This story is not like the others, as for this adventure had a mission, a mission to fulfill a promise made to my late father and give him the proper farewell he deserved. It was hot when we boarded the plane in Arizona, 108 degrees to be exact. Half the people wearing masks, spread out with empty middle seats due to Covid-19. This was a trip that needed to be taken to Montana to fulfill a dying man’s wishes. My father had succomb to Alzheimer’s in January and now it was time to take him home. He grew up in Montana and loved it so much and made us promise that when the time came we would promise to take him back and lay him to rest in his favorite spot. My mother in her eighties would not be able to make the trip alone, so dad’s three favorite ladies (mother, granddaughter and myself) set off to take dad’s remains back to Montana. The airport was extra careful with dad’s remains and the staff had many heartfelt words for my mother, which made us all feel good. We settled into our seats for the two hour flight to Bozeman Montana. The flight was on schedule and landed right on time. It had been 25 years since I had been back home and let me tell you things had definitely changed. The airport was much larger, more than three gates, there were now round- abouts on the roads, new freeway exits, it looked so different, I wasn’t sure I would find my way around. The mountains were covered with snow and a light rain coming down, not even sure if it was even 50 degrees. We made our way to the Homewood Suites by Hilton, it was a very nice two bedroom suite which worked out well. Shortly after arriving we were meet by my two best friends from school. We all went to dinner at the Montana Ale Works, which was quite good. I had the fish tacos and they were delicious. After dinner we made a stop at a local bar on main street, which I frequented a long time ago, the Rocking R Bar, however, it didn’t look like the Rocking R from the past, it was rebuilt after an explosion rocked main street in 2009 and leveled the bar. In 2011 it reopened with a whole new look, people weren’t standing like sardines anymore, it was actually really nice. We grabbed a big corner booth and had a few drinks and reminisced about old times. The next morning, my mom, daughter and two best friends hopped in the car for a trip down memory lane. We set out to take my mother and daughter around town to remember the old sites and to show my daughter where I grew up. First stop was to go see our last home in Bozeman on Springhill lane, it was hard to find the house as the roads had changed and there was a new entrance to the house, what use to be a house on 2 acres was now 2 houses on 1 acre each. The house looked similar for what we could tell, the trees much larger then when we left but still our home. After leaving the house we again drove down the iconic main street, some stores the same but most had changed, we laughed as we told my daughter “this is where we would cruise on Friday nights, and turn around in the Paint Pot parking lot”. We headed to the cemetery, mom wanted to visit her parents grave site for what would probably be for the last time. The trees in the cemetery had really grown and all the flowers that remained from memorial day still looked beautiful. I told my mother we could go get flowers to bring back and put on their graves, she loved the idea, which we did later in the afternoon. After the cemetery we drove around the neighborhoods, where my mom pointed out friends and families homes. We drove around the college MSU, and were amazed at how fancy the football stadium was. Later that evening my girlfriends invited their daughters and granddaughters to join us for dinner at Sidewinders, it was a lot of fun as our daughters had never meet each other. Once dinner was over my mother was tired and ready to go back to the hotel, but being the last night in Bozeman, the rest of us weren’t ready to call it a night quite yet. We decided to take our daughters to a few more bars we frequented after high school and low and behold they were still there and hadn’t changed much at all. They do have a new title as the Bar-muda triangle. The Molly Brown, Scoop and the Haufbrau, the only real difference we saw was the Molly Brown finally removed the carpet (who puts carpet in a college bar). After a couple drinks in each bar and a lot of laughs, we called it a night. The next morning it was time to head out for my dad’s home town of Butte Montana, an old mining town. There we were planning to meet Ron, aka Egbert, my father’s best friend growing up. Every story my father would tell involved Egbert, finally we were going to meet him. Egbert had planned to stay at the same hotel as us the Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott. We arrived in Butte at lunch time and decided to head straight to Pork Chop Johns, one of the favorites in Butte, for a delicious pork chop sandwich, which was just as good as we remembered. After lunch