Hi there. Maybe you thought I was done blogging. :)
Sally and I are still here, and we had a fun day. First, we went to ASAP print shop and ordered copies of photos of Tank. Terry had this great color photo of Tank sitting in front of a restaurant, all casual, all cute. Maybe two years ago. God, he's beautiful. He looks SO relaxed and mellow and present. I tumble into those feelings when I look at the photo. So, I had 120 copies made on photo paper. It's about 8 x 9 inches. I can't tell the copies from the original. I'll distribute them to Nola and Tank's kids, grandkids, siblings, nieces, and nephews, plus a few others I can think of. If you know someone else who might want one, let me know.
People in Morro Bay know Tank. When I picked the order up at ASAP, an elderly woman who worked there brought me the box of photos. English wasn't her cradle language, and she seemed nervous when she said to me, "Is your...husband...okay?" It should have occurred to me that the people there would know Tank, since he has a LOT of copies made. I said gently, "Tank's my dad, and he passed away the day before yesterday." She gasped, and turned away, sobbing. She walked away from me, to hide her feelings. It was poignant, and there was no one to comfort her, because the other employees were teenage boys, and I couldn't get to her because she was behind the counter. She gathered herself, and returned to the counter to talk to me about him. She wanted a lot of information, and clearly adored him. She asked how old he was, and I said 78, and she said "So young!" :) Dear, huh.
The middle-aged man next to me saw what was going on, and showed some curiosity and concern. What a friendly town! I opened the box and showed him the photo, and he said, "I know him! I've seen him around!" I have a feeling that if we stayed for another few days, that same scenario would play out over and over again.
In fact, when Terry and I were on the way home from the hospital on Thursday, right after Tank passed away, Terry wanted to stop at the liquor store to get boxes to pack up Tank's stuff. I walked into Bottle Liquor, and said to the young man behind the counter, "Do you know Tank Nelson?" "I sure do!" he said. He said his name was Nick, and he asked how Tank was doing. I told him that Tank had just passed away, and he looked startled, and maybe dizzy, and he grabbed the counter. "No!" he said. "No!" I was a little surprised; it seemed so deeply felt. "God, I loved Tank," he said. "You sweetheart," I said in a consoling tone, and a customer put his arm around my shoulder and told me he was sorry for my loss. "Tank was a good guy," the customer said. When I asked for boxes, Nick told me to take all the boxes I wanted.
Today after ASAP, Sally and I headed for Guadalupe, about an hour from Morro Bay. We had a terrific lunch at Larry's (I think it's actually called Guadalupe Restaurant), and after we asked our waiter if he knew Tank. He furrowed his brow, and we said something like, "A big guy, from Morro Bay, comes in here with his wife." He knew exactly who we meant, and recited their order. :) We told him of Tank's passing, and he talked about how friendly Tank was, and how much his mom and dad (the owners) liked Tank. We went next door to the Masatani Market, where Tank always buys Hershey bars after lunch. Mr. Masatani wasn't in, but his son was, and knew Tank, and referred to him as The Writer. The son took us back to Larry's, where his elderly mother was chatting with Mrs. Larry. The two women joined me and Sally and the Masatani son on the sidewalk in front of the building, and we chatted for about ten minutes. It was such a treat! They knew so many things about Tank, and asked questions, and offered condolences. Once, Tank wrote a column about the restaurant and the grocery store, which share a building on the main drag in Guadalupe. All of them were warm and affectionate and clearly moved by Tank's passing. Sally and I drove away, beaming.
We didn't exactly get lost on the way back to Morro Bay, but we did a lot of Unscheduled Site-Seeing. A couple hour's worth. We arrived just before the print shop closed, and we missed out on the farmers' market and True Grit, and that was okay.
The day before, we'd been at Terry's place, and she approached me and Sally with a serious look and said, "I'm afraid there will be no inheritance from your father." :) We tried not to giggle. I tried to arrange my face in a way that would suggest both devastation and resignation. "Say it ain't so..." Minutes later, she reported that there'd been something like 36 missed calls that day, and as many the previous day. People who heard the news stood out front looking dismayed and confused. Jim from Spencer's came to the door, and I gave him the cribbage board, and he hugged me longer and tighter than I would have predicted. He said he would spread the word, since there wouldn't be an obituary in the local paper. Surfaces in the house are covered with notes and letters and flowers and pies and fresh fruit. People keep calling. I've been thinking about how there are things that we inherit other than money.
