It probably goes without saying that this blog entry will have more to do with me than with Tank.
I'm at home, typing in my small study that is now crammed with Tank's stuff. There are boxes and bags on every surface. I'll go pick up a few things at random, and describe them. You know...for fun.
The first item is 1 of about 20 empty coffee cans with lids (SLO Roasted Coffee, decaf, "pungent flavored," 12 ounces). Before he died, Tank suggested I take them home so the little boys could stack them and then knock them over with a ball or beanbag. The cans are all exactly the same, and fit neatly in a cardboard box. The second item is a hard-cover book called "Origin of Sea Terms." I'll pick a term: "Isogonic lines" are lines (on a chart) of equal magnetic variation. I'll find one that's a bit more...conversational. "Shanghai" means enforced "volunteering" to raise a crew. As in, "I wonder how many times I can Shanghai Dan into taking me to La Puente for lunch because I need consoling." The third item is a fistful of neatly rolled rope (like clothesline) that I found in the trunk of his car. I wonder what emergency he anticipated, and what role the rope would play. Also, as I type, I'm wearing another of his hats. It's a well-worn off-white bucket hat with navy-blue trim and the the embroidered words "Morro Bay." I look like a chubby Gilligan.
Peggy and I returned home last night from a three-day trip to Morro Bay. We left Salt Lake early Sunday morning and drove straight through. Time passed quickly and pleasantly. We laughed lots, and then we laughed some more. This is the Honda Fit's fifth trip in less than three months, and it continues to perform flawlessly (and get 35 mph). We talked nonstop, except once when I played "The Wonder of You" sung by Elvis Presley, because it reminds me of Tank. I'll share the lyrics:
When no one else can understand me
When everything I do is wrong
You give me hope and consolation
You give me strength to carry on...
And you're always there to lend a hand
In everything I do
That's the wonder...
The wonder of you.
And when you smile the world is brighter
You touch my hand and I'm a king
Your kiss to me is worth a fortune
Your love for me is everything...
I'll guess I'll never know the reason why
You love me like you do
That's the wonder...
The wonder of you.
After checking into Motel 6, we went to the Whale's Tail for dinner (fish and chips). After a long day on the road, Peggy still looked cute. We crashed at the motel and got an early start the next day.
I didn't ask Peggy if she chose her outfit that morning with the intention of honoring Nola; I just assume she did. She wore tight and slightly faded blue jeans, a fitted gray-and-white-checked cotton shirt over a gray camisole, and tennis shoes. She wore more silver jewelry than one might deem appropriate for that level of casualness, but she made it work. While I showered, Peggy walked on the beach. At the Hungry Fisherman, we shared eggs Benedict. In San Luis Obispo, Peggy shopped while I watched. Peggy drove north to Cayucos, and we walked out on the pier, which I'd never done before. It was a gorgeous day. It was fun, but it would have been so much better if we'd been able to tell Tank about it, and feel his glow of approval. Eventually, I'll need to get past that feeling.
We went to lunch in Morro Bay, at Dockside Too. I had a fish taco, Peggy had a steak taco, and we shared chicken taquitos (a favorite of Tank's). We found a small table right on the water, and relaxed with our tasty meal. There was a friendly yellow lab wandering from table to table. There was a man playing a guitar and singing: the Beatles, Peter Frampton, Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" ("I turned to look but it was gone..."). Peggy said, "This guy must be exactly your age." I tipped him, and we left.
I called Terry and told her we'd be by later. She had appointments during the day, so it was okay to wait and meet up for dinner. Peggy and I drove to an avocado orchard (and a little store) about five minutes up Highway 41. Sally had told us about it. So cool! I want to go again! A middle-aged woman shared so much information about avocados! Did you know that some types of avocados spend two years on the tree? We bought several varieties, along with other locally produced items (jars of pickled asparagus and spicy tarter sauce, bags of beef jerky and merlot-flavored candy), and the woman gave us each a ripe avocado for the road. Free!
We stopped at Spencer's Market, and then drove to Terry's house. She wasn't there yet, so Peggy and I had some time alone with Tank's...space. It was strange. We wandered about some, and sat and talked some. It feels less like Tank, and not just because most of his stuff is gone. We've always liked the place, and we certainly like Terry's decorating style. It's still beautiful and tasteful, but...it lacks Tank's energy and passion, the sound of his voice, the space taken up by his body. For me, it was eerie, but not necessarily sad (kind of sad, but not overwhelmingly so). It did not seem to me that Tank was...lingering here. I remember visiting Nola's apartment in San Pedro two months after she died. The air felt thick with her presence. There was this...viscosity. I felt like I needed to sit down because of an increased gravitational pull in the room. But...it wasn't like that with Tank. The air seemed lighter; the room seemed less occupied.
Tank never struck me as a believer in the mystical (which is probably one of the reasons I'm not a believer in the mystical). However, a month or so before he died, when he was talking about death, he said that he didn't think that this was it. He said he imagined that the day he was born he was plopped down on earth, and that the day he died he would be plucked back up. Using his fingers, he made motions as if moving a chess piece. He didn't speculate as to what or who was doing the plopping and the plucking, and where he (Tank) was before and would be after. He didn't seem to be pondering, and he didn't seem to be invested in the theory, but--rather--just thinking aloud. He certainly didn't believe in God, and this brief conversation in no way led me to think that he was edging toward a belief in God. Instead, I was reminded of that line from "Lord of the Rings:" "Death is just another path." I suppose that's possible.
Anyway...we loaded the rest of Tank's stuff into the car. Terry got home, and we hugged, and chatted briefly. She gave us a box of ashes (half of Tank's ashes) and the flag from the navy. She told us that last week she and daughter Katherine scattered the other half of Tank's ashes along the coastline, at several locations. That seemed to bring her peace, and resolution. We went to dinner at Dockside (as opposed to Dockside Too, which offers patio dining, and is behind Dockside). Terry and I had shrimp bisque, Peggy had a side salad, and Peggy and I shared shrimp and chips.
Neither Peggy nor I slept well that night. Before dawn, we hit the road. It felt okay to be leaving so quickly. The day was clear and warm, and we made good time: Atascadaro (breakfast), Paso Robles, Lost Hills, Wasco, Bakersfield, Tehachapi, Boron, Barstow, Baker, Primm (lunch), Las Vegas, Mesquite, St. George, Cedar City, Beaver, Fillmore, Scipio (treats), Nephi, road construction, and Draper. Mike met us at my house, with a bag of corn chips so that Dan and I could have guacamole for dinner with the Morro Bay avocados (thanks, Mike). Mike and Peggy grabbed a few treasures from the car, and headed on out.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Many thanks to Peggy for writing the charming obituary. I hope she doesn't mind that I added that last line. Peggy is also submitting Tank's navy discharge papers, to get the flag. It's wonderful to be home, and to continue to hear from folks who loved Tank. The obituary is in the Salt Lake Tribune today, and should be in the Provo Herald tomorrow. I submitted it to the Daily Breeze in San Pedro, too.