Saturday, July 1, 2017

Jack Slotemaker: December 12,1930 - June 30,2017: A Very Special Dad & Grandpa

I woke up my phone this first morning of July to find a message from my sister Jackie...

"Sorry. 9:28-he's at peace."

Another message was from my sister Michele, which simply said "Found this on my phone".

The "this" to which Michele refers is the photo you see here, me, dad and mom. It took some thinking but I think this photo was taken a little over five years ago, soon after I touched down at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, waiting for my checked in bags to arrive.

I am having trouble processing how we went from being so happy watching dad walk to his room, and making jokes and teasing so recently, to this.

When I checked email this morning the first message I saw was from my dad's first grandson, Spencer Jack's dad, my brother Jake's eldest son, Jason.

The subject line of Jason's email was A Very Special Dad & Grandpa.

Uncle Dean,

I received late news tonight of your dad's passing.  Lot of emotions and thoughts.  My initial thoughts of your dad, my grandpa, is that I cannot think of a more patient, humble, kind and loving man.

As I digest the news of my first grand parent passing, I thought I'd share the photo you see here, plus the following text (a chapter from a draft of my own dad's book on his childhood):

Dad worked a laborers job Monday thru Friday, with the weekends and a one paid week vacation off a year. He’d leave his work at work. His job was a means to provide for his family, nothing more. It was not a career. There was no chance of advancement. It was just a job, a job at a small town milk processing plant. If there was ever a complaint regarding his work, we never heard it.

Mom and Dad’s day began with a 3:30 a.m. alarm clock awakening. Our kitchen/dining room was one large room with a door separating the living room and a door separating the kitchen and hall leading to the bedrooms. Mom would get up with Dad to make his breakfast and lunch and they’d close the normally open hall and living room doors to keep any noise level at its lowest level so we could stay asleep.  Mom would go back to bed after Dad left for work and would be up again to get us off to school. Dad punched in at 4:30 a.m. and was back home by 1:30 p.m. Afternoons and weekends were his to... (And it goes without saying Mom had a part in all of this.) Were his to…….

….build a float for the Berry Dairy Days parade.
….coach Little League and Babe Ruth baseball teams.
….just play catch along side of the house.
….take us camping, and camping, and camping.
….visit the Grandmas and one Grandpa until he died. The Grandmas lived within three blocks of each other in Lynden. Fun Grandma Vera who consumed alcoholic beverages and smoked cigarettes, (she quit both vices later in life), and religious Grandma Slotemaker who read the Bible daily.
….take us fishing, plunking from shore on the Skagit river.
….take us salt water fishing for salmon, cod, and halibut in the waters of the Puget Sound.
….go digging for horse clams and wading for Dungeness crabs on the tide flats of 
an island named Samish at the south end of Bellingham bay.
….take us to experience the beauty of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park and Craters of the Moon National Park in Idaho, Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon, Redwoods National Park in northern California, and Olympic National Park in Washington, and also to play in the snow of what is now North Cascades National Park while searching for the perfect Christmas tree.
….take us to see the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Cable cars, and Lombard Street. The Tar Pits in downtown Los Angeles, and the Ambassador Hotel two weeks following the assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy who had just won the California Democratic primary
….take us to San Diego to Sea World and then across the border to Tijuana to barter for trinkets.
….take us to the coastal tide flats of the Pacific Ocean to dig Razor clams.
….take us to experience the light show illuminating the waters of the Columbia River cascading over the Grand Coulee Dam in eastern Washington while on a camping trip to Sun Lakes State Park.” Roll on Columbia roll on.”
…. take us to the 1962 Worlds Fair in Seattle to shake hands with astronaut John Glenn who had just finished his February 20, Friendship 7 mission of orbiting the earth three times.
….take us to meet LBJ at the Peace Arch in Blaine
….teach us the value of money and hard work
….take us Easter egg hunting.
….teach us to be respectful of our elders.
….teach us to owe up to our mistakes.
…. attend every school event.
….be home every night for dinner.
….build a foosball table in the garage using plywood and wood dowels, because buying new in the store was too expensive.
….build a rocking horse in our backyard using an old bike frame and coil car spring bought from Larry’s Auto Wrecking. We had played on a fiberglass shaped horse at a park in Everett and Dad saw how much fun it was for us.
….teach us to drive so we could pass our drivers test the day we turned 16.
….take us trick or treating until we all had at least one paper grocery bag full of candy.
….have an extra paper grocery bag (paper or plastic was not an option) to replace the grass soaked bag whose bottom fell out.
…. be there for you no matter what.
….love you and your better half.

Hope all is well with you, and I'm glad you ventured to see him.  - Jason.

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