Sunday, March 30, 2008

The "Fune-cation"

Here I am with my 3 oldest friends: Chalene (since birth), Amy (2nd grade), Stephanie (3rd).

Matthew, my nephew & Helen.

Stephanie attaches Dave's bouttonier.

My mom with Lydia & Jason.

I thought I'd post a few things from the funeral. As far as funerals go, it was a lovely experience. All four of us spoke, and I took it upon myself to be comic relief. My dad, while not a huge producer of humor, was a giant consumer. He loved a good story and loved to laugh. The first story is from a time I visited them on their mission:

"My favorite food story with dad took place on their mission to inner city Detroit. They were scheduled to do their weekly shift at the soup kitchen and mom insisted that I go with my father, feigning fatigue, shoving us out the door. We get there, in the middle of the ghetto, with all manner of homeless people from the purely down and out to junkies and hobos. As the people came down the line, dad would greet each one uniquely, such as “Yo brother, what’s up?” or “Word to your mother” or “Give me five my man,” with accompanying hand gestures he’d probably memorized from thugs on Law & Order. I couldn’t watch. I admit I volunteered for kitchen duty so that I wouldn’t have to witness the looks on the faces of the people that my sweet dad was trying so hard to connect with. Truly the Lord was watching over him and keeping him safe."

Aside from the church (and Law & Order), my dad was passionate about Toyotas (a trait I inherited. He once said, "God gave us Toyotas so we'd know what 'forever' meant."). Here is the story I shared:

"Let’s talk about Toyotas for a minute. It seemed we always had at least 2 parked in our driveway. The most infamous was the fabled Corolla station wagon. He bought it used (do cars come any other way?) and its brakes made the worst sound imaginable. Pedestrians covered their ears at crosswalks and other drivers turned to stare at red lights. This was poor Angela’s primary mode of transportation. It was stolen one day when she was at work, and though there was panic, there was also relief. So if a car goes missing for a certain period of time, say two weeks, then the insurance company has to pay out. So the very day the time period was up, Dad got a call from the insurance company, “Mr. Bickmore, good news, the police found your car. It’s pretty thrashed, but the engine is fine.” To which he replied, “Excuse me, but they found YOUR car.” He collected his money. The end. Or so we thought. The next week he went to the police auction, bought it back and inflicted it on Ange until she went back to college and then it became mine…"

His Toyota legacy literally goes with him to the grave. My brother Dan picked out the casket, a brushed nickel that he chose it because it reminded him of a silver Toyota Dad once owned. On Friday when I went to the funeral home, I looked at it I thought, “Oh. My. Gosh. Dad’s in a hatchback…”

Being raised Mormon, there are certain funeral rituals you take for granted. On the way from the cemetary to the chapel for lunch, my girlfriend Stephanie (not Mormon) wondered aloud what they'd serve. Without missing a beat Amy (LDS) replied, “Ham, funeral potatoes, salad with creamy dressing, lots of jello, rolls and then cake slices on plates.” Of course she was right on the money.

Another interesting thing for me was to hear cousins compare and contrast my dad with his older siblings. As I chatted with one cousin, I remembered her dad's funeral so well, being struck at the contrast between the Bickmore kids who had either Mary Jane or Lettie raising them, and the ones who spent formative years motherless as this uncle did. He was short, toothless, uneducated, earthy. The exact opposite of my father. While I, dad’s youngest, was heading off to grad school, his youngest was heading off to Florida to train horses for a circus. One of his daughters grabbed my hand and said, “I always loved your dad and imagined that my dad would have been more like him if he hadn’t been a drinker.” How do you respond to such an honest, painful comment like that? I just squeezed her hand as she made her way to the next person in line…

Another revelatory comment came from my dad's oldest brother Lee’s daughter. She said that the funeral helped her feel proud of being a Bickmore, that the funeral service had been very healing for her in how she interpreted her childhood. Hearing all the stories of my dad, loving but remote, proud but demanding, made her understand that how her father was, was NOT about her, but how the Bickmores just are. I understand how hard it can be to not personalize the non-warm and fuzzy Bickmore parenting style, and I am so glad that the funeral helped her make some peace with her own upbringing. Anohter cousin made some similar remarks to me, that hearing all the stories reminded him of his mom, and that they were “brilliant but socially challenged Rain men” in a way. I laughed and amended that they were more like “mist-men” in that they could pass as normal in front of non-family members.

It all makes you wonder what your own kids will say when your time comes: "Mom took sure did document our childhood. If only she'd made dinner once in a while..."

