meals with the kids, and I joined them on a hike in Moran State Park on Saturday while Lori stayed behind to wait for a handyman to complete a plumbing job in the kitchen.

(Click on images to view captions)

Sunday morning came all too early, as the kids headed back home. We had the place to ourselves for the next three nights, and mostly just hung out at the cabin, enjoying the exquisite peace and quiet. Even the birds stayed away, though we put fresh seed in two new feeders.

We treated ourselves to dinner Sunday night at Doe Bay Café, always a relaxing experience. We read books and magazines, listened to favorite CDs, and took walks in the surrounding woods with our lovable Charlotte.

Our friend Juliana joined us for dinner at our place on Monday night, though we missed her husband Carl, who was tied up with a long work day.

On Tuesday, we drove into Eastsound (population 2,000) to buy a few things for the cabin, had a snack at a coffeehouse, and headed back to the cabin at a leisurely pace, appreciating the natural beauty of the clamshell-shaped island.

That same morning had begun with a phone call from New Mexico. My stepmother Ora said Dad had suffered a heart attack at home and had been taken to the local hospital. Just hours later, a family friend called again to say the end had come. Mercifully, I thought. I wouldn’t ever want Dad or any loved one to hang on needlessly, in pain or if there is no hope of recovery.

twin lakes north

Sweet memories of a hike to Big Twin, the larger of the Twin Lakes in Moran State Park.

Wednesday morning came and as we sailed across the waters back to the mainland, it dawned on me that now Lori and I are the oldest generation in our family. First, it was Lori’s dad. Then her mom. Then my mom. And now Dad.

I look forward to tomorrow’s service, not just to support my stepmother, reunite with my two sisters and assorted relatives but also to celebrate my father.