Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Goodbye to another friend...too soon.

I know it's been awhile since we've posted. There has been a lot going on, but I haven't wanted to post anything until I posted about our good friend who passed away recently... and I haven't really known how to do that. But it was an important week for Max so here it is. It was only a few months ago that Paul passed away unexpectedly, and now another good friend, another awesome dad, another role model, another warm and funny and smart man died unexpectedly. Our friend Geoff had a heart attack a couple of weeks ago and died. He was 51. Ron, Max, and I had been to Seattle a couple of times in the last year, since moving to Portland. We had talked about getting together with Geoff and Vicki, but each time the visit was too short so we didn't. That is my one regret, that I didn't get to see him one last time, and that Max never got to meet him.

Geoff Mathay started out as my teacher. It was ASL 1 class in 1996 and he quickly became my favorite teacher. His classes were fun and challenging. I took 2 years' of classes with him, and he later became a friend. We used to get together with friends and play music- a lot of Indigo Girls' songs and old folk songs. I met his family, his wife Vicki and I became friends and would get together and stamp. His daughter Emily at that time was little- 5 or 6 years old. She's 13 now. For our ITP graduation gift Geoff got the group of us studio time. We went in and made a CD of all our favorite music. Geoff on guitar, except the one time he sang a John Prine song. Emily sat in on a few songs, and Vicki took pictures. We called ourselves Geoff and the Terpettes. And the Shaker Mamas. It was such a fun day, one I'll never forget!

When we learned about Geoffs passing, Max and I went up to Seattle for the week. Because of my sadness about not seeing him one last time, I made an effort to see a lot of people that we had put off seeing for whatever reason. I didn't want to have that regret again with other people.

There was a private memorial on Tuesday and a public one on Saturday. Ron couldn't join us. I was asked to sing with Sara and Kelly for the memorials, just like old times, except without Geoff on guitar. Max and I spent Monday and Tuesday night at Kelly's house, as did Sara and Jamie. Kelly and Chris have an adorable daughter, Gracy Mae, who is 3. She was the best hostess and Max loved playing with her. It was really nice to re-connect with these friends. While Ive seen Sara and Jamie occasionally over the last few years, it's been about 5 years since seeing Kelly and Chris. We hadn't sang together in at least that long, so we spent a couple of hours Monday night learning a new song for the memorial and singing singing singing. Geoff would have loved the fact that we were all together singing again.

Tuesdays service was incredibly moving. It was at a funeral hall, and there was an empty room in the back where the reception wold be, and Max and I hung out there listening to the service over the speakers. All of the people who spoke had such amazing things to say, it was very touching. I was especially moved by the speech that his son Ryan made. Ryan was Geoff's step-son, but his speech was all about what a great dad he was, how Geoff taught him so much, and how he will strive to be as good a father as Geoff to his own son. Max was really a trooper throughout the whole trip- his naps were all off schedule, if he even got them at all. While we sang, Chris and Max hung out in the back room, and I could see them dancing to the music as we sang (Say Goodbye by the Girlymen).

Wednesday we walked to a great consignment store in Everett, then Max and I went down to Grandma and Grandpa Blaker's house for the rest of the trip. It was great to have some time with them! We went out to dinner, and went shopping at Ikea. We also went by and visited Max's new baby cousin, Sophia. She is adorable! Her mom (Ron's cousin) is lucky enough to be able to bring her to work with her, so she has a little nursery behind her office and great-grandma Blaker comes over to help. It was great seeing this part of the family.

On Friday night Dave, Chaos, and Fiona came over for dinner. Max had not had a nap and was exhausted! He still managed to have some time dancing with Fiona. Grandpa Sam has a thing for those annoying- I mean silly- battery operated animals that sing and dance. I think it all started with Big Mouth Billy Bass, and now he's got everything from the Caddyshack gopher singing and dancing, to Matzo Marty and Latke Larry (or something like that). I took a video clip with my cell phone of the two of them dancing. They were pretty cute!

On Saturday we were up early to have coffee with my Aunts Doris and Marybeth. It was a nice, but too short, visit. Then we were off to breakfast with Kelly, Chris, Sara and Jamie, and over to the college for the public memorial.

Max fell asleep in the mei tai carrier just before we were supposed to sing. I knew it would wake him up to move him, so I let him sleep, and we sang while he slept on my chest. It made it even more special to sing for Geoff with my baby there asleep. This time I had been asked to speak on behalf of his former students. What a big responsibility! Geoff was a much loved and respected teacher, it was easy to get up there and talk about what he meant to his students, but hard being up there and looking out at the sea of people, seeing Emily and Vicki there in the front row, without him.

Geoff loved the outdoors. He loved hiking, camping, and kayaking. He loved linguistics, geology, music, friends, and above all, his family.

I think the hardest thing about all this is the suddenness of it all. Both with Paul and Geoff. I mean, there are not many people outside of family that I look up to in the way I did those two men. Wonderful parents, funny, kind, smart, loving. I am a better person for having known them- they have influenced the way Ron and I parent Max, and in that way Max will have known a little bit of them.


Kathie Sever said...

wow el, i'm so sorry! but it sounds like you did a great job of doing a little life appreciating through all this, which does a great service to the memories of those folks we're missing.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Ellie...

Just finished reading this... what another awesome tribute. Gracy loved seeing herself and Max on the computer. I miss him so much. Last night Chris took Gracy out on a "date" and when they got back Gracy came back with stories about how she had learned to dip her french fries in her chocolate shake. Geoff would have been proud.
Hope things are going well, will e-mail soon!