Snapshots from Silver City

SC mtn view

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:

SC cathy-rose-george 2

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

SC cousins 1

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).

SC ana-bob-steph-linda 2

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

SC hernandez

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

SC george-shelley

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

SC lydia-ora 2

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

SC josefina-luz perez

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.

SC KOC3

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

SC John-Simone

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

bernie-cathy

My niece Bernie and sister Cathy.

SC austin-terrell

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

SC ora-simone

My lovely stepmother, Oralia Caballero Rede, with Simone.

SC ora-george1

Ora and George.

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

SC george-simone 1

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

dad-ora-1977-78

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

SC mtn view 3

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.

SC simone-george

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.

***

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.

SC simone-george-safford

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.

SC coffee

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

dad and george

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.

(Click on images to view captions.)

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.

dad-ora-1977-78

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.

ora-and-c-a

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.

SC KOC2

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

orcas sunrise

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.

***

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.

Twin Lakes

twin lakes north

Looking north toward Big Twin.

Six months had passed since I last set foot on Orcas Island. Too long.

Halfway through a five-day stay, I can say the restorative qualities of this place are once again at work.

It’s 1 pm on a tranquil Sunday. The on-and-off misty rain is off for the moment and I’m enjoying the jazz music of Heather Keizur, a Portland vocalist who Performs at our neighborhood block party every summer.

Lori and I arrived on Friday, knowing we would overlap with our youngest son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter for two days. They packed up and left today at mid-morning to catch the ferry back to the mainland, leaving us to enjoy the tranquility of our cabin for the next three days before we, too, return home.

***

Yesterday, I joined Jordan, Jamie and Emalyn on a 4.2-mile hike in Moran State Park. (Lori stayed behind to meet with a handyman who was coming up to finish a job at our place.)

It was a nice respite from the urban routine and the first time I’d been out to Twin Lakes in a long, long time. It’s an easy hike, following the western shore of Mountain Lake and then a spur at the north end of the lake.

You’re at 1,100 feet elevation when you arrive between the two bodies of water, but it’s not like it’s a vertical hike. The drive up Mount Constitution Road brings you to a parking area next to Mountain Lake and the well-groomed path has only modest ups and downs.

Even on a short hike — an hour out, an hour back — it was enough to awaken the senses. Cool, fresh air. Still lake waters. Humongous, overturned tree stumps. An occasional breeze whooshing through the trees. Snow melt tumbling over rocks.

And in spots along the trail where we paused for a sip of water? Absolute silence. The kind where you almost feel guilty disrupting the stillness to resume your hike.

Check out the Moran State Park map

Moran State Park has five lakes — Cascade, Mountain, Summit and Twin Lakes. I still haven’t hiked around Summit Lake, but I can vouch for the beauty of the others.

With this most recent hike, on the eastern flank of Mount Constitution, it was wonderful to reacquaint myself with Big and Little Twin Lakes, a couple of jewels.

Celebrating 35 years of voluntarism

tdc-1

A nice way to spend a Friday night, in the company of people who help kids who come to The Dougy Center.

Lori is way too modest, way too selfless to call attention to her volunteer activities, so leave it to me to do so.

Friday night, we attended The Dougy Center‘s annual Volunteer Appreciation Celebration, an event that marked 35 years of this Portland nonprofit providing peer support groups for grieving children and their families.

Lori was among a roomful of big-hearted men and women — and, by the way, they are mostly women — who work with these children as they deal with their feelings after the death of a parent, a sibling or other loved one.

There are 31 peer support groups who meet at The Dougy Center’s headquarters in Southeast Portland or in satellite offices in Canby and Hillsboro. Children ages 3 to 18 meet every other week in age-appropriate groups with a professional facilitator and trained volunteers. Young adults, ranging from 19 to 35-ish, have their own groups.

As a past member of the center’s board of directors, I underwent the training too and volunteered for less than a year before outside commitments got the best of me and I had to quit. So I know what these volunteers go through and fully appreciate the love and care they provide as these kids heal, each in their own way and on their own time.

