On Wednesday, December 21st, I arrived back in Eugene around 6:45 to be with the Deke on her birthday. I walked into the Trox's house and there, around the Trox's oval dining table, sat the Deke, knitting, Samantha, also knitting, Marla (Mrs. Troxstar), and Allison, the third knitter, the oldest Troxlet, as well as Emily, the youngest. Evan, the middle Troxlet, came to the table later.
Randy had briefly disappeared into the garage to his kegerator to pour me a pint from the keg of Bayern Pilsener he had purchased, with Emily Sauter's help, that morning.
Randy handed me my beer, took his place at the table, and the conversations, wise cracks, story telling, and knitting instruction continued and we waited and waited and waited for the pizza to arrive.
As we talked, laughed, and entertained each other with our scintillating wit, I wondered to myself if one day Samantha or Allison or Evan or Emily might be sitting at another table at another house and if they might remember back to when they sat at the Trox table or the table at our house and, looking back, say to each other: "You know, Randy and Marla and Bill and the Deke were kind of weird, but they sure taught us a lot about friendship and loyalty and generosity and enjoying friends."
This thought went through my mind because just a few hours earlier I'd been sitting at the Turner family dining table with Terry and Nancy and Sharann and Sarah and Jackie. We had just returned from the Willamette National Cemetery.
At the cemetery, the six of us stood in a crescent near the hole that had been dug for the interment of Mike and June's ashes. After being escorted to the burial spot, J. T., the guy in charge, handed Terry his parents' remains and Terry kneeled and reverently placed Mike and June in one another's company again, to rest in peace.
We waited silently while the hole was filled and then J. T. assured us that he and the two guys were leaving and that we would now have some time to ourselves to do whatever we wanted to pay our respects to Mike and June.
And we did.
We paid our respects to Mike and June as parents who made due with whatever money they had, who could be depended on to support and provide for their children, and who were honest and straightforward.
We paid our respects to Mike and June for all they did in their friendships with people up and down the Silver Valley to teach us how to be good friends, to be loyal, to be generous, and, above all, to enjoy people: to gab, laugh, drink, tell stories, and, if you go to Winchell's to buy a dozen doughnuts or walk into a small town bar while out fishing, when you leave that place the strangers you shot the shit with think you'd been best friends forever.
We paid our respects to Mike and June's balancing act. Mike was the king of bullshit. June was the queen of strength. Mike had harebrained ideas: he wanted to buy a bowling alley in Colville or take over the Osburn Club or find some other way to be an entrepreneur. June held down the fort and managed to keep Mike from leaving his work as the best damn Bogey bread truck driver ever, to keep things anchored and steady, to help guide her Nampa born daughter-in-law, Nancy, through the boisterous ways of the Silver Valley. June was the queen of strength.
Once back to Terry and Nancy's house, we sat down to a meal of chicken soup and skillet cornbread, each got a drink, and continued to talk about Mike and June and the Silver Valley, hooking back to conversations begun in the car and moving on to new threads.
I felt like a salmon, swimming back to the pools of where I'm from.
While the main channel of our dining table conversation was the river of Mike and June, we also darted up many tributaries. These tributaries were the names of the families: the Rinaldis, Yerglers, Tusons, Biottis, Costas, Haddocks, not to mention the names of individuals like Troy Turley, Roger Lyons, Karen Ladd, Tommy Brainard, and many others; each name for me was a new set of memories, each could have been a new set of stories, and each memory and each story, whether told or untold, whether about the Sunshine Mine fire, the Bunker Hill Zinc Plant, the Happy Landing, Dick and Floyd's, the B & M Cafe, Lincoln School, or the lights at Teeter's Field, all took me back to places where I learned and the people who taught me how to be a friend, how to enjoy people, how to (hopefully) be a person others can trust.
After couple of the Troxstar's pilseners, a few slices of pizza, and huge slice of marionberry pie, I had to get home.
It had been a full day and I needed to take my mind full of memories, my heart full of love, and my belly full of good food and drink to bed, happy with all I learned from Mike and June and from all those people in Kellogg about how to enjoy friends, happy that I'd enjoyed a day rich with friends, and hopeful that this enjoyment will carry forward, not only in the brief span of my life, but well beyond.
Mike and June: the enjoyment you taught us carried on well beyond your time together in this world.