Airing my neighbor's "Dirty Laundry"

Since Denise is too busy on her Facebook to get a Blog, I thought I'd make her a "guest blogger" on mine. This is the highlight of her week:

"We had scheduled for a carpenter to come over and give us an estimate on doing some work on the outside of our house. He came and as we were standing outside, I noticed something hanging out of one of his pant legs. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that it was a pair of UNDERWEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!! He must have take off his pants the night before, and left his undies in them, then forgot about it, and they fell to the bottom of his leg - OR, while doing laundry they got mixed up - I think it was the former.Anyway, as he was walking along, they kept falling more and more out of his pants, I was scared they'd fall out when we were both standing there and he would be REALLY embarrassed that his panties were sitting on the ground! I always walked in front of him incase they fell out and he noticed then he could pick them up without me 'seeing'. So they kept getting more and more out, then he sat at out table to write out the info, and when he got up, they fell out on my floor! Lucky for him, he didn't notice, and went on his merry way and was none the wiser. BUT, I had a gift on my dining room floor! The whole situation was so funny, I had to take a picture. " See below....

Monday, March 10, 2008

Gag Gifts of the Magi?

Today I was both the giver and the recipient of gifts. One friend has just had a baby. Like I did with Bea, she has suffered a lot to get this little soul here. And Georgia is in 2nd grade with her son and while we were out shopping this weekend, we both decided we needed to get a present for this new baby. She and Camille picked out a super sweet, super soft blanket. My close friends know I have something of an obsession with soft blankets. A Linus complex if you will. So it seemed perfect.

After school we drove it over, handed over the bag and as I was oohing and ahhing over the baby, my friend opened the present, exclaimed with delight, "How perfect," she said. "Every new baby deserves new blankets," I commented. She kind of stared at me and then I see what she's holding. Not the green-yellow-blue blankie, but a remote control cop car. I GAVE HER THE WRONG GIFT! I accidentally grabbed the one meant for the party Millie is going to on Wednesday. Since I'm leaving on Tuesday for the funeral, I've been getting stuff ready and snatched the wrong bag. So I laugh and explain and she's so gracious. I mean, this is the woman who acted like a battery operated police car is a great gift for a newborn!! Later in the afternoon I handed off the intended gift and got an even more gracious thank you. I love this friend.

Earlier in the day another friend had given me a gift. She handed me a bag from Trader Joe's and said, "Comfort food." I was so touched. I could see chips and sparkling limeade and thought about how this friend gives such good, practical gifts. When Georgia was born she dropped by a huge Costco size thing of paper plates that EVERY DAY I was thankful for over those next hectic weeks. Especially since we had no dishwasher at that point. Later as I emptied the bag, I found a tube of mascara. Hmmm. I thought. I looked closer. Waterproof. I got teary just thinking about how prescient this friend is, knowing I'll be speaking at my dad's funeral and would never have thought to bring waterproof mascara. She called me later and as I start to thank her, she tells me that while she was driving, when she stopped at a light her mascara must have rolled off the seat, and could I look in the Trader Joe's bag as it was on the floor of her car. I laughed. And laughed. I told her it was there, what I had thought, and about the blanket-R/C car mix up and we just giggled. But I'm telling you, next time one of my friend's has to attend a family funeral, I'm putting a ribbon on a wand of cry-proof mascara.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Call From Home

At 1:30 pm today I got the call. My pop has passed away. He's stopped eating 8 days ago, so we knew it would be anytime. Most people go in 3-5 days under those circumstances. (I credit his stubborn nature and Pioneer heritage.) Angela was holding one hand, my mom, the other, and they said he seemed very peaceful. My heart is aching, but I am also relieved, mostly for my mom who has been diligently caring for him for quite a while, keeping him at home longer than she should have. It was his last best gift to her that he didn't languish endlessly in a nursing home.

As a sometimes writer, I've dabbled in many of the genres from poetry to reviews to theses to real estate copy. But until this week I'd never done an obituary. Here's my dad's:

Danford Critchlow Bickmore, 78, of Paradise Utah passed away March 7, 2008, peacefully in his sleep.

He was born October 16, 1929, son of Danford McArthur Bickmore and Georgina Bolette Critchlow . He was the youngest of 12 children, all raised in Paradise. From a young age, his parents instilled in him a love of learning and of the gospel, which would be the guiding principles of his whole life.
Upon graduation from South Cache High School in 1947, he attended Utah State University, and then served an LDS mission in the British Isles from 1950-52. In 1953 Dan graduated with a degree in business and inspired by his beloved older brother Lee , he attended Harvard Business School as a Baker scholar, class of ’55.

