My Papa

There is that phrase that's often used in novels to describe a male character: "strong and silent". It's always a mysterious and a little bit romantic, the strong and silent man. For me though, it's always been a completely apt description of my maternal grandfather, my Papa. 

Papa recently passed from here into Eternity, and although he was indeed a large man, it was his very presence that was larger than life. The void that he has left is that of a black hole that we are all standing on the edge of it, staring in to, wondering how such a great emptiness will ever be filled.

From the last time that Kamuela and I got to see Papa. 

For most of my young childhood, I was shyly afraid of my Papa. As I said, he was the strong silent type and that lends itself to not being the warm and fuzzy type. He wasn't scary because he was rude or mean or anything negative like that, no, he was scary simply by being entirely too intimidating to a school-aged child. But that all changed one day, when I was at Grammy and Papa's house and Grammy had bought Papa a new pair of tennis-shoes. I stood in the living room while Papa sat on the davenport to try on his new shoes. He flipped open the shoe box, looked at the white shoes nestled inside, and looked up at me, deadpan and said "Well I guess they didn't have pink." I was completely taken aback at the thought of Papa wanting pink shoes and I can't help laugh even now as I recount the story. From that day on, Papa was no longer scary to me, just strong and silent, and surprisingly hilarious with his quick wit and dry humor. I noticed more the twinkle in his eye and came to appreciate that although his words were few, they were weighty and he was not one to waste them.

When Papa passed away, many of us, his family, posted pictures of him to social media, in remembrance. My brother Brad however, posted a photo of the Cow Camp cabin and so eloquently captioned it: "A photo of this place is as much a photo of him as any. So many amazing memories because of this incredible man..." and that really couldn't be more true. Cow Camp, a little red, two room cabin in the middle of an overgrown meadow, found down a rutted dirt road in the middle of the woods, next to a tiny little crick, under a wide open Central Oregon sky... IS Papa.  Because of Papa, I spent a week of every summer of my life (only missed 2 or 3 that I remember), at Cow Camp, surrounded by the Montgomery clan, getting eaten by mosquitos, sunburned, dirty and blissfully happy. My love for pancakes, fishing, campfires, s'mores, lake swimming, and family time is a direct result of all those weeks at Cow Camp and I could not be more grateful.

These recent holidays have been good, although slightly bittersweet. For my entire life, Christmas has always be at Grammy and Papa's house. And even once I started dating Josh and had to make concessions to spending time with his family as well, I was still comforted knowing that there was still a Christmas tree in the front room at Grammy and Papa's house. After Grammy passed away, in 2010, it was hard to imagine that Papa could exist without her, but somehow he did, and the tree was still put up every December, envelopes with each persons name were still placed in the branches of the tree, holding our Christmas cash, and Grammy's famous sweet potatoes still got made. This year though... this year there wasn't a tree. There wasn't family filling every room, piling their plates with food and fighting over the hot rolls. This year, as my own little family celebrated Christmas in Washington and then at my mom's house in Oregon, my heart couldn't help but be a little sad, knowing that there was no Christmas at Papa's house anymore. It's these kind of things that really bring Papa's passing into reality, a reality I'm not sure that I am ready for. 

We had an open house memorial for both Grammy and Papa but it still doesn't feel like we've been able to say a proper goodbye, or at least that's how I feel. And I don't think I'll really feel like I can say goodbye until I get back to Cow Camp, his favorite place in the world. Until then, I stand on the edge of this gaping hole in my life and hold on to the thirty years of memories that I have with my sweet Papa. 


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