Friday, January 7, 2011

Rest in peace, Grandpa

(Alice & Don, 1986)

We are mourning the passing of Patrick's dad, Don.

He lived an amazing life. He was orphaned in the 1930s in South Dakota. He had older siblings (the closest one was much older and had a family of her own), but the Depression hit very hard there, and families literally could not feed one more person. Don told us stories about living at the orphanage for a while, then a sibling's house, then the orphanage; it was a difficult life. A couple summers ago we went to his hometown and he told us stories about being there, about working in a factory making wooden boxes when he was about the age my son is now. (I marvel at the strength it took just to get by back then.)

(Don & Alice during their dating days)

When he reached adulthood, he served in World War II in Italy and North Africa. He developed a talent in photography, which served him well after he came back home; he went to college, and then went to work for South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks. He eventually became the state parks manager. Patrick tells stories of his dad creating parks (like the one at Sandy Shores), and of taking the family out to take photos for the brochures that would promote the various state parks.

He and Alice were married for more than 60 years, and together raised four kids.

(The Allen family in 1963)

I met him when he was retired, and was lucky enough to go on a few hikes with him and Alice (my mother-in-law) at Farm Island, near Pierre, South Dakota. And I use the word "hike" advisedly: the first time we went with them, I thought I was going to be taking a lovely stroll with this retired couple and that I'd have to be patient with the slow pace. But when we got out there, they were moving FAST and I had to work to keep up! Don could identify every tree and every plant we came across. When I picked up a feather that was lying on the trail and wondered out loud what kind of bird it came from, he knew right away what it was.

I'm sad for the fact that he will not see Dexter as he grows into a man. But I'm also grateful that we managed to go out there every summer for the past few years, and that Dexter knows his Grandpa and Grandma so far away.

And I'm really sad for Alice. She and Don were inseparable for more than 60 years. They were each other's best friend. They understood each other in ways no one else could. In the end, she knew it was selfish of her to want him to stay--he was having difficulty breathing, and was really working hard and was tired. But she couldn't imagine him not being here.

(Gone fishin', August 2010)

And I suppose that's the other part that's hard to deal with: He is just not here anymore. He will live on in our stories and memories and photographs; but we will miss him.

Please hold us in the light, friends, and help us pray for his crossing.



  1. I'm really sorry for your loss, Karen. Thanks for sharing those pictures and stories about Don here. I love the Allen family photo. Reminds me of my family photo when I was a baby.

  2. THis is a beautiful tribute. I love ALL the pictures. May Don fly high. Much love to you.

  3. I'm so sorry for your loss. This is a lovely tribute. I'm sending all of you good thoughts and strength. Even when it's time, and goodbye is kinder, it's so very hard.

  4. I will pray for a safe journey to the other side of the blanket at the next inipi ceremony.

    [edit] The word verification to post this comment read "cried".

  5. Thank you, everyone, for your kindness.

    As Patrick said the other day, there's so much more to say, so many more stories to tell. But I suppose that's what we will be doing this year while we figure out the mourning process.

    (Angelina: wow...)

  6. Hey Karen, Just found this on your blog. What a wonderful story and tribute for you and your family. Great you and Dexter got to know him face to face and have stories. My dad, died at the young age of 71 when my first son was 6 months old. So my sons only know of him through the stories I tell. So thanks for your sharing. And will your family be at Hollow Horn Bear for the Wiping of Tears ceremony. After a year of grieving I took a photo of my mom and put it on a chair behind the pipe rack. Consider bringing a blanket, star quilt to honor him. I know both of my parents guide me from the other side, as do all my ancestors.
    Wichozani Mitakuye Oyasin. Tom Weaver in Minnesota don't yah know.

  7. Sic'esi Tom, pilamayaye. We will think about that ceremony... We are planning to be out there for the Sun Dance as well as family get-together time, so we'll talk about it and see what the family thinks.

    I think we will have another round of grieving when we finally go out there and he's not there. It already feels weird to address mail and not put his name on it--I don't want to do it. :(

    Pilamayaye for your kind words.