When I first met Wade I was drawn to him like a sailor is to the sea. His handsome physique came second to his calm and secure presence that made me feel like I had come home again. When I met his parents, Frank and Barbara, it was no surprise that they too carried this same peaceful demeanor. As the years go by it is plain to see that compassion and kindness course through the veins of many of his family members.
In the past we have visited Frank and Barbara’s house, the house that Wade grew up in, for many a family holiday. We even conceived Brevitt in Wade’s bed that he slept in as a child, is that sacrilegious? During these visits the house has bulged with cousins and friends trickling in to see the boys and to say hello and always in the midst of all the chaos has been Barbara’s father, Jack Pierce McDonald otherwise known as GP, standing there to meet and greet and proudly show off his family.
Every visit I would speak to the boys about making the effort to ask GP to tell them stories from his past so that they could better understand their heritage on their father’s side and learn more of their Great Grandpa who had devoted himself to his country, his family and his work, but the noise level did not bode well with his hearing aide and he would switch it off altogether, making conversation with him close to impossible. In time, I felt very connected to GP through his sparkly smile and his genuine interest in his grandchildren and I began to think that perhaps verbal communication was overrated.
In these past few months, as GP’s body began to fail him, I felt a desperate urge to reach out to him and let him know how much he was admired and loved and so I sent an email to all of his family encouraging them to write down their memories of him. There came an outpouring of response and Barbara and her brother Mac read all the stories to GP throughout the day as they visited with him.
As I sat in solitude reading each new story, one thing rang consistently true, GP was a man of great integrity, a “character,” and a very loving and patient man. He was also a man of few words, as portrayed in Wade’s recapture of a time on the golf course when as a young boy Wade recklessly turned the cart sideways only to be met by GP’s suggestion that perhaps he should take over the wheel.
GP passed away on April 26th at the age of 88 years old and Wade, Tucker, Muki and I drove to Santa Fe, New Mexico to attend his Memorial Service. We spent a nostalgic weekend where Tucker and all of his cousins raced around after Muki as Wade and I reconnected with generations of McDonald’s and their spouses over wine and food. GP’s spirit enveloped us as we traveled down memory lane and the word integrity kept coming up in conversation. What a powerful word to live by and to instill in all of those who love you.
In the early morning light, I took soul filling walks with Muki, Frank and “Old Uncle Jim,” who is not old at all but was dubbed so by Brevitt and Axel lest they get confused with their two Uncle Jim’s. Muki and I raced back and forth through open fields in the parks and I inhaled the Lilacs while absorbing the pale lavender Wisteria and Iris surrounding the sculptures placed outside the Adobe homes and galleries. Soaking in spring, which is taking way too long to emerge in Aspen, I thought about how I was ready to listen to all of the great comments made in my previous posts and move forward with my writing. Life is a precious gift and I don’t care to be bogged down by trivialities.
It is painful for all of us that GP is no longer with us but I have no doubt that his energy and good spirit still lies within all of us and as the years go by we will encourage the boys to follow in their great grandfather’s footsteps and live a life filled with integrity and compassion and I thank GP for giving us this important value to live by.