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Monday, March 23, 2009

"Paddle me out, boys."

My dear friend Nancy's dad passed away last year. There just isn't enough room here to tell you what an amazing man he was. I will just say that Nancy always called him her best friend.

Nancy's three boys and my three kids are the same age. They grew up together. Much of that growing up took place at Nancy's dad's home in Mexico. Nancy and her then husband Patrick, Charlie and myself and our broods would take weekends, spring breaks, and any time we could, and her dad would let us use his little casita on the beach. Those times got less and less as the offspring grew and schedules got busy, but they remain good and happy memories over lots of years.

When I was depressed after losing my dads, Nancy would say; "Let's go to Mexico and spend the weekend with my best friend." And we would. When the kids were driving us nuts and we needed to run away, Nancy would say; "Let's go to Mexico and see my best friend." And we would. When Charlie got laid off, when Caris turned 16, when Averie graduated, when the Grommet scored his first hockey goal, anything and everything, we'd go to Mexico and see Nancy's best friend.

Early last year, after her divorce, Nan and I took a little 3-day cruise. One of the port stops was Ensenada. When Nancy's dad found out, he told us; "Listen girls, I'm gonna drive down and meet you and then we're gonna paint the town red." When we got to port, there he was, waving happily. Paint the town we did. I'm pretty sure that no one else on that boat had the kind of fun we did. He knew that area back and forth, every bar, every restaurant, every road. Though a gringo through and through, his Spanish was impeccable, and he took great pride in introducing us around as "Mis hijas hermosas"; my beautiful daughters. He bought us lunch, got us drunk, and at the end of the day, delivered us safely back to the ship, where he kissed us adios and said "See ya Girls. Have fun!"

When he passed away in September, I hurt as I watched my friend hurt. Yet Nancy, like her strong-willed dad, knew there was work to be done, and she did it. She didn't have time to grieve and she knew her dad wouldn't stand for it. When I asked her what kind of arrangements she was making she told me that her dad had been very specific. "Nan, I want NO blubbering, and no fuss. Cremate me, wait for good weather, and take my ashes back to Mexico. Tell my grandsons to paddle me out, let me blow away in the wind and tide, take a shot in my honor, and then when it's all done, tell the three of them to sit on the beach together and have a beer and talk about the great times we've had."

This weekend, that's exactly what happened. Nancy's three boys, the Grommet, and friends of Ken's, surfers from age 19 to 77, paddled out in that beautiful Mexican surf that Ken loved so much and we all said Adios and Vaya con Dios. Then, while the rest of us went up to the house, his grandsons did just as he wished and had that beer on the beach with Grandpa. I know everything was just as he wished and he was smiling down.

The surfers gather for Ken.

Nan's youngest son Kyle, and the Grommet. Buds for life.

Nan, her three boys, and the boys' dad.

Nan and a quiet, last moment with her dad.

Nan's eldest son, Branden and Grandpa going out in the surf.

"Tell my boys to paddle me out."

"Let me blow away in the wind and tide."

"Then tell the three of them to sit on the beach together, have a beer, and talk about the great times we've had."

Vaya con Dios Ken. You were a class act all the way.