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Snazdad

Started: 2022-03-16 20:21:52

Submitted: 2022-03-19 18:51:15

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Getting together with my family to remember my grandfather

For reasons I don't totally understand, my grandparents adopted the nicknames "Snaz" (sometimes expanded to "Snazdad") and "Momeder" (pronounced "mommy-dear", possibly a contraction of "Mommy dearest"). They even got customized California license plates for their cars with their nicknames — license plates I found in their garage going through my grandfather's house after he died.

Sanzdad and Momeder license plates
Sanzdad and Momeder license plates

Once details of the service for my grandfather emerged, Bethany started a group text with all of our cousins to coordinate details. One of my uncles is still sufficiently worried about COVID that he wasn't willing to plan any events other than the outdoor graveside funeral service; but we assembled a coalition of the willing to add extra events as individual pandemic comfort allowed.

Bethany flew in from New York, one group of cousins drove from Portland, and one cousin drove from San Luis Obispo. Two cousins were already living in Folsom so they didn't have far to go.

Friday

We left Santa Cruz at 13:00 on Friday afternoon before President's Day. The proximity to the holiday weekend might have increased traffic on the highways, or it might just have been the normal Bay Area traffic returning after two years' hibernation. We hit traffic driving past Fremont on our way to I-680, and traffic stayed heavy most of the way to Sacramento. Google Maps suggested turning east onto I-580 at Dublin, through Pleasanton (a disembodied destination at the end of my eastbound BART trains when I lived in San Francisco) to avoid even heavier traffic on I-80. I followed the advice and climbed over Altamont Pass into the Central Valley, past Tracy (and a short stop for a snack at a gas station convenience store) and northward towards Sacramento. For the last few miles Google Maps routed me off the highway and onto a series of local roads through fields and scattered housing and the occasional strip mall. As we approached Folsom from the south we saw the signs of incoming housing development: roads running through fields had been widened to four lanes, and earth-moving equipment was grading lots and roads and preparing catch basins for water runoff. Signs (and occasional balloons) bore the names of major home-building companies I recognized. By the time we were within sight of US 50 I saw the first completed homes on the south side of the highway, the vanguard of a major expansion of suburban sprawl.

We coordinated with other family groups attending the funeral to stay at the Hampton Inn and Suites on the outskirts of Folsom, in the shadow of US 50 (with a weirdly convoluted route to get onto the freeway in either direction). Bethany found restaurants willing to make reservations for large groups on their outdoor patios and reserved a big table at Zocalo Folsom. My family was the second group to arrive; we found my cousins Rachel and Rory sitting in the middle of a very long table waiting for everyone else to arrive.

And then, like a whirlwind, everyone else arrived.

Logan cousins at dinner
Logan cousins at dinner

I was sitting in the middle of the table but once everyone had arrived (while we were still trying to figure out what to order) I jumped up to the end of the table for a group selfie. In the picture above, from the left, are me, Kiesa, Julian, Calvin, Willy, Vero, Melissa, Jamison, Suzi, my mother, Bethany, Rachel, Rory, and my father.

Logan cousins at dinner, from the other end of the table
Logan cousins at dinner, from the other end of the table

And then I went around to the other side of the table. I hadn't missed anyone, but the change in perspective makes it easier to see the people sitting at the far end.

This was the biggest group I'd been a part of since the beginning of the pandemic nearly two years ago, and it felt surprisingly normal. I had not seen my cousins at least since the last Logan family reunion in 2018, and it was good to be able to see people again.

Willy found an envelope of cash in a draw in my grandfather's house and gave it to my father, so Snaz bought everyone dinner.

Saturday

The graveside funeral service was scheduled for the afternoon, so in the morning we met for coffee in Folsom. After breakfast in the hotel I drove with Bethany a couple of blocks down the big commercial strip in Folsom stretching along Bidwell Street from US 50 to Temple Coffee Roasters. We got there first and staked out a table on the patio with my pour-over coffee and a massive almond croissant (that was plenty big enough even after Bethany and I split it).

Pour-over coffee at Temple Coffee Roasters
Pour-over coffee at Temple Coffee Roasters

Most of the family crowd from dinner the previous night made it (the only exception being my family; Kiesa took Julian to the hotel pool for the morning) and we sprawled out on the patio, an amoeba-like blob incorporating multiple tables and supporting multiple concurrent conversations. (We were back in meatspace so it meant we got to physically move into different groups to have side conversations, and shuffle organically between these groups, rather than try to have small break-out rooms attached to the large video conference, which never works as well as it's supposed to.)