Some of those honored Friday night were celebrating 5, 10 and 15 years of service. Remarkably, two were celebrating 20 years, five were celebrating 25 years, and two were celebrating 30 years. Amazing.

Lori has been with the same Esperanza group for six years. Esperanza is Spanish for hope — and the name fits because these are the children of Latino parents, many of whom speak little or no English, and it’s the one group out of the 31 that caters to their language and culture.

Of the eight volunteers in Lori’s group, two others joined in the celebration Friday. We shared a table — three female volunteers and three of us male partners — and enjoyed a fun evening that included a catered dinner, speeches, raffle prizes and a silly photo session with props.

(Click on images to view captions.)

Highlight of the evening? No question, it was when a former participant in a Young Adult Group shared his story of loss and healing. John spoke of the devastation he felt when his older brother died at age 26, leaving him at age 23 to sort through the pain and confusion.

Now 35, John became a first-grade teacher, a husband and father of a young daughter. Last year, when he and his wife welcomed a second child into the world, death struck again. Their daughter was born with severe brain deformities and died in their arms just an hour after being born.

Another person might have been crushed by despair. But John said the self-healing that occurred at The Dougy Center, with the unconditional love and support provided by adult volunteers, made all the difference in getting through his brother’s death and gave him the strength and the tools to both celebrate and accept his daughter’s short life.

In all my years being affiliated with The Dougy Center, I can’t recall a speech that was more profound than John’s. His moving testimonial was a gift to all in the room that evening, for these are people who are either retirees or else already-employed men and women,who give three to four hours of their time every two weeks to be there in a child’s time of need.

Knowing Lori is among this caring group of people made me, once again, very proud of my wife and her giving spirit.

2016: What a year

oi-dawn2

Dawn on Orcas Island brings a magnificent view of Mount Baker.

Three weeks from today, the nation will inaugurate a new president — not the one I wanted, not the one everyone expected, but the bloviating mess known as Donald J. Trump.

I shudder to think what the next four years will be like under this man who continues to defy every social and political convention while trampling on the bounds of common decency. Especially so after the model of dignity, grace and intelligence that we’ve seen exhibited by Barack Obama and his equally impressive wife, Michelle, a power in her own right.

It’s still beyond belief that a man so ignorant (and proud of it), so misogynistic (and proud of it), so narcissistic (and proud of it) has been elected to the nation’s highest office. Yet there’s no disputing that Trump’s election was the story of the year in 2016.

But I’m not going to dwell on him. I’ve got my own agenda today — and that’s taking a look back at the year that was. For all the sadness we felt seeing so many entertainers and other public figures pass from the scene — David Bowie, Prince, Maurice White, Elie Wiesel, Garry Shandling, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, et al — there was a lot of other stuff going on in the Rede household.

After all, this is the year I traveled a new path, away from the newsroom where I had worked for the past 30 years. This was the year I caught a glimpse of what retirement might be like, only to settle into a new work routine in the fall.

Here’s a quick take:

***

First grandchild: We welcomed a charming little girl into our lives in late July. Little Emalyn May Rede, the daughter of our youngest son, Jordan, and his wife, Jamie, has been nothing but a source of pride and joy.

Lori and I were privileged to be the first ones to see and hold Emalyn, other than her parents, when she was just hours old. In the months since, she’s already transformed from helpless infant to smiling, healthy baby, seemingly delighted to be part of the action.

A new job (actually, two): Just as my severance from The Oregonian/OregonLive was running out in mid-September, along came two opportunities to return to the workforce.

Portland State University hired me to teach in the Department of Communications. I got started with a Media Ethics class that set me on a course I’ve always wanted to explore — that of a classroom teacher.

At the same time, I landed a part-time job as communications coordinator with the nonprofit Portland Workforce Alliance, an organization that partners with local employers and schools to expand career and technical education opportunities for metro-area high school students.

In January, I will add a third leg to this stool as an adjunct instructor at Washington State University Vancouver. I loved being a journalist, but I also feel fortunate to have these new employment opportunities.

The big noventa: My dad turned 90 years old in March, so all three of us kids and our extended families gathered in a San Diego suburb to celebrate nine decades of good living.