Two of Terry's daughters flew in from Georgia today, and they're staying with her. We visited them briefly tonight. They were very sweet. Terry seems to be holding up very well, and the presence of her daughters seems to have calmed her. Sally and I boxed up everything of Tank's. Everything, really. We're bringing most of it home, but will need to return with a truck for a desk, a small table, and lots of paintings, wall hangings, and posters. One such masterpiece is a white piece of poster board on which Jack drew in black and red Sharpie. It's priceless, and Tank hung it in a place of honor. Nearby is a small photo of Elvis, Jack, and Carter taken at Kaycee's wedding. Cutie-pie's. The stuff we're bringing home is enchanting to me and Sally: a Laker poster from decades ago, a little gadget that prints Tank's name and address, three pairs of glasses, a flower arrangement made of shells that Elvis might like, a jotted-down Emerson quote about how every time you do one thing, you miss out on doing another thing. Treasures like that.
Did I mention that Terry arranged to have half of Tank's ashes scattered in Morro Bay, and the other half sent home with us to Utah? The box will be ready on Tuesday or Wednesday, and whoever picks up the desk and stuff will also get the ashes. It'd be fun to scatter some in San Pedro, too. Sally said that at the crematorium, they said that the longshoreman's union pays for the cremation. Nice, huh. Also, because Tank was in the Navy, we'll score a flag.
Last Sunday, when Kelly and I were with Tank at Bayside, while he was still feeling okay, Tank said, "They're making a new Bourne movie." :) "I love Bourne movies," I said. Kelly agreed. Tank said, "I like the music." We talked Bourne for a while. "I read that Matt Damon isn't in it," I said, and Tank and I shrugged, 'cause that wasn't going to stop us from seeing it, despite our love for Matt. A couple of years ago when I was visiting, I mentioned that I'd seen the third movie only once, and I left for a while (I might have been with Peggy), and when I returned, Tank had rented the movie from Blockbuster, and the three of us watched it. "They don't do random."
Also that Sunday, we talked about how fun it would be for Tank to visit Utah when he got to feeling better. Not ALL better...just somewhat better. I suggested that he stay for a good long time, like a month, and visit everyone, and not feel rushed. "You can live at my house," I said, grinning. "In the basement?" he asked, sounding oddly hopeful and excited (given the state of the basement). Sure, I said. Anywhere, I said.
It sure has been a pleasure hearing from so many people about their feelings for Tank, and their memories. Thank you.
While Sally and Terry were at the crematorium, I walked to the beach. Well, not all the way to the beach, but to some benches that overlook the beach, a couple of blocks from the house. I wore Tank's straw hat, which is half jaunty, half dapper. We're bringing the hat home, and we'll take turns wearing it (why don't I go first). I was sitting on a bench, watching the ocean, and an elderly couple sat down on a bench a few yards away. They seemed relaxed and unhurried, with a dog. They wore the full-coverage cotton layers that I'm used to seeing in Morro Bay on elderly folks. They wore hats. They seemed happy with each other...easy with each other. I thought, How lucky they are. To be alive, and to have each other, and that cute dog. To be in such a beautiful place, and to not be in a hurry to get somewhere else.
A funny thing happened today. My regular blog is at love-shall-not, but I hadn't been there for a while, and I went to loveshallnot instead. It's not a very active blog, and the only posting is the following Carl Sandburg poem, which made me cry. It's called "At a Window."
Give me hunger,
O you gods that sit and give
The world its orders.
Give me hunger, pain and want,
Shut me out with shame and failure
From your doors of gold and fame,
Give me your shabbiest, weariest hunger!
But leave me a little love,
A voice to speak to me in the day end,
A hand to touch me in the dark room
Breaking the long loneliness.
In the dusk of day-shapes
Blurring the sunset,
One little wandering, western star
Thrust out from the changing shores of shadow.
Let me go to the window,
Watch there the day-shapes of dusk
And wait and know the coming
Of a little love.
One more thing. At the Living Planet aquarium in Sandy, there's a wheel that you can spin to see the many things that can happen to a salmon. Elvis and I love that wheel. He climbs up to spin it, and I read (or now he reads) the fate of the salmon, based on where the wheel stops. We eagerly wait for the winning stop, which is Live to Reproduce. When we score that, I grab Elvis under the arms and spin him around in a circle (away from the wheel and then back to the wheel), and we squeal: "Live to reproduce!" It's fun, as you can imagine. But I was thinking about that with Tank the other day. There was a time when living to reproduce was the ONLY thing that mattered. I mean, even now, it's a fairly big deal. While in the hospital, I kept thinking of Tank's spawn. :) I know that living to reproduce isn't the challenge it once was, but, still...
I was thinking of Kelly today, and the last time he was at the hospital, before leaving for Utah. As I recall, he gave Tank's foot a little snuggle and said, "See you later, Big Guy." I can't SWEAR he said that, but it seems to me that he said that. I hope he doesn't mind that I mentioned it. It made me grin adoringly.
I hope this finds everyone well. Much love to Norma, as she recovers. Sally and I are probably going to head home tomorrow.