Dan Gisvold at Bear Creek

Monday, May 30, 2011


The front of our cabin at Camp Nelson has looked the same for over 50 years. We tried to dress it up with a bit of flowers and some old chairs, but it is Camp Nelson, the place that every child in the family learned about "clean dirt". Camp Nelson dirt was not like dirt you got into at home. You didn't get yelled at for tracking it into the cabin. You were suppose to track it into the cabin.

Yesterday was suppose to be clear and cool at the cabin. It was most definitely cool. Clear? Not so much.

We gathered the day before--My brother Bill and his wife Kathy.

His four daughters, one of them with spouse and three children in tow. They all come from the Bay area. My two cousins. Patty from Mexico and David and his wife from near Sacramento. We sat 12 for dinner in a one room cabin. Cosy is sometimes a good word.

Then there was the "family" from Camp Nelson. People we had known all our lives. Lynnda from next door whose grandmother bought our family cabin and then sold it to my father to get it back in our family. Garrett, whose father grew up with me. Doug, who became a great friend over a campfire 35 years ago. They joined up for the traditional campfire and s'mores. And stories. So many stories.

Breakfast was to be at 8. If you have not had pancakes made with soda water you ain't had pancakes. Now it has to be Camp Nelson soda water right out of the spring. Bill, Dan and I refused to drink the stuff unless mom made a Lemon Fizz. Soda water, lemon juice (fresh) and sugar. Lots of sugar. The sugar made the soda water fizz. We thought it was cool. (Just don't use the soda water in scotch. The mineral content is so high that it reacts with the scotch and turns it black. Yuk!!)

Anyway, pancakes and bacon for god knows how many.

People came and went. Four cases of beer, 4 cases of soft drinks and 4 cases of water sat on the deck. We had 60 lbs of ice for them but, well, it started raining about 3 in the morning and about 10 it was snowing.

SNOWING!!! On Memorial Day!!!! The average temperature is usually in the high 70's. Jed only brought shorts. SNOW WAS NOT IN THE FORECAST!

Speaking of Jed, he had never been in a snowfall. He comes from the Central Coast. He never went to the snow. He was not an athlete so skiing was not his thing. He was a kid in a candy store.

And then, around 2pm Bill called the room to order. Fifty people in a small cabin to say Farewell to Daniel.

And everyone of them talked about his huge heart. Everyone talked about how he gathered friends. Everyone talked about how intelligent he was. "The smartest trucker I ever knew!" declared one of his nieces.

Melodie talked about how he tried to make her less serious by using the Fred and Ethel names. (See my Fred and Ethel post) She used the name as her on-line law school name because she was afraid she would give a stupid answer to a question. Turns out her professor complimented her on her answer!

Kathy Thompson told the story about Dan driving her and her girlfriend down the road at over 100 miles an hour and getting stopped by the local gendarme! Dan had to go in front of the local judge who was the father of Kathy's girlfriend!

I didn't know that story!

And our dear friend Jon Awbry told of the time that Dan found some short skis that Jon could strap to his full leg cast so they could still go skiing! Jon had just had surgery for a major break and had a pin in his leg! But up they went to Wolverton. And the first person they run into is the surgeon who put the pin in his leg! Just a little duct tape!

Jon told me privately later that he and Dan had "interviewed" my first "older" boyfriend. Apparently, Joe Kubicek got the third degree from Dan and Jon. He passed. I was allowed to date him AND Jon and Dan got him into DeMolay!

Another story I didn't know.

Dan's high school classmates showed up. Some from as far away as Vacaville. They told stories while we socialized and shared memories of our house in Lindsay and the many, many things that we all did together. It didn't matter what your age was. Sharon Moore, Donna Manuel, Mack Sprague, Bobby Hubbard, Susan McFadden. I am sure I have forgotten to mention someone. Please forgive me.

I told everyone there that Dan was my brother, my best friend and my confidante. Then I talked about his love of music.

Dan told me once that he was my biggest fan. And he was. I told all of them that.

I told them about wasting time pretending that he didn't exist when we were little.

And I played the Vocal Arts Ensemble singing Danny Boy.

And then we took Dan to his favorite places.

The soda spring near the cabin.

And the camp fire ring.

Today we came home. It was sunny.

He has got to be up there laughing his ass off. Of course, he may have been busy taking care of bikers.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


I think Dan is pacing tonight. And mumbling to himself.

We are all getting ready to go to the Cabin on Saturday for his Farewell on Sunday.

It is turning into a TA-DO. Dan hated TA-DO's.

Not just the planning but the running around getting things done so you could go get the things that you needed to prepare for the TA-DO.

Then the TA-DO itself. All that family. The kind that gets together at weddings and funerals and talks behind everyone else's back about how strange you are or how not normal you are or what ever the flavor of the month gossip is.

Good grief, he hated it. He loved his family but in bits and pieces. And some bits and pieces were just family.

