When I was seven my mom married a guy named Jeff Olsen. Not only did I get a dad in the bargain, but another set of grandparents to boot. A kid can’t have too many grandparents and these two…well…I will always feel extra lucky that I get to claim them as mine. Definitely a “cooler by association” kind of thing. Grandpa Olsen passed away a few weeks ago and Grandma wasn’t far behind. I was able to attend his funeral and it was lovely. A beautiful tribute to a truly remarkable man. Her funeral is coming up and, while I won’t be able to be there, I am so glad I got to connect with the family that is their legacy at least once. As you can see from the above picture…they are a pretty groovy lot.
Jordan (my brother) and I accidentally booked the same flight so we got to be airport buddies. Then we snagged some lunch before the service. As you can see, good food and excellent company. I forgot to warn Chanel that the spicy sauce on my omelet is the kind for people who have killed the heat sensors in their mouths. It was delicious.
The service was simple and intimate. There was a significant amount of squealing and hugging beforehand as I said Hi to people I haven’t seen in years, especially since we moved out east. It’s so funny how people change and grow up and become adults and, at the same time, are still themselves. But back to the service…there were some common themes about this guy that we had gathered to celebrate.
1) He had cultivated the ability to be present in the moment and to focus on the person he was with. This touched everyone he knew in the most profound ways.
2) The mustache was legend.
3) “Sugar,” “The Add a Line Story Game,” and “That would be a great name for a band” are now a part of our souls.
4) Meekness, done right, is a tremendous mark of strength and courage.
5) His marriage to my grandma was a love affair to be aspired to. They are a matched set and were #relationshipgoals before it was cool.
There weren’t many people there…and that was ok. I cried when I talked about how his love and acceptance of me as a new grandaughter was life changing. We all about died laughing at Jordan’s impression of Grandpa Olsen pacing in front of the Pearly Gates waiting for Grandma and St. Peter saying, “I’ll let you know, Bob!” There was so much joy and love and I couldn’t think of a more fitting way to say “goodbye for now.”
Grandma was a talented painter (mostly oils, some water color) and it was so cool to see all her paintings in one place. And to remember where each one had been in their house. We played and hung out and had awkward, but awesome FaceTime calls with the cousins who couldn’t make it. Again, so much joy and love.
My mom requested that all six of her kids get a picture because who knows when we will all be in the same place again. As a kid and even now as an adult I get a lot of mileage out of telling people that I have 8 siblings but technically I’m an only child. Or how we go to dinner at my ex-step dad’s ex-wife’s house. Corra is very curious about our cousins who aren’t actually legally related to us because their dad isn’t actually my brother anymore. Here’s what I tell my inquisitive daughter. We grew up together and he’s my brother. She’s growing up with her cousins and so they are cousins. Jeff is the man who raised me and I still call him dad. It’s not leagally binding but we have declared it to be real and that’s the important thing.
Families come with a whole party bag full of dysfunctions. They are made up of people with baggage…lots of baggage. The thing is, whether you are full-blooded relations or you claim them just because you like them, it doesn’t matter. Family is just broken people choosing and loving other broken people and learning that maybe we are all less broken than we thought.
Grandpa Olsen totally understood that.