Jaeger and the cousins at Temple Coffee Roasters
Jaeger and the cousins at Temple Coffee Roasters

After coffee we went to my grandparents' house in Fair Oaks (the next suburb to the west from Folsom, along US 50 in the direction of Sacramento). Since my last visit there on Sunday, all of the cabinets and drawers had been emptied out and the contents spread out on every available surface, in an attempt to make it easier for the family to go through the china and crystal and silverware and cookware and towels and linens and everything else in the house. Kiesa arrived with the kids and we all picked through and sorted the things my grandparents left behind to select artifacts and mementos we wanted for ourselves. At this point everyone had been given a chance to take a first pass through the house, and everything left was fair game.

We left my grandparents' house to return to the hotel to get dressed for the graveside funeral service. I discovered, somewhat to my surprise, that despite two years of pandemic stress eating I still fit the dark funeral suit I bought in the fall of 2016. The rest of my family needed to update their funeral outfits; Julian wore the same clothing that Calvin wore to my grandmother's funeral five years ago. We bought new clothing for Calvin, including his first-ever real tie (though I tied it for him because I was too lazy to try to teach him to wear it, an I'm not sure how much experience he'll get tying his own tie anyway).

Calvin dressed for the funeral
Calvin dressed for the funeral

(Notice the fire alarm in the background of the picture of Calvin above. It's photographic foreshadowing.)

The graveside funeral service was held at Lakeside Memorial Lawn Cemetery, on the other side of Folsom from the hotel we stayed at. (On the map the cemetery is located on a bluff above Lake Natoma, but from the ground I couldn't see the lake. We found seats under a temporary awning placed above the open grave.

Dad talks at Grandpa Logan's service
Dad talks at Grandpa Logan's service

My father opened the service and started out by pointing out some of my grandfather's less exemplary behavior: his racist and sexist comments that got worse as he aged and lost the filters that might have restrained some of his remarks. Having called out the behavior, my father pointed out that his father was more than that: he lived a full and complex life, was a father and grandfather (and great-grandfather), a dentist, and an active member of his church community. This seemed like an appropriate way to talk about it (possibly especially because we were all family, and we'd seen our share of the comments over the years), then to set it aside and also consider the rest of the person we were there to remember.

Bethany talks at Grandpa Logan's service
Bethany talks at Grandpa Logan's service

A local pastor stood up to give a homily (I think he was the only non-family member there), then representative grandchildren stood up to talk about their memories. Everyone who spoke had seen a different facet of my grandparents and shared that with us.

The service wrapped up and we lined up for a big family picture in front of the hedge on the side of the cemetery.

The entire Logan family
The entire Logan family

In the picture we had my grandfather's four children, their spouses, all twelve grandchildren, six of their spouses, and four great-grandchildren. (Missing from the group were two grandchildren's spouses and two great-grandchildren; the group picture also included a step-grandchild and their partner.) This was the first time I'd met three of my cousins' spouses, and the two babies in the picture had been born during the pandemic.

All the Logan cousins (feat. Calvin and Julian)
All the Logan cousins (feat. Calvin and Julian)

We let the Boomers escape the picture and took another picture with all of my cousins and our children.

Calvin, Jaeger, Kiesa, and Julian
Calvin, Jaeger, Kiesa, and Julian

And finally we took a picture of my family; though by this point it was clear that Julian was done taking pictures.

Logans gather after the graveside service
Logans gather after the graveside service

We broke up into groups on the cemetery lawn and I talked to my cousins while the cemetery staff lowered my grandfather's casket into the grave, moved the awning out of the way, and cleared away the chairs and carpet so they could refill the grave with the dirt that had been removed. It seemed a bit hasty to fill the grave with the mourners still there, especially when they asked us to move further from the gravesite so they had enough room to move their backhoe.

Julian orbits Kiesa while she talks to Willy and Vero
Julian orbits Kiesa while she talks to Willy and Vero

We left the cemetery and met again for supper at the kind-of-enclosed patio at Lazy Dog in Folsom, which had an adequate supply of vegetarian and vegan food to satisfy our group.

Sunday

I was asleep in my hotel room on Sunday morning when the fire alarm woke me up at 04:30.

