Good Morning Ted and Jody:
We had a long day yesterday. We were away for 14 hours and when we got home we needed to put up a temporary cover over the shed door as rain was in the forecast. That took a couple of hours. I was exhausted; so, I held off writing until this morning.
Pete, one of Pete’s sisters and her husband, McKenzie and her friend, three friends of Ronda, Nancy and I got in Pete’s boat at about 9:30 and headed up river to what McKenzie called, Lake Ronda (a wide spot in the Columbia river below the Columbia River Gorge). The trip up river took about 90 minutes. Pete did not go fast. Nancy asked why he went so slow up the river and was able to get back to the dock in less than a third of the time. I thought there were two reasons. First, with ten people in the boat, I am sure Pete wanted to be careful and find out how it handled before planning. Second, and probably more to the point, this was his final farewell to his wife of over four decades. He was grim-faced on the trip up river. Indeed, when it can to committing Ronda’s ashes to the river, he broke down for a short time.
Each of us on the boat committed some of her ashes to the river along with a long stemmed rose. Each seem to take varying time in what seemed to me their saying good bye, prayers and the like. Because it took some time, the roses drifted off and I was not quick witted enough to get the large number of them in a shot. I was only able to capture three in one photo.
After, we went to the yacht club where Pete and Ronda kept their boat for a luncheon. Pete had invited 70 people and set it up for 70. 78 showed up. Buster’s BBQ catered the event with western fare and Ronda’s favorite desert, hot fudge sundaes, followed. A friend of Ronda’s with some computer and media savvy put together a DVD with photos, 8 mm and then digital clips of her life played to the back ground of “Help Me Ronda” and several 60s era songs. I finally began to lose it when the DVD played. After the DVD about a dozen people got up and told stories in which Ronda was a central character. I was still feeling the emotional release after the DVD and did not trust that I could maintain coherence, so did not speak.
The stories people relayed and the different role and response Ronda played and displayed in each of those stories, highlighted for me how we all see people differently and have different experiences with them. Yet, they are the same people. I suppose there is some sense in which everyone plays a different role in different situations or around different people. As her big brother, I was allowed to see more of her vulnerability and inner conflicts than the women who was her assistant principle in Medford, or the teacher from Martin Luther King Elementary in Portland. One friend talked about how they got drunk together on a camping trip and some of her education friends seems surprised. The stories that surprised me dealt with her “great sense of humor.” Our father had a dry, but extensive sense of humor that Ronda never got. She was described by one person as never taking herself seriously. Unfortunately, she always took our father seriously and I fear, by association, me.
My first memory of Ronda falling victim to Dad’s sense of humor was when she was in the First Grade. Mom had taken a job at the local television station and had to be at work at 6:00 A.M. So, Dad, having a more flexible schedule, cooked us breakfast and got us off to school. Ronda’s favorite breakfast involved toast and soft boiled eggs. One morning she found a piece of egg shell in her eggs and complained loudly about it. The next morning Dad, initially, served her the egg shells in a bowel, quickly substituting the proper part of the eggs. Ronda subsequently declared that Cheerios were her favorite breakfast. Dad’s black humor that morning did not sit well with her. Dad never learned; and, Ronda apparently never forgave him. So, while there was a side of her that may have not taken herself seriously, there was not one that took Dad other than seriously. Pity.
When Ronda was alive, I thought about her on occasion. Since she died, I think of her every day. I suppose there is a sense in which those who knew her have to keep her alive in our minds.
Warmest regards, Ed