we headed back to the hotel to wait for Egbert. Egbert arrived with a bottle of Fireball in hand, knowing that dad and mom enjoyed a shot or two, or maybe as an icebreaker for the tough days to follow. Either way it was perfect. We hopped in the car, me behind the wheel, with Egbert giving directions. First stop was the neighborhood bar that Dad and Egbert would go to McGraths Pub, the name has changed since they were young men. We walked in to an empty bar but sat at a table and ordered a beer. Egbert reminisced about dad and my daughter secretly recorded many of the stories told that day to remember grampa by. Around the corner from McGrath’s was my fathers childhood home on Walnut street which we stopped and took a picture of, Egbert’s home had been torn down sometime ago just down the street. Next we headed to the Berkley Pit, the very large copper mine which no longer is mined. My dad enjoyed telling the story about when he worked at the mine “Pimping on the Chippy” aka mine elevator operator taking miners down underground. While looking at the Pit, which is now filled with water, Egbert told more stories which involved dynamite “borrowed” from the mine. The other visitors there that were looking at the pit enjoyed listening to Egbert’s stories more than reading the history of the mine. Next, we drove up to the top of the Berkley Pit to the Memorial of the Granite Mountain Fire where 168 men lost their lives in hard rock minings greatest disaster on June 8, 1917. After the memorial we headed down to Main street to hit some more of the old favorite bars. Several of the old bars were still closed due to Covid-19, but we managed to hit Mac’s Tavern which was very nice and the M&M. There was no need to social distance as we were the only ones in the bars. A couple more beers and just as many stories, we were starting to get hungry. We decided to head to Joe’s Pasty Shop, one of dad’s favorite places. Unfortunately they were all out of pasties due to condensed schedule in regards to the Covid issue. So, with that we headed to the next favorite spot, Lydia’s for some giant lobsters, and boy were we full when we were done. After dinner we headed back to the hotel and for a night cap and a few more stories. We all knew the next day was going to be a tough day so we headed off to bed. The next morning after breakfast, we grabbed my dad’s ashes, the bottle of Fireball and the 4 shot glasses that I had made from Butte Stuff for his memorial service held in Arizona. The shot glasses had an outline of Montana with a heart where Butte is located along with dad’s name and dates printed on them. We got in the car and started towards Wise River. Wise River was one of dad’s favorite places. As a boy he would go there every summer with Egberts family. Later dads father moved to Wise River. They would spend many hours fishing on the Big Hole River and hiking the mountains, this was where he wanted to be. As we got closer to Wise River, we knew that a wonderful husband, brother, father, grandfather and friend was almost home, this is where we promised to bring him many years ago. We searched for a beautiful spot, the sun was shining, the sky bright blue, the trees calm, the river looked beautiful and snow on the surrounding mountains, we knew we found the perfect spot. Dad had his three favorite girls and his best friend there to say goodbye to him. We had a shot of Fireball in his honor and each kissed the bag with dad’s ashes. My mom took a minute to say her goodbye’s and let him know she would see him again then proceeded to spread his ashes as requested. Once the ashes were spread and dad was finally home we sat at a picnic table and had a little more Fireball in his honor. The sun was still shining when we left a filled shot glass with a dollar bill under the glass on the picnic table. Our hopes that someone would come along and wonder the story behind it and who was this gentle kind man, whose memory was left under the big blue sky of Montana. We all love and miss you very much dad, and I will leave you with the words my son wrote to grampa.
“Today as you are laid to rest, know that this is not a forever goodbye. For although we are all part of your past you are part of all ours future. Life here on earth is finite, there is no escaping the inevitable, but part of you will still live on in all of us. You lived a full life, created many memories and told many stories that at times were bigger than life itself, that we all can reminisce on and smile. We take solace in knowing you have all your memories back. So, I say again this is not a forever goodbye but rather a see you later, I look forward to the day you can tell us all your stories new and old once again and I can share a lifetime of stories with you as well. Rest easy grampa.“
Thank you Egbert for being there with us, it meant the world to us. Please keep telling those fantastic stories.
Alzheimers is a horrible disease, please donate to help find a cure.