Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Bangkok to Dubai to Seattle to Bellingham - or - A Funeral and Dinner

5 February 2014
Isn't that the most direct route?

Okay, so we were in Bangkok.  (Photos include dragon fruit with my fruit salad for brekkie; the Chinese Year of the Horse decorations on the airport door; and the etched dancing figures on the Bangkok airport.  Oh, and of course the "no durian" picture in the taxi.  You should have seen some of the others.  I thought one was either "no CPR" or "no sex in the taxi" - I'm still not sure which one was indicated by the picture.  And "no yaks" maybe?  NO idea!!!)
But we checked in and all that normal stuff.

We flew Emirates Airlines, because it was the best deal to get from Bangkok to Seattle.  We were pretty close to halfway around the world in either direction.  So we ended up flying west to Dubai, and then over the North Pole to Seattle.  (I think.)

We arrived in Dubai about 1 AM.  We thought maybe we'd go in to the city and look around, check out that tall tall building that seems emblematic of Dubai.  We saw it from the plane - but it turns out that it closes at midnight, so we were too late.  And our next flight was leaving at 9 AM.  So we hung out at the Dubai Airport all night long.  A long all night long.
Fortunately, there was free wifi.  Lounge chairs where you could nap, or surf the web with feet propped up.  An example of a desert tent with pillows, where some people sat.  All kinds of stores to browse, including this M&M store with wonderful panoramic views of the desert, complete with M&Ms.  I guess people go in and pose for photo opps.  Too funny.  We sampled some French pastry, napped, used the free wifi.  And then it was morning, and time for our flight.

We were upgraded to business class - wooohooo!  Seats that recline and fold out into beds!  Sumptuous meals with champagne, wine, Godiva chocolates, panko and herb crusted lamb.  Cozy blankets and real pillows.  Room to stretch out.  SO nice for a 14 hour flight. 

So we arrived in Seattle refreshed and ready to go.  

I spent time with some friends, and Richard and I headed to Bellingham the next day.  And, well, sometimes family stuff, especially around an event such as a funeral, can be overwhelming.  Intense.  Especially with normal family dynamics, and blended families, and all that.

So Richard and I took a break from it all on Saturday night and went to a Judy Collins concert, which was wonderful.  It was held at the Mount Baker Theatre, a beautiful building (1927) now on the National Heritage Register (or whatever it's called) - anyway, here's their website:

And Judy Collins - she's an icon of our youth.  Born in Seattle, so something of a legend in the state.  Haunting voice, classically trained musician, UNICEF spokesperson, anti-war activist - a product of the 60s and 70s.  Listen to her classic "Both Sides Now" here, if you've never heard her (or if you have and want to reminisce):

Anyway, it was a wonderful concert and was the perfect segue to my father's funeral, because Judy Collins was introduced to my consciousness on the early 1960s show "Hootenanny," a musical variety show, a show that our family watched every week.  I have fond memories of sitting on my dad's lap as a little kid, or next to him when I was older and a little brother claimed his lap, and watching the show, growing up with folk music from England and America, protests songs against the growing Vietnam war, and as the Civil Rights movement grew.  All events that changed the course of America and our lives in particular.

But the concert also gave us a much needed break before the funeral.  

What can I say.  It was sad, it was touching.  My brother Howard, the attorney, the jokester, the one with charisma, conducted the graveside service and read the obituary our father wrote.  He also read a touching eulogy that he wrote.  We were a group of two generations of Schwartzes, plus neighbours, friends, and the family of our father's significant other after our mother passed away.  There was laughter, there were tears, there was the internment of his ashes.  And the quotation on his headstone, which summed up his attitude:

"We are here just for a spell and then pass on. So get a few laughs and do the best you can."    -Will Rogers

We had a few hours to then warm up and watch the Seahawks demolish Denver in the Superbowl - what a game if you are in the Seattle area!  

Then on to a sumptuous dinner - this is what our father wanted.  Really.  All his family and extended family, and a few close friends, gathered together to enjoy an amazing meal and talk and laugh and share memories.  My youngest brother, Ivan, planned and organized this, and it was amazing!  (I could have stopped after the first three or four courses.  The meal went on for several more.  So of course we all did too.)

My job?  I was in charge of flowers.  Yellow roses, because our father was born in Texas.  Purple mums, creamy carnations, a few orange tiger lilies.  I felt like Birnam Woods carrying them from the hotel to the graveside, back to the hotel, then to the dinner.

But another favourite memory of my father is saving lilacs and rhododendrons with him.  Really.  We moved to Bellingham in 1968, and bought the beautiful greenish house in the last photo.  (In the middle of the block.)  Across the street was almost a city park, full of bushes and trees and flowers, with stone steps leading up to the campus.  A year or two later, city planners and the college decided to tear it all out and put in a major road to bypass the college.  After phone calls all over campus and to all the city planners, I couldn't get any answers about what would happen to the flowers.  So my dad and I hatched a plan - we waited until Friday at sunset, and armed with shovels, dug up several lilac bushes and a bunch of rhodies.  We brought them home, and spent the weekend planting them around the house.  Watered them all spring, summer, fall.  Watched them all winter.  Lo and behold, the next spring they all bloomed.  So yes, my father helped me be subversive and save the flowers from the bulldozers and city hall.  And in that memory, I asked that the people at the dinner take a flower home with them, in memory of our dad.

It was a bittersweet weekend, and has been capped by a few days in Seattle with dear friends and my loving husband who puts up with my sometimes crazy and overwhelming family.  

And while it would have been interesting to go to the Seahawks Parade in town today, well, it was in the low 20s.  Unusually cold for Seattle.  Sub-Arctic for people who came in from Thailand, and who don't have parkas or even a winter coat.  Somehow old lady sweater and a rain slicker don't do the job.

But we did get to see the trumpeter swans who migrate through Skagit Valley - on our way north, sitting in the wet fields; and on our drive south, flying through the blue blue sky like huge white harbingers of hope.

So - goodbye to my dad.  Goodbye to Bellingham, and Seattle, for another unspecified period of time.  Goodbye to my brothers and sister and all the nieces and nephews, who make our family as wonderful and crazy as it is.  Goodbye to my special and dear friends who have been so loving during this difficult time.

And, goodbye, Maurice Leo.  You were a special dad.  You will be missed.


  1. You clearly are a wonderful daughter and sister....lovely tribute to your Dad and family .
    Even though you are far away, you and Rich are always in our hearts . Have fun now, enjoy the life your father wanted for you. Jane and Frank