Dan then accepted work in Los Angeles, which became his home for the next 40 years. While living in Westwood, he met his future wife, Marilyn McFarland of San Gabriel, California. They were married in the LDS Temple in Los Angeles on March 11, 1960, 48 years ago this month. Over the next eight years four children were born, giving Dan one of the greatest joys of his life: fatherhood. Dan worked for a variety of companies and eventually started his own company as a financial consultant. This gave Dan more time to be involved in church and community affairs. Whether in capacity as a home teacher or temple worker, Dan executed his calling with dedication and enthusiasm. One of his dearest memories is the time he spent as Scout Master of Troop 147. All 15 boys he worked with became Eagle Scouts. Later he was called to be Bishop of the Canoga Park Third Ward, Los Angeles, California. Five years in that position gave him many opportunities to attend to the spiritual and secular needs of the congregation who loved and respected him. But no matter where he worked or what calling he had, Dan always found time to read, surrounding himself with all manner of books, a quality his posterity has embraced.

Someone once said “You can take a boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.” That was true of Dan. In 1977 he found his slice of country in the small, hilly community of Bell Canyon. There he built the house on his dreams, planted a citrus orchard, and built stables for his beloved horses. Some of his happiest times were spent riding over the miles of scenic trails that wound their way through the Santa Monica Mountains with family and friends. But the call to return to Paradise was strong, and in 1994 Dan and Marilyn moved back to his childhood home where they have lived ever since. Though Dan retired from work when they moved back, he never retired from his spiritual duties serving a second mission with Marilyn to Detroit, Michigan in 2000, working in the temple, and with the Hyrum Stake Young Single Adults. He also never retired from his parental role as academic/career advisor and has encouraged his children and grandchildren to always seek knowledge, education, and hard work.

He is survived by Marilyn, his wife of 48 years; children Lee (Helen) Bickmore of Albany, N.Y, Dan (Lisa) Bickmore of Redding, CA, Angela (Tristan) Whitman of Agoura Hills, CA, Heather (David) Sundahl of Boston, MA; grandchildren: Matthew, Kate and Harry Bickmore; Jason and Natalie Bickmore; Lydia, Elijah and Jesse Whitman; Jonah, Georgia, Camille and Beatrice Sundahl; his siblings Jean (Steven) White of Farmington, UT and Barbara (Sterling) Sessions of Ogden, UT.

On Saturday March 15, 2008 a viewing will be from 10:00-11:30 a.m. with Funeral Services following at noon in the Paradise Third Ward, 9060 South, 200 West. Interment to follow at the Paradise Town Cemetery. The family wishes to express their thanks to Dr. Steven Salisbury and his staff; to our fabulous CNS Hospice team: Carol McDonald, RN, and Angie Theurer; and the Sunshine Terrace skilled nursing unit; and the many friends and neighbors who provided love and support.

On Saturday March 15, 2008 a viewing will be from 10:00-11:30 a.m. with Funeral Services following at noon in the Paradise Third Ward, 9060 South, 200 West. Interment to follow at the Paradise Town Cemetery. The family wishes to express their thanks to Dr. Steven Salisbury and his staff; to our fabulous CNS Hospice team: Carol McDonald, RN, and Angie Theurer; and the Sunshine Terrace skilled nursing unit; and the many friends and neighbors who provided love and support.

And now I am working on a eulogy (which I hear in my head "yuh-googl-E" thanks to Zoolander) and trying to figure out flights, child care, Dave's plans, how to rearrange parent teacher conferences, etc. etc. Mostly I'm eager to hug my siblings, hear Beryl Smiley sing "Danny Boy," and hold my mom.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Me Gushing about my Birthday Bash

Oh my gosh. What an amazing birthday week this has been. On my actual birthday I ferretted it out of Dave that I had TWO surprise visitors coming for the weekend. I suspected the first was Parry from Seattle but had no idea that the other was my sister Angela. I haven't seen her in a year and with all this stuff going on with our dad, it took me by complete surprise. I'm so appreciative of both of them for cashing in all their favor chips to leave their kids and come to Boston. Of course tons of people wanted to visit with Parry, and with Stephanie driving up from McJersey for the weekend, we were up until 3am three nites in a row.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Lindy in her role as fairy godmother to me, was slaving away on my birthday bash (Not to mention "Maria" doing all the dirty work!). Where do I start? If there were an award show for parties, Lindy would get oscars for best producer, best director, best set designer. When I entered her house, I was greeted by a gorgeous flower arrangement. In order to keep the flowers in peak form, she had her thermostat set to 49 degrees! Everywhere you turned there were amazing flowers.

Here are the foyer ones on the far left.
And when I used the powder room, I was greeted by these lovely creatures. I heart pink and green. Every detail was perfectly coordinated.

