Barbara’s Celebration

A month has passed since the Celebration of Life for my sister Barbara King. Time moves on and as much as I may wish people would stop dying or moving or getting sick, it just means I have to make the most out of what is still there.

The actual celebration was held at UNR (the University of Nevada, Reno) on April 2. My main job was to set up a photo slide show of Barb’s life and adventures. I have always been the family photo archivist. I have all the early photos of my family and copies of historic papers. Many people sent me photos to use unfortunately I didn’t get around to using them all.  This is a link to the show on Dropbox. (Note that on my browser you have to click on the photo before you can use your arrow keys to move through them. And at the moment it uses Flash so you might not be able to view it on a phone.) Once I had the slides ready I had to plan for the actual trip.

I am not used to traveling much, although I seem to be getting the hang of it. Family emergencies educate fast. The whole celebration trip would be three days long and I would miss one work day. Marty would stay with our pet sitter Joanne for the weekend. I made my Southwest plane reservations as soon as I knew the date of the celebration.

The only hitch came when I texted Joanne about having Marty stay with her. She replied that she had to have emergency eye surgery and couldn’t take care of him. She recommended a kennel in Monson called Camelot that was good. I decided to try that rather than shop around. It has been so long since I dealt with a kennel that it was all new to me. When we first relocated here from Denver we lived in a hotel for a month while we tried to find a house. Our first basset, Max stayed at a kennel in East Longmeadow. Kathy went out to visit him almost every day and take him for a walk. I was always busy at my new job at Milton Bradley.

I don’t know if it is typical for kennels. Camelot charges à la carte as well as the basic boarding and feeding fees. There is a charge for a walk, for 30 minutes of play time, for a ‘farewell bath’ just before they get picked up. Or a full spa treatment. They also do training and have a doggie day care area. They sounded very nice so I figured I would use them.

When it came time to pack I decided to try to use a small carry-on suitcase we had. Kathy and I had bought two small suitcases for one of our trips years ago. The didn’t match. I think mine was maroon and branded as American Airlines. I grabbed the blue one. It was still wrapped in a black plastic bag Kathy had put them in. This particular suitcase had a few zipped pockets on the outside. I guess they figure you could keep your wallet or checkbook in one of them. Some of the pockets looked too small to keep anything in. Since I was planning to check the suitcase anyway I concentrated on the main compartment.

When I opened one of the pockets I found a pair of Kathy’s pink summer shorts folded up. She probably missed it when she unpacked. Or maybe she wanted to go to Reno with me. So I left them where they were.

I decided to wear my suit jacket for the ceremony on the plane rather than crush it into the little suitcase. It would get wrinkled either way. And I decided to wear my most uncomfortable shoes because they were easy to take off at the security station. Of course, my boarding pass said that I was TSA-pre. I did not have to go through any of that. Next time I will know.

The trip to Reno.

My trip was on April Fools Day. I got up to snow but it looked like it was just raining at the airport. I packed Marty into the car and got him up to Camelot. It was very clean and the people seemed really nice. But, it was a kennel and really noisy. I wasn’t used to all that barking and howling. Marty seemed terrified. We had a hard time getting him into his room/cell. I had to actually climb in there with him to show him the way. He wasn’t happy.

Later I drove down to the airport. I knew I would be too early, but I didn’t have anything else to do.

The seat belt demonstration

The flights were okay although I half expected the Southwestern crews to make some April Fools jokes. I thought the captain would at least welcome us to Salt Lake City when we landed in Denver.

This was the same basic flight combination I took going out to see Barbara before she passed. There was a layover in Denver where I got some supper. I arrived in Reno at 10 o’clock or so and my brother John picked me up and brought me to Susie’s where I was staying.

In the morning I met Susie’s other guest, Deirdre who flew in from Washington State for the memorial. She was from the Berkshires not that far from where I live but had worked with Barb at the university in Reno. Her husband passed away a few years ago so we talked about moving through that part of life. It is never exactly the same. But there is always an understanding that ties all of us together.

John, my sister Lisa and nephew Hans picked me up to go to the campus. I wanted to get there early to figure out the technical parts of the slide show. We didn’t know if I would have to use my laptop or just plug a thumb drive into the projector. But I came prepared with every cord and cable I owned. As it turned out there were two audio-visual technicians standing by to do everything. I just handed him the thumb drive and he gave me a remote to advance the slides. He laughed because I named my thumb drive Snowden2.

My nieces Azalea and Sarah were there too so it was like a reunion of sorts. It was the first time I met Sarah’s husband Chad. I’m so glad they were able to make it.

The celebration.

I really learned a lot about my sister, what she did and about all the students she helped at UNR. Barb’s granddaughter, Frieda sang John Prine’s Angel from Montgomery. Then we all joined in as she and my nephew Morgan sang Country Roads.

John and I gave the photo slide show and that gave us a chance to tell stories about growing up with Barbara. One thing that came through was how many photos there were of her with dogs or other animals.

After the slide show, many of her colleagues, students and friends came up to say a few words. It was sad, inspiring and hilarious at the same time.

Some students that had been coached and guided through college by Barbara.
She taught me to play the guitar.

I sang two songs. I decided to sing Freight Train because it was one of the first songs that Barbara taught me on the guitar. Then I sang I Wish You Were Dead. I didn’t plan to do that one but Morgan and Nicole both requested it. It is a letter from heaven from someone who wishes he was somewhere more exciting. Nicole and her son Nate gave a poetry reading to end the ceremony. I felt fortunate to have Barbara as my big sister.

Before we went our separate ways we gathered for a photo: Seated (l-r) Hans (John’s son); Nate and Nicole, Morgan and Frieda (Barbara’s two children and two grandkids). Standing (l-r) John (brother), Azalea (niece), me, Leah Morgan’s wife), Chad and Sarah (niece), and Lisa (sister). There will be a quiz in a month.


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