Dan Gisvold at Bear Creek

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Ok. I will admit that what I am about to write is a little weird.

Maybe it is just how I put things together in my brain. And that is known to be very weird.

But when I think of Dan, like when I am passing a semi-truck on the freeway, or when I see the ocean, or when I look at a good climbing tree, the first thing I visualize is not his face.

I see his knees.

They were always bent. Or so my brain sees them.

This thought process began as I sat for breakfast with some friends whose 15 year old son is well over 6 feet and is the center on his high school football team. He is a rather LARGE young man. And his mother was describing the son's discomfort when sitting in restaurants or school buses or any other mode of transportation meant for the general public.

Dan spent his travel time with his knees somewhere near his nose. And usually closer to his ears.

We took a trip once on Amtrak. From Whitefish, Montana to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Twenty four hours where he never got to stand straight up or stretch out his legs. Airplanes were worse.

But even just sitting on a lawn mower, his knees were above his hands. He just didn't physically fit.

He was that way as a kid. At least as I remember. Knees near his ears.  Just trying to fit into a space too small for him.

Maybe the world was too small for him.

So I think about his knees.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Star

Back: Dan, Gael, Heather, Bernadette, Bill  Front: Mom holding Melodie, Dad holding Jill                                         Christmas 1972
Christmas at our house was a BIG deal.

Our mother had a real flare for that kind of thing and she loved kitch.

So we had little elves swinging from the chandeliers and picking around lamps on tables. There was real and plastic ivy on anything that would hold it. There were pine wreaths in every room. Ornaments hung in the most unlikely of places. And there was always the tree.

Covered in every ornament you can think of.

The house was bright and shiny.

Now there were jobs for each of us. Bill and Dad did the outside lights and Dad and Dan did the lights on the tree. Always.

This was, I figured, because Dan was so skinny and tall that he could reach the top of the tree without knocking it over. I remember him putting on the star. Or at least I think I do.

It is funny what your brain does with memories. All my childhood becomes a amalgam of impressions and snap shots. I somehow manage to put them all together. Not necessarily in chronological order.

Because we weren't always grown. Dan had to have been too small to do what I think I remember him doing.

But it is a good memory. So I will keep it.

Just like I have kept mom's elves, her Christmas table cloth, and, believe it or not, some of the holly.

Christmas was a big deal.

Friday, December 23, 2011

It Happened Again

Another of Dan's friends from high school contacted Bill today. He had lost track of Dan over the last year.

Bill and I have both sent him emails but I know he will be crushed.

He was part of the Linda Vista Gang.

Those were the kids that hung out in our back yard and played baseball and football and any other game we (they) could think of. My mom was always making kool-aid (the good kind) for them. And I was always being a pest cuz I wanted to play. I didn't care that they were boys but they seemed to care that I was a girl. Go figure.

When I think of Butch, I remember warm summer nights and the smell of orange blossoms. Which is kinda funny since oranges bloom in the spring and the last of any crop was gone by summer. But that is how my mind scrunches up the time.

Butch's mom and dad were great friends to our parents. They disagreed on almost everything political but, as my dad would say, politics shouldn't ruin good friendships.

When I think of those nights I remember Dan running. I remember him throwing the baseball with all his might and the hat coming right off of his head. I remember him grinning.

I remember him. I remember him healthy and happy.

I hope that Butch can remember him that way, too.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Today is Another Day

I have lots of thoughts of Dan these days. Just random memories that really make no sense.

Except for today. This one made a little sense.

Today my daughter walked into work so that she could go to lunch with me. Which is really neat as she no longer works here and is getting ready to go to San Diego for three months to study for the Bar exam.

We go to lunch with some friends and she is ragging on me about something. My comeback was to give her the look. And her comeback was "You can't be mad at me when I am being cute! And she proceeds to screw her face into the 2 year old "I am so cute" face.

I start to laugh and the memory of Dan playing "Concentration" with her comes to mind.

Please note that at the time of this little card game Melodie is @ 2-3. And Dan..... well,

He hadn't changed much in 18 months or so from the time this picture was taken.

But Melodie was a sharp little kid. AND SHE KNEW IT!

She keeps beating the ***p out of Dan. Dan, despite his youth, had a serious case of ICRS (I can't remember ***t) Which does not work well when you have to remember where the last card was and where it's match is.

And being the shy, retiring child that she was (and still is) she would say things like;
"Can't you remember anything, Uncle Dan?"
"How old ARE you, Uncle Dan?"

And other politically and socially correct things like that.

Dan got so frustrated. You could see it in his face. He couldn't yell at a little kid even if she was a smart-aleck.

Not when she made that face.

Thirty-five+ years later, she makes that face and I see him.

Yeah, that cute face
I see him laughing at his own frustration at being beat by an itty-bitty, smartypants kid. With a cute face.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

At His Bedside

We got to Redding at some ungodly hour. It must have been after 2am. We had flown in a single engine plane that Bill had arranged.

It was cold and foggy. Typical for the Valley.

We couldn't find the cab that we were told would be there.

When we did, we had what seemed like a ride for forever to the hospital. I thought I had steeled myself. I thought I could handle seeing him. In a hospital bed with tubes.

But it was like seeing him when he was a kid in the stupid hospital bed at home. He had valley fever then. And there were no tubes then. And he woke up when I touched him. He would yell at me or ignore me then.

I wanted him to wake up and ignore me. Please.

So I held his hand, and I stroked his hair.

I talked to him.

I read to him.

And I sang to him. Danny Boy. The version that he hated, of course.

Maybe he would wake up and ignore me. Please.

And then others arrived and I stepped away from the side of his bed. They wanted to be there, too. And I wanted to scream. But I didn't.

