Everyone must experience loss of a loved one sooner or later. It's never easy and it's often hard to even talk about, but I feel like I must. This chapter talks about several people in my life that I have lost.
The first time death stuck our family that I can remember was when Grandpa Pearson died. I can no longer remember any details from the funeral or anything else. The big thing that I still recall was Dad as he told us kids about it. He said that Grandpa was gone to heaven now and would never be coming back. He was not crying that day, but I think he should have been. At one point I heard him explain how his kidneys had failed and then his mother, our grandmother, had rushed out to the garage to get him one afternoon. Dad said he tried to massage his heart, but it was too late already. I never saw Grandpa again.
My next memory of a death in the family was when Uncle Bob died. I was a little older by now and was going to school in Roseau. One day I got ready to get on the bus after school, just like I did hundreds of times before. This day, Mom was there in the station wagon with the younger kids already inside. She stopped myself and Mike before we could get on the bus. She told us to get in the car, then she turned and told us that Uncle Bob was gone. I know I started to cry, but I don't remember much else. It's hard to lose someone who was so special. He loved to be around our family and would never be able to take us fishing or wrestle with us boys on the living room floor again. It was then that Mom said it was okay to cry. She explained that we cry not for them, but for ourselves. She said that Bob was not in any pain, but we were because someone special was lost to us. She helped me understand, but it did not make the hurt go away.
Uncle Bob loved Aunt Wanda and Grandma and Grandpa Pearson so much, he asked to by buried next to Grandpa Pearson in the cemetary one mile east of our house. Mike and I were honorary pall bearers and I still remember walking down the aisle of the church after the service was completed. I also remember looking in the casket, seeing him laid out with a touch of a smile on his face. I also remember riding in the car as we followed the hearse to the burial plot. Uncle Bob was in the military at one point in his life, so there were some people from a local military base there. They played Taps and gave him a 21 gun salute, before he was slowly lowered into the cold ground. I remember asking Mom about worms and bugs and things. She told me that the casket was sealed so nothing like that would be able to get to him. It relieved me to know that, at least a little. She said he was at peace now and that the flesh no longer concerned Uncle Bob. It still concerned me though.
No matter how badly I felt, life still went on. Soon the funeral was a distant memory and I was again back in school, reading books and playing hockey or softball again. The young seem to be able to let things like that go easier than adults. I still missed Uncle Bob from time to time, but there were just too many other things in my life for me to really dwell on the tradegy. Aunt Wanda and cousin Katie did not come around much after that though. They were still living near Duluth, so it was just too far away for a quick visit.
During this time, Dad was now working at the local window manufacturer, called Marvin Windows, over in Warroad. He used to pack the windows into the truck for shipping across the country. He was proud of the job he was doing and used to brag that he was the only one they trusted to load the trucks destined for Alaska. Those trucks were driven from Minnesota to Seattle, then loaded onto ocean going barges bound for Alaska, then finally driven to their final destination. He said that when others packed the truck, there was a 50% breakage rate, but when he did it, their was only a 3% breakage. He claimed the trick was to pack the windows in very tightly, so they could not move during the trip.
The company did not pay very well, but they had some good benefits. I remember one time, some of the employees tried to bring in a labor union and force them to pay better wages. Dad said he wanted nothing to do with the labor union. He talked about the upcoming vote a couple of times. It did not work, but every couple of years, the subject came up again. The owners of Marvin Windows did care about their employees though. Every Christmas they would give out bonuses to the employees. The amount you received was based on the number of years you worked there. They also had a company store and the employees could buy things from the store at a good discount. Dad did much of the Christmas shopping for the family there one year.
Money was tight, but we got to have some nice things. I remember one time, Dad wanted to buy something special for Mom at Christmas. I got to go along as he took Mom shopping in the stores in Warroad. Mom loved music and he decided he wanted to buy her a stereo. They finally picked one out, even though Mom complained that it was too expensive. Dad setup a charge account and made payments on it. He was proud of that stereo and I could tell it made him happy to he able to give it to her. I think he felt guilty sometimes about the way he acted and wanted to apologize. Guys tend to try to use gifts as a way to apologize sometimes.
