january 19th would have been my grandma florence’s 94th birthday. she wanted to be cremated, and her ashes had been in a box in my parent’s guest bedroom closet since soon after she died last march. my mom and i decided that her birthday was a good day to scatter her ashes – the next thing was to decide where. in 2010 we took gflo to our friends’ vineyard, harris bridge, to go wine tasting. it was a lovely warm late-summer day, and we sat on their deck while amanda played with their young daughter and nathan brought us tastes of the dessert wine they make. each time he came out with a bottle he’d ask us what we thought of the last one. gflo wasn’t a fan of sweet wine, and she let him know. so much so that last year when i mentioned to him that my grandma had died, he said, “the one who hated our wine?”
gflo liked the idea of her ashes ending up in the pacific ocean, because that’s where my grandpa fred’s ashes were scattered by the fiendish-sounding neptune society when he died about fifteen years ago. the marys river (yep, no apostrophe) runs under harris bridge, meets up with the willamette near downtown corvallis, which empties into the columbia in portland, and eventually out into the pacific near astoria. mom researched local statutes about scattering ashes, which is an ok thing to do if you have the landowner’s permission. nathan and amanda were glad to have their vineyard be part of the story again, and mom and i made plans for the 19th.
time for a related story.
i moved to corvallis less than a year after my grandpa fred died, to teach a primary multiage class in jefferson. the kids ate lunch in our classroom, which i grew to really love. some of the most interesting conversations i’ve ever had took place when i was sitting in a tiny chair at a low round table with a few 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders. one in particular comes to mind.
the conversation was about grandfathers. i said that my grandpa fred had died (it was still recent enough that my breath caught when i talked about him). one of the kids asked me if i visited his grave. i got to, “he doesn’t have a grave, he was–” before it occurred to me that i had to finish the sentence – “cremated.” “what’s cremated?” asked one of the kids. i proceeded to explain in as little detail as possible while still being accurate. tyson, in the picture, shouted, “they burned up your dead grandpa?” yep, they did. another question, “what did you do with his ashes?” i said that they had been scattered in the ocean. tyson again - “they threw your dead grandpa off a boat?” yep, i guess that’s exactly what happened. and it was the first time in months that was able to think about my grandpa and laugh. thank goodness for second graders.
mom and i wanted to do something when we scattered gflo’s ashes, but nothing too fussy because she wouldn’t have liked that. i suggested that mom read the obituary she wrote (it was really for both of her parents, because there wasn’t one for grandpa when he died). she asked me to read the blog post i wrote about gflo. we decided to get a bottle of harris bridge wine so we could toast our mother and grandmother.
on her birthday, we brought gflo’s ashes to harris bridge in the snazzy quilted bag we got for that purpose last year on mother’s day. january 19th, 2013, was cold and cloudy, but at least it wasn’t raining. we unpacked her ashes, brought along the wine, and walked up to the bridge.
mom opened the plastic bag inside the box, and let gflo’s ashes fall into the marys river. she read the obituary and we drank a little wine.
we walked down to a spot along the river, and i read my blog post. there was more wine drinking, and less tears than i would have expected. i think that my mom and i both feel really thankful to have had gflo around as long as we did. grandpa too. they were pretty damn cool people to know.
i’m looking forward to wine tasting at harris bridge on a warm day this summer – i’ll sit on the deck and look out at the marys river, and raise a glass to my fabulous grandma florence.