Everyone has been through this.

But this time it is about him. And he would REALLY hate it.

When we celebrated his 50th birthday in Montana everyone went to a ranch on the east side of the Bitterroots. Running water but no indoor plumbing. Our aunt refused to spend the night saying she grew up using an outhouse and she wasn't going to use one again! The woman got it. She left to find a motel.

But it was not a TA-DO. No phone calls about who was doing what on what day, who was bringing what, who was in charge of what. We just went up there and made do with what was there.

Dan was a seat of the pants kind a guy.

At some point he will stop pacing and start laughing. He will get the joke.

I get it.

I will go to the river with Melodie and Jed and let go of his earthly remains with a grin. a song and a giggle.

No TA-DO. That will be going on up the hill somewhere.

And the gossip about the odd ball family members will continue unabated. ;-)

Monday, May 23, 2011

He is Mocking Me!!!

Today was not the best of days. It wasn't horrible but it was certainly out of whack.

First, I have to go to the court in Santa Maria. This is usually an ordeal. But not today. In, out, done. Judge was very nice and even greeted me with a smile and wished me a good day.

I should have known that something was up.

Somewhere, something started poking at me. I decided I was pissed at somebody for doing something or not doing something. It isn't important who or what. I just decided to be pissed. Maybe having a judge smile at me is more than my psyche can take.

I finally, after a bit of cell phone psychotherapy, figure out that Dan's upcoming soiree at Camp Nelson has me a bit on the upset side. I am really pissed at Dan for dying. I am really pissed at me for not saving the whole goddamned world and Dan in it and if the stupid SOB had thought about it for one second he wouldn't have had a leaky brain in the first place!!!!!!!!

So I go through the rest of my day just kinda pissed off at everyone and everything. I don't yell or snap or do anything like that. True to form I just internalize the whole business making myself miserable and trying to avoid everyone I know so I can continue to be miserable without anyone noticing so I can feel sorry for myself because no one notices me.

Got that?

So I start learning the part to the song that Melodie, Jed and I are going to sing at the Farewell. It is the arrangement of Parting Glass that the Wailin' Jennys sang when Dan and I wen to see them in Arroyo Grande. I am singing the middle part which is difficult for me as I know the melody by heart and learning another version is tough.

So on the way to Santa Barbara later on Melodie and I are singing the song. I am getting it all wrong and I am so frustrated. So I sing it alone to see if I can set the part in my brain and I do ok. We discuss it and decide that no matter how it comes out it is for Dan.

Just then, I see a Reddaway truck coming onto the freeway next to us. Dan use to drive for them. For years. And the driver of that truck was eating an ice cream cone. From Foster's Freeze-Dan's favorite ice cream place in SLO. Melodie and I busted out laughing.

He had been messin' with me all day.

It is time to let it go. As best as I can, Dan. As best as I can.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Closer to Farewell

I am sitting here trying to work. It ain't workin'

This next weekend I will be in Camp Nelson. I will be saying goodbye.

I don't want to.

I have found a nice, dry place to ignore the pain and the loneliness. I go to work, I talk to my daughter, I sing, I take care of my dogs and my husband. I have a "usual" life.

I can pretend that Dan is just gone for awhile. I don't actually say that to myself. I know the thought is silly. I know he isn't in his truck where there is no cell phone service. But I sorta, kinda pretend that is the case. I just don't let my brain say it.

It is nice and dry here. There is nothing spectacular to tell Dan, nothing out of the ordinary to share with him. So I don't need to call. I don't need to hear his voice. I don't have to think about it. I don't have to feel anything.


Somehow I think that arriving at Camp Nelson will bring rain. Big, huge drops of rain to my dry place. I think I will have to listen to the voice in my head that says "you CAN'T call, you CAN'T hear his voice."

And I don't want to go there.

I want to go to Camp Nelson and see him there. I want to know that this was all a big joke of some kind. I want to know that he is still part of this planet in a very concrete way.

This is gonna be very, very hard.

Monday, May 16, 2011

When you Least Expect It

I have been going about my days "as usual". I think about Dan and I have written about him. We are still planning the Farewell at Camp Nelson on Memorial Day.

Melodie and I keep working. We don't talk about Dan much. Even though he is always there. We discuss work or the next thing we plan to do. It is back to "normal".

Then Melodie sends me this link. And I must think, again and again, about what I choose and what Dan chose.


Punny How that Works

Dan's favorite form of humor--the almighty pun.

He could and would make a pun out of about anything. And it drove Melodie crazy. She rarely stoops to a pun but when she does it is a zinger.

When Melodie first met Jed and introduced me to him the man made a pun joke. Melodie groaned and I remarked that we needed Dan present. When the two men finally met, it was....well, it was groansome.

Dan and I and Jed and Dan would have whole conversations in pun. It might start with the word corn and end with the word airplane. And believe me there was a long, long conversation in between.