Mom really liked that stereo though. It was the one real gift that Dad ever gave her that made her really happy. I remember going into town with her once as she picked up a couple of new records or eight tracks for it. I bought the latest Elvis Presley single with the money I had. It was called "Hunk of Burning Love". On the way home, we stopped to visit the Brandt's and I left the record in the back window of the car. The heat warped the black plastic until it was total destroyed. I was very disappointed that I never even got to listen to it once. When we did get home, Mom took it and put it between two cookie sheets, then put the cookie sheets on top of the old wood burning stove we had in the living room. On top of that, she put a tea kettle full of water. The heat and weight straightened the plastic out and in a couple of hours, Mom and us kids were all dancing and singing to Elvis' latest hit.
Dad was still drinking a lot now though and he got arrested for drunk driving a couple of times. Each time he would lose his license to drive and we would again be hard pressed for money. He could still work out of the garage, but the mechanic work was spotty at times. Mom finally decided she had enough and decided to get her own job. She applied for work at Marvin's and was accepted! I still remember her complaining about the first job they gave her. She was pulling boards from the end of a sawing machine and stacking them up on pallets. She said the boards would fly up and hit her in the hips, stomach and arms when she was not careful. I saw several bruises on her from the impact. She complained, at least until she got her first check. I overheard her say once that she finally felt like she was taking control of her life. She felt good knowing that even if Dad left on one of his drinking binges, she could still provide for us. She was happy knowing that she could do that for us.
Unfortunately, this only lasted a few weeks. One day as we stepped of the bus from school, Grandma Pearson met us kids. I remember her telling us that Mom was very sick, so Dad had taken her to the doctor. I wanted to do something nice for her, so I began washing and folding laundry. The previous day, Mom had scolded me for not helping more around the house. She told me that she sometimes wished I would be more like Mike in that regards. He always helped out by sweeping floors, doing dishes, watching the little kids or whatever. Most of the time I had my nose buried in a book instead of doing my chores. I talked Mike into doing a lot of my chores over the years. In some way, I still feel guilty about that. Well, I figured that if she saw I was trying to help out, it would make her feel a little better when she got home.
She never did come home though. Dad came home late that afternoon and sat all of kids down on the couch and told us that she was gone and never coming home again. He was crying and so were we. He could not bear to watch us, so quickly left us in Grandma Pearson's care. He was never quite the same man after that day and our family was never the same either. I don't remember any more fishing trips, very little laughter and no more special meals for birthdays or Christmas. Dad almost immediately began drinking more than ever. I know he missed her, but when Mom left, so did Dad. In spirit, if not in person. I don't remember very much about the following months. I do remember that just before and after the funereal, neighbors, family and friends from all over dropped off cards with money or food. We had so much food on hand that I did not think we would ever have to cook again.
I don't remember the funeral at all any more. Maybe it's just too painful for me to even try. She was laid to rest near Uncle Bob and Grandpa Pearson a mile east of the house. I have not been there to visit her for many, many years. I still remember her and love her though.
For information about Minnesota in general visit here or here.
Visit the home page of International Falls where I was born.
Also see the home page of Roseau, where I was raised.
Thunderbird Lodge is where my brother, Michael, works.
See Hayes Lake State Park, a few miles from where we lived.
Lake of the Woods where we often went fishing.
Find out more about Minnesota's natural resources.
The Virtual Sweden Site can tell you about where my grandparents came from.
Seattle, Washington is where I visited my Aunt Joyce and Uncle Maynard and saw the Space Needle.
Visit the International Peace Gardens. Many of my great-uncles and cousins helped build this beautiful place.
Dad worked at the Polaris plant for several years.
Both Mom and Dad worked at Marvin Windows at one time or another.