Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day: How my distant cousin became a cat

© 2017 Christy K Robinson
 
Looking at the photos of friends' cemetery visits this weekend, remembering their immediate families, reminds me that it was a ritual of my godparents to do the same. (They weren't godparents, really, but they were designated as our caregivers if our parents died while we were kids. The man was my grandmother's cousin, fairly close to her age.) Dale and Adrienne Hall would take flowers to Adrienne's parents' graves and have a picnic there, and remember them in stories with the other cemetery mourners. 
The circa-1924 photo is of my great-great grandfather,
Martin Friend Hall, an attractive dog, and Martin's grandson,
Dale Hall.
 
My immediate family didn't have that custom, as we were 2500 miles from our living grandparents, and the great-grandparents' graves were also far away. Because of our Christian faith, we believed we should honor one another in life, and anticipate seeing them one day in heaven. 
 
So today, I'd like to introduce you to my godfather, Dale Hall, 1923-2008. He was born on the Fourth of July, so his birthday cakes were often adorned with blueberries and strawberries on white frosting, in the form of a flag.
 
He was a veteran of World War II, went to my college (La Sierra, in Riverside, Calif.) on the GI Bill, kept my mother as a ward in sunny California during her teenage years when the Minnesota winters threatened to kill her, was a high school business teacher, and very opinionated on church matters. The church forbade coffee, tea, and other caffeinated drinks, but Dale was half-Swedish and from Minnesota, so coffee ran in his veins.
 
 He was an elder in his church, devoted to his two successive wives, was a total sucker for little dogs, a gracious host whenever I wanted a weekend away from university, and he envied the lifestyle of my cats, saying that when he died, he wanted to come back as my cat. So now, when my cat Smetana, born the year Dale died, bites me, I have to wonder about reincarnation... 
 
Dale was a grumpy old man, but most of that was from being a drill sergeant to those high school students. He loved the Bible and he loved the Lord, and I have no doubts of his eternal destiny.
 
Dale didn't have a biological child, though he and Adrienne adopted a son who is lost to the family. Unless a distant cousin laid flowers on Dale's Minnesota grave, I'm the one remembering him today. Adrienne rests in San Diego with her parents and brother, but she was the last of her line.  
 
There. That's Dale Hall, Army veteran, remembered with a grin. I'll see him again, even if he is a cat. 
 
1969: Among other family members, Dale is the one in the
green shirt, and his wife Adrienne is in the purple top. Their
son may have been away fighting in Vietnam.


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