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Christmas, 2005

Despite the rumors, I have not fallen off the face of the Earth…. (You would think since Chris Columbus proved that to be pretty much impossible, people would quit spreading rumors like that!) Pardon my lack of communication for the last 2 years… A combination of life events, plus the decrease of energy with the increase of birthdays are to blame. But fear not, I WILL DO THIS ON TIME THIS YEAR!!!!

At the end of 2003 I actually had the Christmas Volume written, and intended to send it out the week between Christmas and New Years. That plan disappeared after the retrieval of a voice mail message on the evening of December 28th. It was from my sister, Jo. (aka: Julie) “Mom just called. Dad’s had a heart attack and they’re taking him to the hospital…..” At first I figured Dad had chest pains from indigestion and my mom insisted he go to the hospital. Certainly this wasn’t serious… we had just had a great Christmas together. Dad looked fine two days before as I drove out of the Ranchette, with him and mom standing in the yard waving good-bye just as they had done a hundred times before. He was not fine, and that would be the last time I saw him alive. Instead of spending the week writing personal notes on Christmas letters, I attempted to write a eulogy. Oddly enough, I was living the whole scenario that has come to be my quest; helping others to pre-arrange funeral plans so they aren’t doing it while in shock and grieving. A week and a half before Dad died, I had begun my new job as a Family Service Counselor at Sacramento Memorial Lawn…a funeral home and cemetery. I regret that I am able to empathize with the families I serve during their loss…. I would much rather only be able to sympathize, and still have Dad here. He was my step-dad, but somewhere in the 32 years he welcomed me home, fixed my cars, helped me build things, and proudly called me his son, the ‘step’ part faded away. I still occasionally forget he is gone, and think to myself, “I need to ask Dad how to fix this.”

The year 2004 presented many new experiences, and brought challenges, and wrinkles and gray hair. I went home frequently to help Mom get settled into her ‘new’ home next door to Jo and her family. (She moved off the Ranchette within two weeks of Dad’s death.) The task of dissolving someone’s kingdom is not easy…but, I will expound on that when I write ‘the rest of the story.’

Other stretching areas included learning the business of caring for the dead, or more to the point, caring for the families and survivors of the dead. It’s VERY interesting work, and very fulfilling. To walk perfect strangers through one of the hardest times of their lives is an amazing feeling. It’s not the gloomy, depressed and tearful scene that people usually imagine when they think of a funeral home. I rarely see tears in the arrangement room while meeting with the survivors. (And let me tell you, I’m happy about that! I’m sure it comes as no surprise to any of you that I have a hard time not getting teary eyed right along with them.) I have a ton of stories to share about ‘life at the funhouse’. I’m thinking of pitching my stories to Hollywood since “Six Feet Under” went off the air…. The title would be “Five and a Half Feet Under”, just to magnify the oddities that occur on a regular basis when working in such a culturally diverse location (aka: the ‘hood.) and with such a plethora of personality types in the form of co-workers. I think it would be a cross between a survivor type reality show, a soap opera, and a comedy all in one.

At long last, I have become a Mortgage Owner! Yes, it’s true, I finally bought a home, of sorts. It’s a ‘half-plex’, which for those of us not so up on real estate lingo, is half of a duplex. It’s roomy enough for me to rattle around in w/out getting claustrophobic, yet not so big that I have to devote a lot of time cleaning and maintaining it. I have it decorated to resemble a cabin, and/or a ranch house….complete with a deer head sporting giant antlers over the fireplace. When I get my website back up, I’ll post some pics on it for youse to see.

O.K…. I see my attempt to abbreviate hasn’t worked so far, so I have to kick it down, or these won’t get out by the end of the week, and I HAVE to meet that goal. So here we go:

As I mentioned, I’ll be getting my website ( ) up and running in January. (YES, 2006!!! I heard those un-believers!) I will post the 2003 letter on it, and eventually the 2004 and 2005 letters as well. (Eventually being a relative term...) So, with that being said, I will (try to) summarize in short and non-comedic sentences this years highlights, and bring you up to date on my whereabouts.

2005 in a nutshell, from a nutcase:

• Learned why painters make so much money… it’s hard work!