Of course the food was amazing. It was an Asian theme (hence the cherry blossomesque quince in the bouquets) and several courses. There were chicken cutlets, pork tenderloin, beef tenderloin, stir-fry, rice, fruit, salad. But the problem with food at Lindy's is that it disappears faster than it can be served. Normally people eat, and when they are full, they stop. Nobody stopped Saturday nite. I overheard one friend saying he'd been fasting since lunch to prepare for the food. I was jealous of pregnant Sande with her elastic panel...

In addition to good food there was a good deal of humor too. Becca, Parry & Sande made a hilarious quiz about me, such as what is my favorite household remedy (duct tape), how I talked my way out of a $210 ticket and a $100 fine for not having a Massachusettes drivers license, and that I adore shoes, McDonalds, and the Christmas Tree Shop. (You may not recognize Denise without her new wave attire.)

One of my Exponent buddies brought the house down with a faux striptease to "You make me feel like a natural woman!" At one point she was shaking her control top panyhosed booty right in front of a member of the stake presidency and Jen T had to leave the room because she laughed herself into a coughing fit that almost caused her to choke. And then Lisa D. rewrote the lyrics (she is FAMOUS for this) to "She's just a devil woman" to be "She's just a Hobo Mama, with children on her mind" with a chorus about drive thrus and processed foods. I have never been so honored!!!! Then some of my dear friends and family had to roast/toast me and make me cry.

My dear Coco took on the not so fun task of sending out letters and emails requesting people write up some of our shared memories. She took these letters and pictures and put them in a beautiful album that I cannot put down. Let's put it this way, if my house is on fire, I'll grab the kids and this album (and not necessarily in that order...). Thank you all who contributed!

The other gift that blew me away was from Bret & Anne who made and framed a crest for me, that somehow crystalized my past decade. I'll have to take a picture and scan it. The crowning touch is that the bottom reads: "Noli flens ad me venire" which translates roughly to "Don't come crying to me."

There were even party favors of my favorite hot tamales in little take out boxes.

Here I am with two of my 3 favorite redheads, Pritchett & Parry (see Becca above), all of whom have saved my life countless times. Red hair really does give people super powers.

Parry gave me that new book where all sorts of people write 6 word autobriographies, and had people write some for me. Here's a sampling:

"Mormon wife & mother. Still rebellious." "What happened to my body? Babies." "Papa travels. Mama needs break." "Don't come cryin'...but everybody does." "Red Hot Mama writing up a storm." "The best gift ever: photo liposuction." And my favorite, because I say it at least once a day, "Okay, you gotta tell the story..."

Dessert was to die for. So I used to think my favorite dessert that Laurie L. made was this rolled chocolate and cream delight (really, it's a high brow Ho-Ho, complete with crunchy chocolate coating). Then I thought it was the chocolate orange cake that she made for a wedding that Mr. JoySchool stole from me and I'm still mad about. But now I know my True favorite is this little baby to the left: a raspberry chololate cake that made some grown men cry. (This is the same friend whose cookie recipe I made 3 times for Dave's sisters and never once made it into the oven. One nite I came upon the 3 of them in bed gorging on the raw dough and excused myself so they could be alone with it.)

Now I know most Lindy fans think her toasted coconut cake is her best cake, but I've long been a fan of the Banana Lemon Raspberry one (even before A.R. served guests mere "shcmeres" of it and kept the rest for her family). It. Is. So. Yummy.

Sunday morning Dave was over at Lindy's trying to re-put apart their stereo system when he got a text from Stephanie saying, "Still in bed. Want to sleep, but must get up for Melinda's chicken and Lindy's cake." Lucky for us one big plate of chicken had somehow not been discovered until later and we took it home. Parry & Steph polished it off, allowing my sister and I each a tender and a half.

Y u m!

Lisa made her [in]famous lemonaide cake. Dave B. of course decorated it since he can out Martha anyone I know. (He keep refusing to do a cake class for Enrichment despite repeatedly being begged.) One of his secrets is to line the cake pan with a paper towel. No flour, no Pam. This cake is so good that even though the first time Lisa served it around here, and she only peeled off one of the TWO plies, people still went bonkers for it. Sure, some of them had chewed paper towel wads on the edges of their plates, but it didn't stop anyone from going back for seconds. So there you have it. I have never felt so loved and spoiled and cherished as I did this past Saturday, surrounded by so many dear friends. If I can brag a bit more, let me say that no one in the world has friends that are as wonderful as mine. Where ever I go, where ever I live, I have always been blessed to meet the best best people. I love you all!