My dad and stepmom drove in from New Mexico. Lori and I flew in from Portland. My younger sister Cathy flew down from Alaska. My older sister Rosemary, with help from her daughter and son-in-law, hosted the party near Oceanside.

whole damn family

Thanks to a selfie stick, four generations of Redes gather around Dad (in black hat) in honor of his 90th birthday.

Catarino Allala Rede is the only sibling left from a family of seven brothers and two sisters. It was great to see my dad basking in the love and admiration of his children, grandchildren and great-children. For a man who did manual labor all his life and whose formal education stopped at the eighth grade before he went back later in life to get a G.E.D., he’s done pretty damn well.

A baseball road trip: In May, I made a whirlwind trip that allowed me to see four Major League Baseball games in three cities in five days. I flew into Pittsburgh, then drove to Cleveland and on to Cincinnati.

In all, I covered about 400 miles from western Pennsylvania to Ohio, traveling the length of the Buckeye State through gently rolling landscapes. With Lori’s blessing, I stayed in three airbnb rentals and took the opportunity to see new sights, experience unfamiliar places, and visit with new and old friends in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

Cool concerts: There were only three this year involving pop artists, but each was satisfying in its own right.

Got to see Jackson Browne at Edgefield in August and he was outstanding. A month earlier, I saw the Dixie Chicks at a Clark County amphitheater just north of Portland and they were exceptional. Their July concert came at a time when I was feeling down, given a spasm of fatal shootings of both civilians and cops in three states.

In November, I saw Liz Longley, a favorite singer-songwriter, for the second time in 18 months, this time in the intimate space of the Alberta Rose Theater.

Excellent books: All that free time I had in the first few months of the year enabled me to dive into the world of literature. Although I slowed down considerably after going back to work, I still managed to plow through 15 books.

They ran the gamut — everything from a young reader books about a transgender youth (“George” by Alex Gino) and a deaf baseball player (“The William Hoy Story” by Nancy Churnin) to a gritty collection of stories about the Motor City (“Detroit” by Charlie LeDuff) to a rape survivor’s memoir (“Lucky” by Alice Sebold) to a sweeping novel about race, culture and class in Nigeria and the United States (“Americanah” by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie.

There was lots more by the likes of John Updike, Steig Larsson, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Lauren Groff, Celeste Ng, Anne Hillerman and Robert Goodlick. You’ll find a synopsis of each one here: Books & Literature.

PIFF: Early in the year, I joined the ranks of volunteers at the 39th annual Portland International Film Festival. In exchange for helping to greet patrons, take tickets, etc., I got to see six movies for free at three theaters during the month of February.

It was a lot of fun and I’d like to do it again, but not this year. Too much going on with my three part-time jobs to even consider it.

Urban hikes: Another luxury during the first half of the year was exploring my own city with the help of a great guidebook, “Portland Hill Walks” by Laura O. Foster.

I made a routine of selecting a route that took me into mostly unfamiliar neighborhoods, where I learned a lot about the city’s history, geography and demographics. Hard to say which were my favorites, but I do recall the pleasant surprise of discovering Marshall Park in Southwest Portland and getting thoroughly soaked when I hiked through the jewel that is Washington Park.

Island getaways: We made it up to our cabin on Orcas Island three times. Each time is like opening a valve and releasing the stress that comes with living in a city of 632,000 people and an urban area of 2.4 million. Compare that to maybe 2,000 folks total on Orcas.

We’re blessed to have a place where we can hike and kayak, read, play board games, feed the birds and watch old movies — all in a beautiful place that offers Solitude with a capital S.

This year, we enjoyed a parade and community potluck on the Fourth of July weekend and hosted our longtime friends, Bob and Deborah Ehlers. We did our best to make their three-night stay a memorable one, with excursions to Doe Bay, Eagle Lake and Mount Constitution.

Pets: We lost our beloved Otto in July, shortly after our final trip to the island and just a week before Emalyn was born. He was a Jack Russell Terrier, 11 years old, blessed with a sweet disposition, and loved by all who knew him. Otto was especially close to Lori and had earned the status of “The Fourth Child.” Fittingly, he died of an an enlarged heart.

