Greetings. I am writing this from Middlegate, Nevada, in a pleasant ramshackle motel that must date back to the 1930's. It doesn't have a name, other than the motel.
I am traveling by bike from Palo Alto, California to Salt Lake City, Utah, where I will catch a flight back to New York City. Since Carson City, Nevada, I've been on Highway 50; a road once marketed as "The Loneliest Highway in America.." It's part of the "Adventure Cycling Association's "Great Western Trail." It's raining today. A lot. It rained and hailed on Carson Pass. A lot. All along my entire route, locals have been saying it's unusually wet and cold. I wasn't expecting this - I took this route on my GRID Tour in 2016, and enjoyed pleasant and reasonably warm weather the entire time. But with extreme weather on the rise everywhere, cycling is impacted more and more by increasingly greater unpredictability in weather patterns. The same is true for outdoor industries such as farming and construction. Much of our knowledge - which is based in being able to make reasonably accurate predictions - is becoming less useful.
I didn't intend to take this trip a few months ago. I had a different plan in mind. But circumstances changed things. On May 4, a few hours after I had arrived for a visit, my Dad passed away. I was fortunate enough to be with him, along with my stepmother Dawn - my Dad's wife of 53 years. Our entire family and so many friends are devastated, of course, but after an amazing life that lasted over 100 years, there is also so much to be grateful for. My Dad lived a long and active life, much of it on his own terms, and he died a reasonably peaceful death with only a few weeks of a troublesome decline. Few are so lucky.
On May 19, many friends and family came together to celebrate my father. My brother Steve did a masterful job as "Master of Ceremonies", and the stories and eulogies for my Dad were very poignant and touching. I think we said goodbye well, in a manner that would have pleased my Dad. The next day a small group of us took a scouting party to a lovely nearby park in the coastal mountains to identify a place where we will disperse his ashes when the time is right.
On the following day I left Palo Alto to cycle to Salt Lake City. I wanted a challenge, and I wanted solitude. I am getting both. At the same time, this route allows me to stay near the California Zephyr train-line so I can easily get to my home town of Galesburg, Illinois, if need be (where my elderly mother lives) with my bike in tow. I guess I'm feeling a bit fragile, and don't want to be very far away if my Mom takes a turn for the worse.
Below is the eulogy I delivered at my Dad's commemoration. Perhaps it will mean something to others who weren't able to attend his memorial.
May 19, 2019, A Tribute to Kim Chase
- Love and Loss
My Dad could be quite funny. One day, while I was stressing out about something, he put his hand on my shoulder and looked me straight in the eye. Then he grinned and said, "Stop worrying Michael. You'll get from one end of your life to the other".
Well, I haven't done that yet. But he has. And boy, I miss him.
We all know there's a shadow that comes with loving someone. That shadow is called loss. To love someone deeply means that, sooner or later, you will lose them, and they will lose you. There's no getting out of that experience.
Some of you may not know that Dad's first wife died during the polio epidemic in the early 1950's. It was a staggering loss for him, as it was for me and my brother Chris. It was 1953, and my Dad was just starting his teaching career. There he was, having lost his wife, with two toddlers to care for. But that was only one of many loves and losses. My Dad married again, and had another son, Steve. And then some years later, he married Dawn, bringing her into our lives. Yet, by the time he died at 100 my Dad had lost every other member of his immediate family except those of us in this room, and all of his friends from his own generation. Still, he lived and died surrounded by people who loved him, most notably Dawn, with whom he was able to share 53 wonderful years.
There's no remedy for losing a loved one. It happens to us all. We love, we lose. But still, we can do what Kim Chase did - we can love full out, completely present, gently, quietly, regardless of the cost. We can just keep showing up. My Dad was good at that.
- Acceptance and Support
I should know; I tested him quite a bit as a young man. For a time, I was quite angry at him for ways I thought he had let me down. But my Dad would stand his ground, and gave me something to push against. And even though my harsh words and actions would hurt him, he remained steadfast. And I can say that I never, ever doubted his love and commitment to me, even when I was testing it in every possible way I could. No matter what I did or said, he'd come back for more, he'd keep fighting the battle for us to become whole - as father and son, friend and family, mentor and protege. Our relationship in those days was explosive, but I always encountered a man who believed we have it in us to find our own way in life, and we don't need to be coddled or indulged, we just need steady acceptance and support.
- Luck and Opportunity
My Dad would often say he was very lucky. Some of you may know he attributed his luck to having been loved so unconditionally as a child by his mother, Elizabeth. She definitely doted on him, and he grew up knowing that - at least in her eyes - he was special.
I don't want to suggest that fortune and misfortune always distribute themselves equally. Clearly they don't. But fortune smiles more often on those who are ready to see and run with the opportunities that life offers up. My Dad's natural optimism and buoyancy allowed him to make the most out of any moment. He had an amazing life force. He lived through the Great Depression, the rise of fascism in Europe, WWII, the Korean and Vietnam wars, peacetime expansion, the civil rights movement, hippies, LSD, Reagan, the Gulf War, 9/11, Osama Bin Laden, our first black President, the age of Trump and the dawning of the age of climate change. He saw it all, with his eyes wide open.
And all the while, he kept learning and adapting. As many of you know, Dad was a backpacker. When he got old enough that he had to pee every few hours, he figured out how to build and use a pee jar in his tent at night. (God forbid he should drink less booze.) When he could no longer hike, he rode a mule. When he could no longer ride a mule he started going to aquatic exercise classes. When he was no longer steady enough with his cane, he got a walker on wheels. When that didn't get him around quickly enough he got a tricycle. He just kept growing. He even learned how to use Facebook, although he complained that he'd be damned if he'd ever do something that used the word "friend" as a verb.
Nothing stopped this guy. I am so proud he was my Dad. Kim Chase was an amazing man who lived an amazing life. I miss him so much, and I am filled to the brim with gratitude for the life he lived.
Lucky him. Lucky me. Lucky us.
And thanks for reading this blog.
More to come.
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