The Pool — Folsom, CA 

I’m sitting in the backyard, my feet dipped in the swimming pool, when memories of you inevitably float by. We spent a lot of time in our own backyard, firing up the BBQ and hanging out at the pool. As you know, a pool in California is a necessity, not a luxury. We learned that real quick, didn’t we? 

All those years of moving from one place to the next, every earthly possession we had packed up in our Cadillac—Mom had it all mapped out of what all could fit. Who would have imagined we would have finally settled here, way out on the west coast? I tallied it up the other day, and by the time I was ten years old, I’d lived in twenty-eight different cities. 

That’s wild. 

Good thing I was good at making friends. If we moved somewhere new on a Friday, I’d have friends by Saturday. 

Christine's parents: Suzanne & Roger

But, no matter where we lived, we always had one another: you, me, Mom, and Michael. And the rest of the Boilermakers. It was always the same core group, with Uncle Dean and Uncle Hugo, and their families. We were quite the brigade, hunkering down for three to six months or so, before migrating to the next job site. What a life. I saw and experienced so much! 

The best things I learned though, I learned right at home, with you. Things such as: 

The value of hard work. You taught us that education isn’t everything. If you work hard, you can have a great life. You were always the hardest worker in the field. I guess that’s how you got to be the head honcho. 

The merit of second chances. You gave everyone the benefit of the doubt, because you believed that we could not be defined by a single moment or mistake. Everyone deserved a second chance in your eyes. 

How to take care of things. From your cars (kept ‘em forever) to your yard (nicest on the block), you always had the best of everything. And it wasn’t because you were wealthy. You just knew how to take care of things. Us included. You’d work four ten-hour shifts during the week so you could spend time with your family on the weekends. 

You weren’t tall by any means—we all know you were 5’4” even though you tried to tell us you were 5’ 6”—you were a very large person in our lives. And while you were such an easygoing, soft spoken guy, the quality of your character commanded respect. Nothing we ever did could rile you up. I remember teasing that we were going to wrap up a rattlesnake for you for Christmas, just to get a reaction! 

You were a good listener, too. I miss that. Our early mornings together, getting things for the yard. Flowers. Grass seed. A new sprinkler system. You always let me chatter away. It’s things like that I miss the most. That and your orange tree. Around your birthday, I was having a hard time. My friend went to our old house where your orange tree still is and she talked the new owners into giving her a bag of oranges for me. I felt as if I’d been transported back in time. To all those backyard BBQs and pool parties, where everyone would beg you for your famous potato salad recipe. I hope you don’t mind, but I found it when I was cleaning out the house, and I made a copy for everyone on the block. That’s your legacy, Dad. Now Roger’s Famous Potato Salad will live on forever!

Michael and I used to ask you what you wanted us to do with your ashes. Do you remember your response?

“I don’t know, but don’t let them get too dusty!” 

We didn’t. Promise. We scattered some in your perfect yard, and we planted a Blue Spruce with them. We sprinkle a bit of you wherever we go. Eventually, you’ll be gone. I kept a half-cup, though, and sent them to Eterneva to grow a Diamond, so we always have a piece of you. 

I’ll keep it safe for a few years and plan to give it to Savanna when she turns thirty. It’s going to be engraved with your initials, “R.L.K.” That way, when it’s passed on through the generations, everyone will know who you are. 

I have so much respect for you, Dad. And there’s not a person around who wouldn’t say the same thing. They don’t make them like you anymore. I’m counting the days until your Diamond comes home and we can enjoy our early mornings together again.