Hey Mom, we took Dad to Montana!

An open letter to my Mom just telling her about the trip my sister and I had with my Dad in Butte, Montana. From time to time I will use this blog as a personal journal to deal with my Mom’s death. 

“My blood, my roots, my soul is in the state of Montana.”

Former Montana Senator Max Baucus 

Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.

Proverbs 23:22 NIV

Anselmo Mine in Butte

Hey Mom –

I have been wanting to speak with you lately as I miss you deeply. I just want to share that we took Dad to Montana. At your wake in Fresno in April I promised you and others that Cheryl and I would look after Dad. And we have been doing that. Cheryl drove him from Fresno up to Butte, Montana and overall I think Dad had a great time. Dad connected with many people that he went to high school or college. He lit up and just glowed. At almost every person he met he took out your picture and talks about how much he misses you. It was sentimental to see. I flew into Helena on August 2 and I stayed at Jorgensons. Helena has changed quite a bit over the last few years. Dad wanted to meet with a couple of people in the area. We took Dad to Carroll College and found his graduation picture from 1959 and mine from 1997. I looked at my old dorm room in St. Charles Hall and Borremeo Hall. Man those have changed so much. Thinking of you I picked up a t-shirt for myself. We took Dad to Last Chance Gulch and he grabbed an ice cream in the Parrot. And before we left I looked at the old Northern Pacific steam locomotive on display in the city. 

You would have enjoyed the hotel we got. It was hard because we were on the tail end of Evil Knievel days in Butte, and many of the motels were booked. The hotel is called the Miners Hotel. Its a boutique hotel that really celebrates Butte’s history. Many of the rooms are named after many of the mines that existed in Butte. We stayed in the Steward room. The family went to Lydias out in the flats before I arrived. After I came into town we ate at many different places. We went to Gamers which is known for its pasties and we also went to the Uptown Cafe one evening. I know how much you loved the Uptown Mom. Saying a party of 4 instead of 5 was hard. At one point during the dinner I went into the restroom and cried. To not have you there in your favorite restaurant was so hard Mom. Cheryl knew what was going on with me. 

The Berkley Pitt in Butte

While we were in Butte Dad wanted to show us where the family lived, worked and more. So we went to the Athletic Center for Butte Central. Then Dad showed us where his old house used to stand on Arizona Street. It was torn down in the 1950’s when the Anaconda Copper Mining Company started the Berkeley Pit. I still remember seeing that in operation when I was a kid. Speaking of which we also saw the Berkeley Pit. Did you know that it is now the largest Superfund site in the United States? The water in the pit is rising fast and they are worried about the water supply being contaminated. Its a mess.  We also went to Truzzolino Tamales and I picked up a bunch of Butte tamales which I have sitting in my freezer. Dad showed us where he used to work when his Uncle Con owned The Empire Club in the 1950’s and 1960’s. And I also took Cheryl out for breakfast at M & M’s which is known for their omelettes. Every presidential candidate who swings through Montana stops there, and I had a good time with Cheryl. One other thing that was neat is that we took Dad to the World Museum of Mining. They have now opened up a part of the museum that allows you to go into the Orphan Girl mine. It was real neat to be underground. Dad loved it and had a blast. As you know Dad used to work in the Anaconda Smelter when he was going to college at Carroll. He worked there one summer. We also took Dad to see his Mom’s grave. That was touching and hard. I miss Isobel as well. In addition Mom we also took Dad to the Granite-Speculator Mine Memorial that was overlooking Butte. The Granite-Speculator is the worst hard rock mining disaster in United States history when 168 were killed in 1917. 

Milwaukee Road Little Joe in Deer Lodge 

While we were in Butte we met a lot of family and got connected to cousins and others. It was neat Mom. I met some people that for years I wanted to meet. For Dad he connected and heard stories about his uncle John Bonner. I learned some new information about John’s activity in World War II. I have already contacted the Holocaust Memorial Museum to research John more. That is one of my goals and since I live here in the D.C. area that can easily be done. Dad lost his camera in one of the cafe’s and he had a hard time sleeping because he was upset. I got up super early and went to the cafe when they opened and I found the camera. Cheryl was happy. Cheryl and I make quite a team in taking care of Dad! I also drove out to Deer Lodge to see the Milwaukee Road electric engine. Pappy would have loved that especially since his family lived in Deer Lodge and some of them worked for the railroad at one point. We also took Dad up to Glacier National Park. That was a nice and neat drive. Kalispell is a neat drive and it looks amazing. 

There was one thing that I want to ask you Mom. Its been on the mind of Cheryl and myself. We both know how much you loved hummingbirds in your life. Since your death we have all been in deep grief. There have been some weird things that have happened. The card out in the garage that was in front of Dad’s car that was signed by you baffled all of us. But since your passing Mom a hummingbird has popped up around the house. Cheryl said that it first happened when she was doing the dishes. A hummingbird popped up outside the window. On another occasion a hummingbird followed Dad and Cheryl on a walk for a little bit. Cheryl told me this a couple of days after I arrived in Montana and I didn’t know what to make of it. People can do a lot of things in grief. Well as you know Mom something bad happened on Monday August 7. I can’t go into all the details but it was hard. Dad and Cheryl were concerned. It was one of those days that I would have called you up and talked with you about. The situation weighed over me all day. Well in the afternoon Dad and I walked to Books and Books on Park Street and we looked over all the books in the shop. While I was thumbing through a number of books near the window I felt like I should look at the window and turned and looked. Outside the window was a hummingbird. It stayed for about a couple of minutes and I stared out it. The timing was amazing and it was profoundly comforting. My question to you Mom is this…was that you? I told this incident to Cheryl and Dad and they think it was you. I don’t think hummingbirds are all that common in Montana but I need to look it up.  If it is you I hope one of these days I can see you outside my window here in Virginia. 

Mom I want you to know that I love and care for you. You will never be replaced. You are in my heart. I still haven’t opened up the memorial book that came in the mail from the funeral home. I just do not have the strength to do so. I wish I would have had a talk with you and asked you how you dealt with your parents death. I know it weighed on you. For me Mom I have already asked Dad how he deals with missing his Mom. That has been helpful. Well Mom I just want to write you this letter and say hi. This is all I can do right now. Please know that I grieve and miss you deeply. I still find myself crying for you from time to time. What I could do to have one more phone call, one more conversation and one more hug. What I would do to hear you say “Youhoo…” like you did my entire life. What I would do to see you again. I love you Mom. I always will.