• Retired from youth work in June… 12 good years… lots of good relationships made with my Rodents.

• Little by little, divided, moved or disposed of all Dads’ barnyard treasures. One of the hardest things I will ever do in my life…dissolving someone’s kingdom. It only hurts if you loved them. It hurt.

• Did a family trip to Southern California for an awesome weekend with our very special relatives, Mickey, Loogie, Lorena and her family. It’s always a party being w/ them, regardless of whether we’re sitting around just flappin’ jaws, or livin’ large! 

• A few weeks later I was back at Lorena’s home for a couple of nights so I could attend an R.O.U.S. (Rodent of unusual size) wedding in San Diego. Jeremy, my tallest and very special Rodent, married Jaime, who is now one of my favorite Rodent – in – laws! I welcomed her to the herd long before Jeremy asked her to marry him… Some things a Rodent Master just knows about his Rodents.

• The morning after their wedding, I had to leave Orange County at 5:30 to drive 5 hours to Jo’s lake cabin. Nephews Brad & Matt from Texas were there for a visit. Matt brought the newest member of the family along with him… his wonderful wife, Nicole! It was her first trip to see us (and California, too). Naturally we had a grand time playing in the water and eating way too much.

• Lost my good friend, Kurt, to Cancer on August 20th. He went from diagnosis to death in 25 days. We grew to be good friends through his son, Jered, a Rodent, turned R.O.U.S. I called Kurt my OLDER brother, emphasizing the ‘older’ as much as possible, even though he was a mere 3 years ahead of me. He took the teasing in stride, as he did everything else. During his last 10 minutes of life, as his breathing became more difficult, I felt my own intake of air become more shallow…I’m not sure if it was due to a subconscious attempt to match his rhythm… maybe wanting to breathe for him…or because of emotional overload… or because I was trying to think of what to do or say to his wonderful wife, Kim, when he exhaled for the last time… Didn’t have to think about it when it happened. We both just stood there and cried softly… We knew Kurt was now it God’s heavenly kingdom. No tears for him were needed. We cried because one of the most remarkable men either of us has ever known would not be with us any more. I was humbled when asked to help with the funeral home arrangements, and with planning Kurt’s memorial service. I can do this all day long for people I don’t know and not feel any pain. But once again, it only hurts if you love them… It hurt.

• Took Mom on a surprise trip back to her hometown of Lingle, Wyoming. Had lunch in a small café where we were able to speak to an older cowboy who had been a friend of the doctor that delivered Mom! She was thrilled to hear about the doc. After lunch, she was able to walk into the local beauty salon and have her hair done. (They had just had a cancellation!) It couldn’t have been a better time for her as she got to do two of her favorite things; go out to lunch, and get her hair done. (It’s a chick thing…no, I don’t understand it either, guys!) We visited with friends and relatives in Colorado; Luke & Debbie Glines in Eaton; Kim and Marcia Osteroos in Evergreen; and all the Jones clan in Grand Junction. We were treated as royalty at every stop. Thanks to all of you for making Mom’s trip so wonderful. (It was great for me too!)

• Won a trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico from the Funhouse! What a blast! Went parasailing over the ocean, snorkeling at a resort, and rode a tiny burro into a bar, led by an amigo who looked like Juan Valdez, the Folgers coffee dude…(have the pictures…not sure if I’ll post those on the website!)

There! I did it! A summary… of sorts. O.K., not the shortest summary you’ve probably ever read, but a summary, nonetheless!

A special note to all of you kind friends and family who have been faithful in sending your cards and letters during these last few years of silence from me. THANK YOU TOO MUCH!!! You’re the bomb! The COOLEST! The Cat’s Meow! The bee’s knees! (whatever the sam hill that means!) So, thanks.

Mailing address: PO Box 2244, Fair Oaks, CA 95628

Please send your latest e-dress to my latest e-dress so that I may keep you informed as cool stuff is added to my website…(when I have a website to be added to, that is!)

Well that about does it! As always, I wish you all a very MERRY CHRISTMAS, AND HAPPY NEW YEAR. Don’t forget to wish Jesus a Happy Birthday!



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