I recognized the alarm immediately and the first thing I said was "oh god" because even though I didn't think we were in any real danger (the hotel looked like it had been built within the last ten years so I expected that it had all of the relevant fire safety protections I would hope for) we would still need to evacuate the room and wait for the fire department and it'd be a hassle and even then we might not get back to sleep again. I put on pants and shoes, and grabbed my glasses and laptop bag, and made sure Kiesa had the car keys and our room keys as we evacuated the room. Kiesa and Julian left first, and I followed behind with Calvin. In our room the noise of the alarm was loud and obnoxious; by the time we got to the stairway the alarm reverberated up and down the narrow concrete tube. (I am only slightly noise sensitive but the stairwell was so loud it was approaching physically painful, especially in my sleep-deprived, woken-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night state.) I took the obvious exit and ended up on the back of the hotel, facing the access road, with no one else in site. I led Calvin around the side of the hotel to the front where we found Kiesa and Julian, and we sat in the car to wait for the fire department to arrive and for them to decide we could go back into the hotel.

Fire engine arrives at Hampton Inn and Suites in Folsom
Fire engine arrives at Hampton Inn and Suites in Folsom

A fire truck rolled up after a couple of minutes and sat in front of the main entry with its lights flashing as fire fighters entered the hotel in their gear. About twenty minutes later they turned off the alarm and we were let back into the hotel to try to get some sleep before morning.

We heard later that the cause of the alarm was someone deciding to smoke in their room. I was not amused.

Once we were awake again in the morning (albeit somewhat less well rested than we might have hoped) we ate breakfast, checked out of our hotel, and picked up coffee and doughnuts on our way to my grandparents' house.

My grandparents' living room
My grandparents' living room

This was our last chance to sort through my grandparents' stuff and pick out what we wanted to take. Julian wanted to take the giant four-foot-tall teddy bear (which wouldn't have fit in the car; it's large enough that we would have had to belt it into an unoccupied seat) until we diverted him to my grandmother's collection of Beanie Babies. (This is why comparing NFTs to Beanie Babies is insulting to Beanie Babies: even though the collector's market crashed, the physical artifacts are still worth something as toys for children.)

My grandfather took photos obsessively, and he ended up with stacks and stacks of photo albums dating back decades. One of the downstairs bedrooms had two stacks of photo albums each four feet high in the closet, with more on the shelves. Every room had albums tucked away. (I recognized the tendency to obsess over photos because if I printed out my digital photo archive I'd have to fill endless stacks in the closets and shelves of my house too; though I'd like to believe that at least some of the profligacy in my archive is the result of the ease of managing digital photos over physical ones. I never found my grandfather's stash of negatives, which must have been at least as impressive as the stacks of albums.)

Each album had pithy comments about the events and people depicted in the pictures, sometimes accompanied by brochures and tickets and other ephemera from the sites they visited. One of my aunts led the charge going page-by-page through my grandfather's photo albums trying to find pictures of his children and grandchildren to distribute between the families. I ended up with the one page that shows my grandparents' visit to Butchart Gardens in 2002, accidentally running into Kiesa and I on our honeymoon.

My primary assignment at the house was to help move the furniture that my parents wanted to take into the U-Haul truck they'd rented for the occasion. To do that, though, first Willy and I had to remove the stair lift up the main staircase to the primary bedroom. My grandfather's garage was adequately supplied with tools for this, once I figured out what we actually needed to take apart in what order. (It didn't help, though, that the cabinet doors in the garage fell off in my hands while I was rummaging through the tools because the load of both doors open at once overwhelmed the nails drilled lengthwise into crumbling particle board.) Along the way we tried a couple of power drills, only one of which really worked; I suggested Willy take that one, along with the reciprocating saw I found in a storage closet (and the filthy carrying case for the saw I found in the garage, stocked with blades of dubious provenance).

With the lift out of the way (we dumped it in a pile in the garage and hoped someone else would haul it away) we could get a the dresser out of the primary bedroom and down the stairs, though this still required careful maneuvering to get the bulky piece of furniture around the jog at the top of the stairs and on down the stairs. We had an appliance dolly, which sort of worked, but was not quite the right tool for the job: it was impossible to get it into position to help the dresser down the stairs, and for most of the movements on flat ground an appliance dolly would probably have worked better. But it got the job done, and eventually we loaded the truck with the dresser plus the five-piece corner bookcase in the study, along with an air compressor and another cabinet from one of the downstairs bedrooms.

My grandparents' study
My grandparents' study

By the time we finished loading the truck it was late in the afternoon and it was time for us to head back home to Santa Cruz. We ended up with the back of the car piled high with things we were taking with us: everyone got something to take home. I made one last circuit of the house, saying goodbye to the house I've been able to visit throughout my life; and then we departed Sacramento, driving west towards the Bay Area and home to Santa Cruz.

i'll go sacrifice ken, oops, i mean great spiritual monkeys to the gods,
and keep my fingers crossed.
- Scott Galvin, 01 May 1999