Before Otto died, he schooled little Charlotte, our Terrier-Pug-Chihuahua mix, in the ways of the world. She misses him, for sure, but she has blossomed as the sole focus of our canine attention. Charlotte and I survived a run-in with two pit bulls at a dog park, but she’s healed completely and is becoming more social with other dogs and humans.

Mabel, now the senior pet, continues to rule the roost in her own bedroom, a sweet brown tabby who refuses to come downstairs and interact with Charlotte.

Voices of August: No recap would be complete without mention of my annual guest blog project and post-publication meetup. For six years now, I’ve opened up the blog to a different writer each day during the month of August. It’s a wonderful thing to see — a diverse group of friends, relatives and co-workers from all over the country (and even abroad) each taking a turn writing about an issue or an experience that never fails to entertain, inform or resonate with an online audience.

This year’s VOA gathering was held at a Northeast Portland brewpub not far from our home and drew folks from three states, including my compadre, Al Rodriguez, and his lovely wife (and first-time VOA contributor), Elizabeth Lee.

***

hillary-buttonLike the other 65 million-plus Americans who voted for Hillary Clinton, I wish we were inaugurating the nation’s first female president. Instead, I’m left to hope that in 2017 we can endure the worst of what a Trump presidency can bring and begin building a coalition that returns the White House to someone we can put our trust in.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Christmas 2016 rewind

siblings

The Rede siblings: Jordan, Simone and Nathan

There’s always such a long buildup to the holidays and then — poof! — they’re gone.

Well, not entirely. We still have New Year’s Eve to look forward to.

But, still, it feels as though we’ve crested the roller coaster and now we’re easing toward the final days of the year.

Quick, before the calendar leaps ahead, a look back at a fine celebration.

Friday: We got the party started on the 23rd. Lori’s brother, Jim, and his splendid wife, Judi, came over for dinner and to join us in hanging out with Jordan, Jamie and Emalyn.

jordan-judi-jim

The three Js: Jordan with his Aunt Judi and Uncle Jim.

Over tamales, refried beans, beer and wine, we shared stories about parenthood and grand-parenthood, now that we’ve joined the club. Jim and Judi have six.

Jordan and Jamie arrived the day before to attend the wedding of their friends, Vaughn and Candy, so it was nice to have them plant themselves for a few days.

Saturday: The celebration continued with a gathering at our place and a traditional hors d’hoevres dinner featuring more than a dozen appetizers to fill your plate. Lori likes this option more than an elaborate sit-down meal and who are we to disagree?

Along with Jordan & Jamie, we also had Simone & Kyndall and Nathan & Sara with us — a rare treat to have all three children and their spouses/partners. (Next year, they’ll scatter to be with their partners’ families.)

Another rarity: Lori and I joined Simone at a Christmas Eve service at a neighborhood church, Augustana Lutheran, known for its resident jazz quartet and national leadership as a sanctuary congregation. Nice to be in a church that respects all cultures and faiths and lives up to the values it preaches.

We made time for an early celebration of two birthdays — Jordan’s and mine — and called it a night.

Sunday: Not long after breakfast, the opening of gifts resumed, this time with Emalyn at front and center. This perpetually smiling baby turned five months old the day before and we were delighted to have her here for her first Christmas.

lori-emalyn

Nonni Lori and lil’ Emalyn.

A little after noon, we packed up Charlotte and headed over to Simone & Kyndall’s for a full day of activities and a four-star meal, painstakingly prepared by the two ladies.

simone-kyndall-2

Our hosts: Simone and Kyndall.

Food may be the fuel but family is the real nourishment at times like these. It’s so good to be around your adult children and their wonderful partners. There were no issues with the dogs — four in total, each of them weighing 15 pounds or less — and the only glitch came when we settled in to watch “Elf.”

Evidently, too many neighbors on the Internet foiled our plan to watch Will Ferrell in his Oscar-winning (er, unforgettable) role as Buddy the Elf.

