This was a reflection I wrote for my Monday morning “bell-ringer” back in September for Senior English class, just a week before what would have been my great grandpa’s 92nd birthday.
Every year I would travel down the I-5 corridor to my grand-grandpa’s house in Eugene, Oregon: the town of one thousands rivers and one billion trees. I would have the windows down in the backseat of the 2007 Suburban as soon as we would take the Goshen exit from the Interstate. The Goshen substation whined every summer, the sound of electricity as it traveled through the heat.
Pulling onto El Manor Ave was always a delightful experience, the old water pump building sat on the right hand side as you would swing down off of the Seavy Loop, which smelled of cow pies and hot asphalt. Each trip my family and I were greeted with the same old run-down neighborhood, the paint chipping off the small homes in clumps, and the distant howl of a farm dog, yapping away at the chipmunks crossing the electrical wires.
Pulling into my great grandpa’s drive way, I would gaze out at the vibrant flowers and lush green lawns that took away all of the brokenness around us. I would slam the door shut and hear the soft squeaky screen door and the soft steps on the front ramp. He would be walking down to meet us, a warm smile on his face. We would embrace, his WWII Navy grip pulling me closer into the hug.
He would ask my dad about the drive down, then comment on the weather as he always did. “Warm, but now its gonna be rainin’ rainin’ rainin’. Brought it down with ya.”
Our luggage rolled up the ramp to the brown front door with a “vrmph!”
Entering the home was like a rush of memories. I will never forget the dusty aroma of the home, nor the look of the mud-stained carpet and the ’70s furniture: a fluorescent orange lounger, native American blankets, model teepees, an old AM radio, the large cough were my sickened great grandma used to lay up until her final moments, and that darn poster of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, ’80s hair dos and all.
There was a time when I was scared of that living room. An owl, much in the artistic style of native Americans, was always hanging up at the end of the hallway, looking down at me through the darkness. I would run to the bathroom or sprint to the guest room, never staying too close to that terrible monster. I often wonder what became of it after all of those years, when it was suddenly gone one summer.
The house was filled with memories: the time my great grandpa teased me with my great grandma’s needles in the kitchen, the time I saw a snake behind the woodshed, the noisy freezer in the garage, the croquet set, and the daily game of shake ’em. And the garden.
The garden was filled with fresh fruits and vegetables: tomatoes, potatoes, squash, cabbage, carrots, and the works. The rose, however, were the real treasure of the garden. There were red roses, white roses, orange roses, pink roses, and yellow roses, always vibrant with the bright blue skies and the hot central Oregon sun. Even at 90 years old my great grandpa maintained that garden on his own.
But now its all gone. The ashes laid to rest, the home sold, and the items within dispersed to the next of kin. Gone are the stories from the legendary war. Gone are the native American collections, and gone are tri-yearly trips.
R.I.P. great grandpa Kunkle
September 16, 1922 – June 8, 2013