So imagine my surprise when I read the following NPR story about a National Pun Championship! If we had only known, we would have sent Dan.


Have a great time with this and think of Dan. He is somewhere laughing about the whole thing.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Back to the Ocean

Driving back home tonight from an evening with the incarcerated. Talking to my clients on a Sunday evening gives them a feeling that they are not forgotten.

I can see how they would feel that way. As I waited to be released from the attorney room (yes, they lock us in there) I had a view of a locked metal door with a metal flap on it. There was a towel rolled up at the base of the door. It was an isolation cell. No natural light. No moving air. The towel is to block both. No control over anything. The jailers control the light, the water in the sink and the toilet. No stimulation whatsoever.

I knew that there was a human in that room.

And there was nothing I could do about it.

I left feeling angry and frustrated and wondering why I do this (again)

And as I got to the "really nasty part of that feeling sorry for myself in this position" thing, I came around the corner that gave me a view of the Pacific Ocean at Pismo Beach.

It was almost 8 o'clock and the sun was down. But the light gave the ocean a teal green hue that sparkled like the London Topaz that I wore on my left ring finger. And I thought of Dan.

And I thought of the Cheese Ball (see earlier posts) and the fact that going out on Sunday made somebody feel better and that Dan always encouraged me to do that.

And then he would have a cup of tea ready for me at the end of his road and we would watch the Ocean. The Great Pacific Ocean.

And we would be reminded that we are very, very tiny.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Dan really liked Melodie's husband, Jed. He is smart, quick with a pun, loves Melodie to death (an expression only, thank you), knows his way around a computer and other geeky stuff, AND he can sing.

One thing that Jed likes to do but that Melodie hates is hiking. I really like hiking but I am, well, I ain't a spring chicken anymore. Dan loved just walking around. You couldn't call it hiking because he had a stride that was three times that of anyone else so hiking for us was walking for him.

But I digress.

Today Jed and I went hiking/walking in the Montana de Oro park near Morro Bay. For those of you who have no idea what that means, here is a representative picture of the area.

On the trail above the Pacific Ocean, Montana de Oro, 2011

It was gorgeous! And at 8 in the morning it was chilly and free of other people.

We kept commenting on how amazing the landscapes and seascapes were as we passed. We often stopped to take pictures and I even got one of Jed.

Jed, Montana de Oro, 2011

Dan often mentioned his awe of the power of the ocean. As we sat at the end of his street and drank tea at the end of the day, we witnessed the erosion to the cliffs in Pismo. But it was even more pronounced in Montana de Oro.

Montana de Oro, 2011
This picture shows the ocean rising into an area where there is a cavernous area behind the large rock area. All the edges were clearly eroded away by water. It was amazing.

Both Jed and I wished Dan could have seen it.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Pissed Off, Again

I haven't written here in a few days and I couldn't figure out why I couldn't put words to paper (so to speak)

I had time. I was moving the office but I sat at my computer at night. My mind was generally a blank and I just let it be.

Then tonight, I am playing some silly game and I started to cry. Tears just started down my face.

No foreplay, just tears.

Now where in HELL did this come from- says my silly brain.

And then it comes.


I am pissed at my parents for not taking better care of Dan when he was a kid. (Revisionist history is in full swing)

I am pissed at my other brother for not doing something that relates to Dan (Imaginary history is running a close second)

I am pissed at my self for not noticing that he wasn't feeling well. (Revisionist and Imaginary combining into a really nasty dose of self-pity)

And after I get through that whole thought process and analysis, it comes down to one simple thing. One very, very simple thing.

I miss my brother. And that pisses me off. And when I get this pissed, I cry.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Mama Bear

Dan always laughed at how protective I could get about my daughter and about him. Someone wants to hurt my family I turn into the proverbial Mama Bear.

Melodie was always embarrassed if I showed up at her school to talk to a teacher or a principal. They were in for it about something that was going on with her. One time, and Dan laughed really hard about this one, a teacher accused Melodie of plagiarism because a seventh grader didn't know the words that she used in her term paper.

I cam unglued. I took my daughter's IQ scores (not that they meant anything to me-but I knew that they would to this teacher) and some of our personal library that Melodie regularly read. I sat in the principal's office and read off the recommendations of her former teachers. Then I asked her if she had read any of the books that I had brought along. The teacher slunk out of the room. The principal was red faced.

Melodie was transferred to an AP class. Where she should have been.

I tell you all of this because there were times, in the last year of Dan's life, when I felt the same way about him. There were people who did not have his best interests at heart and I was willing to take them on. Head on.

He got in my way. He didn't want me to. So I didn't. I seethed and fretted. But I shut my mouth.

God is that hard for an attorney. Much less a Mama Bear!

I am reminded of this today as we set up the new office. I want my child safe. And her office is open.
Melodie and Jeff Buckingham
So, out comes the landlady  and blinds are going into the office.

It's nice to know I still have it!