No biggie. We all left with full bellies and full hearts. Isn’t that what every family wants from this holiday season?

Sounds of the season

concert2

Members of the Portland Intergenerational Choir perform at Pacifica Calaroga Terrace.

Monday nights usually find me at the bowling alley, sipping on a cold beer and enjoying the company of my teammates. Last night, I departed from that routine and instead found myself in the chapel of an assisted living facility.

The reason?

Lori and I went to see our daughter, Simone, perform Christmas carols and other songs as part of the Portland Intergenerational Women’s Choir. With choir members ranging in age from 10 to 80 years old, it was a musical and visual experience that lifted our spirits. Just the kind of thing to put us in a proper mood for the hectic holidays to come.

It was charming to see about 30 women of all ages gathered together to sing all the traditional songs (“Silent Night,” “Deck The Halls,” and more) as well as the 1961 classic “Stand By Me.” Five preteen girls stood next to each other, one row above four older ladies seated in chairs. All around them were women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, etc. In the back row, a 1-year-old named Edith bobbed and bounced on the shoulders of her young mother.

All were singing with abandon, with more joy than technique. But that was the appealing thing. And I don’t think I’m being too hokey saying their happiness radiated into the audience of about 50, many of them residents of the facility who came with walkers and wheelchairs. Three choir members, in fact, live there in the high-rise retirement community known as Pacifica Calaroga Terrace.

***

Simone has always loved singing. Since middle school, she’s been a part of one choir or another, performing around the metro area and even touring internationally with the Portland Symphonic Girlchoir and the Grant High School Royal Blues.

concert3

Choir director Crystal Akins urges the audience to sing along.

She was excited to invite us to her latest group, a choral residency choir that teams up with nursing and assisted living homes to provide weekly on-site rehearsals to residents and community members.

The director is Crystal Akins, a cheerful and energetic woman who sang with Simone back in her Girl Choir days. Crystal leads multiple choirs, including one serving inmates at a women’s prison in Wilsonville and another serving homeless youth in Beaverton.

Talk about walking the walk.

***

concert4

A post-concert photo of two lovelies: Lori and Simone

Though the concert was upbeat, there was a touch of melancholy associated with the venue.

Calaroga Terrace, a mile from our home, is where Lori’s mother lived in the final years of her life after she had moved up from San Francisco to be closer to us and other family members. Virginia, a devout Catholic, would attend services in the chapel where the concert was held. She died 11 years ago and neither Lori nor I had been there since.

We’re not sure if Virginia would have joined the choir had it been an option. But we’re certain she would have loved seeing her granddaughter sing — and no doubt would have joined in on the Christmas carols.

Orcas to Spanaway

oi-dawn2

A magnificent view of Mount Baker at dawn.

Aahh. Nothing like a getaway week to our island cabin to let the urban stresses melt away.

We traveled up to Orcas Island last week to spend a few days decompressing. We did some work around the house initially and went out one day to play nine holes of golf, but mostly laid low rather than go out hiking or kayaking. And that was just fine.

(Click on images to view captions.)

Except for one dinner with friends and a glass of wine with neighbors, we did no socializing. Nothing wrong with just relaxing, reading, watching a movie and playing some Scrabble. Especially when you’re sitting on the perimeter of pristine Eagle Lake.

This was our first trip to the island since our faithful companion, Otto, died. We scattered some of his ashes in the garden and took comfort in knowing he loved the island as much as we do. In his absence, we spent quality time with Charlotte walking on the roads and trails above our house.

At the end of the visit, we headed down to Spanaway, outside Tacoma, and spent a couple days and nights visiting our youngest son, his wife and their infant daughter. Our grandchild, Emalyn, turned eight weeks old on Sunday and we were glad to be there. The only previous time we’d seen her was right after her birth.

She’s a charmer — a happy, healthy baby who’s growing up incredibly fast.

In Spanaway, it was more down time. We went out to breakfast Saturday morning — a first for Emalyn; Lori went shopping with Jamie; and Jordan and I went to a local theater to see the latest “Star Trek” movie. All in all, a very satisfying week away from home.