I left. I had to go to work the next day. I could have stayed but now I knew he was gone and I didn't want to be part of the discussions.

I just wanted to be next to him. And I couldn't. It was not my place.

So, Melodie and I got on a train, And I stared at the bottom of her bunk. All night.

I couldn't cry. I couldn't move. I couldn't even think.

I just stared.

My best friend was gone and I could not bring him back.

Tonight I relive that 24 hours.

And I cry. Quietly.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

An Anniversay I Don't Want

It was about this hour. I was watching television. Grey's Anatomy.

And the phone rang. And I didn't want to get up and get it. So I let the caller go to voice mail. Then it rang again. And I grudgingly got up to get it.

All he said was "Something is wrong with my eyes. I can't see right."

Tonight the whole conversation comes back to me.


I feel like I could have done something, said something, thought of something. I know that is not logical and that there is nothing on this earth that I could have done. But I FEEL differently.

I have gone through depression, bargaining, anger but I can't get to acceptance.

I want the phone to ring. I want it to be him. I want to take it immediately and happily because I know it is him. I want to sing to him. I want him to go to Melodie's graduation from law school. I want to see his face again. I want to hear his voice.

There is no cure for what ails me tonight. Like Frodo's knife wound, it will always hurt more on the night that it happened.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Jonathan Livingston

Saturday night was magical.

Mission San Luis Obispo de Telosa

Our concert at the Mission went very, very well. The Mission was packed and in the front row sat Smitty and Jeanine, Josh and Heidi and Craig and AnnMarie. The latter two are very good friends of both Josh and I.

So I not only got to sing for Dan, I got to sing for all of them.

And afterwards we all headed out to a coffee shop just to talk to each other for awhile.

Did I say awhile? Two and a half hours later, my stomach hurting from laughing so much, I had to announce that I had to leave. I had to sing again the next day!

Now, my friend Josh is generally a quiet man. But he is SOOOOO easy to needle. And Craig and I have made it our mission in life to get under his skin. Well, at least embarrass him to death in public.


We decided that Josh had married an angel with great powers of transformation. Josh was wearing slacks and a NICE sweater. And no hat. His beard was trimmed and his hair was cut. One year of marriage and the man is nearly unrecognizable.

So we spent a goodly amount of time praising Heidi.

But then the conversation took its usual turn into Craig's stories. Most of them law related. But some having to do with his wife and his children.

AnnMarie's disbelief in the latest Craig story
And all along my new brother, Smitty, listened and laughed.

It had been a very hard night for Smitty. He misses Dan as much as I do. To see him laugh was golden music to my ears. He had been so impressed with the choir and now he fit in with my friends.

Before Smitty left that night, he told a story about my mother. He was fairly itinerant when he was single. He was trying different jobs and different places. But he was Dan's best friend. So my mother, who had just taken up oil painting, painted a picture for him. He sent it on to his mother for safekeeping. The painting hung in her house until her death and then went to his sister's home where it hung for the next 15 years. Smitty didn't know where it had gone as it was in a room at his sister's house that he never went into.

Today I receive a large package from Louisiana. I don't know anyone in Louisiana. Well, I didn't until now.

It was a picture of Jonathan Livingston Seagull with the initials "BG" in the bottom left corner. BG=Barbara Gisvold, my mother.

Jonothan Livingston Seagull by Barbara Gisvold
My friends had no idea that my mother painted but they were amazed by Smitty's stories. He didn't tell any of us that it was on its way.

It was soooo fitting that Jonathan should be part of a conversation of three lawyers who came from different backgrounds but who all had to find their way to their niche in life. We all had to spread our wings and ignore the naysayers.

It was a night. What a night.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Short Discussion

Today I went to talk to Dan.

Tonight we present our Christmas Concert at the Mission.

One year ago, Dan was there. Standing in the back on the left side. With all the ushers.

Tonight he won't be there.

So I went to talk to him about that.

I had just finished a wonderful 2 hour lunch with my friends from Bakersfield who came over for the concert. We had sat at a window seat at Steamer's and watched the ocean and the people on the beach.

We were two blocks from Dan.

So when I drove out of the parking lot, the car sorta just headed to Harloe.

I sat on the bench where we used to share our evening tea.

The Tea Bench

And I just talked to the place where we scattered his ashes.

Dan's iceplant
And I watched the ocean.

Pacific Ocean and Harloe Street
I told him to be at the concert. I think he heard me because when I left the car went to where Dan liked to be to think in the quiet.

The Monarch Butterfly preserve.

Butterfly Preserve
See the benches? That is where he sat. To think.

So peaceful and quiet.

I hope we pass that on to everyone tonight.

Dan would find that very important.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Smitty is here

He called yesterday to let me know that he and Jen were all snug in their room in Morro Bay and to give him a call when I was free.

But we had rehearsal. So I called and took them to the San Luis Obispo Farmer's Market. From there I could get to rehearsal at the Mission quickly.

The Farmer's Market is really a street party on SLO time. Food everywhere. Music on the side streets. All the stores are open and the vendors sell everything from soup to nuts (not an exaggeration!) And people meandering. Just strolling. Enjoying the sights and smells.

They loved it.

And the whole time we talked about Dan.

We talked about how rough this week has been.

We talked about their visit to Harloe Street where we had scattered some of Dan. (we laugh about Dan's "parts")

We stopped so I could grab a sandwich before rehearsal.

We talked and laughed.

We agreed to have them come by today and, when they did,  I took them up to a place in North County that I knew they would love. And they did.

Quiet, secluded, away from everyone and everything. We climbed a hill and viewed hills and valleys all around us. And we spoke of how Dan would have loved this space. This place of solitude.

Smitty and Jen will be at our concert tomorrow. They will be Dan's ears.