Thursday, May 27, 2010

In memoriam E.J.S.

I grew up with three sets of de facto grandparents: my dad's parents; my mom's mother, father, and later stepmother; and Jack and Julie. Family friends, they had no grandchildren and so made a habit of adopting and spoiling a mishmash of neighbor children and colleagues' kids. My sister Pam and I had the good fortune of falling into this family during our prime spoiling years - Julie cooked generous italian dinners, while we taught her to rollerblade. Jack spun endless yarns, shaping my lifelong love of a story well-told, and I'd like to believe we gave him valuable raw material in our silly younger years.

I remember long nights of conversation and card games, though after moving away from home I saw them less and less. Returning from Morocco, however, one of my first acts of culinary diplomacy was a full feast of couscous and pastilla aimed squarely at winning Julie's gourmet seal of approval.

Calling home in March, I found out that Jack was in poor health, though diagnostic tests had not yet returned. Dad asked if I wanted to try and stop home before leaving for the summer, though by the time I finished the academic year and made the trip, Jack was disoriented, hospice visits had begun, and Julie had banned visitors from disturbing the quiet. It was with great sadness but no surprise, then, when Pam called on Monday with news of his death.

Still, Jack was very much an adventurer and a master storyteller, and I'd have hoped to return to Missouri with tales to make him proud. I suppose I still do hope for this, and so in some sense this summer's posts remain dedicated to him.

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