the things we carry.
and those we don't.
I am writing this from a plane, destination Guatemala City. I will be hanging out there for the next few weeks (that’s the plan for now) while Chad has to take some work trips back in the States. First order of business is a big celebration to culminate the scholarship program I helped start back in 2008 in a small village. We have almost 50 of the 70 high school graduates coming next Sunday to reminisce and catch up. I’ll talk more about their awesomeness in coming days.
I hope that one of those coming is Brenda, the young lady my dad sponsored. He always asked about her and I’m so sad (for many reasons, including) that he isn’t here anymore to hear the updates. I don’t think I ever told you, but I’m sure you guessed by my long absence. My dad passed away on Sunday, Oct. 2. He was diagnosed with pancreatic+ cancer on the 17th and gone just weeks later. I’m so glad I finally trusted my intuition and ignored him telling me not to come back, as I had a few days with him before he died.
Rather than write much more about my current trip, I’d like to share what I wrote for the Celebration of my dad’s life on behalf of myself, my step-mother and brother. For those of you who weren’t lucky enough to know him, here is Colin Snyder:
It was always easy to buy a present for Colin, aka Honey, aka Dad, aka Gramps, aka “that man that keeps asking me questions.” When in doubt, go for the handkerchiefs. If you know him, you’ll know that he always had one handy. He had one ready for dusty garages, coughs, sneezes, snot…or tears. He always carried a hankie.
If you know him, you’ll also know he carried other things.
He carried a map, whether it was one he would meticulously unfold or one he’d just drawn on a napkin. Chad said, “I’ve literally never been with Gramps in over 2 decades where he hasn’t pulled out a map or asked for directions, either the way we got there or the way we were getting where we were going.” Ashley told Karin on Sunday that she could imagine Gramps asking the Saints at the pearly gates to show him on a map exactly how he’d made it to heaven.
He carried a Record of Service to the Air Force. He was proud of what he had done for his country, and proud of what it meant he could do for himself. Because of the GI Bill, he was able to become the first in his family to graduate from college. He even carried a miniature diploma of his BS in Electrical Engineering from SMU in his wallet.
He carried a Social Security card. Colin was the baby of a big family, one that had lots of struggles and not much security. Somehow he managed to grow from those struggles, work hard, and achieve his own American dream. Actually, from feeling like he was on the wrong side of the tracks as a boy to becoming a college graduate, homeowner, and devoted husband, father, and grandfather, his life exceeded his dreams. Most of us here are witness to the fruits of his labor. We are grateful. He was incredibly proud of his family. We are incredibly proud of him.
He carried a wedding ring. He and Susan were married for 26 of the 33 years they were together. She said, “he’s the most wonderful thing that’s ever happened to me. During all these years of my cancer battle, he’s always been there for me, taken me to treatment, and encouraged me. He was always positive that ‘tomorrow is gonna be a better day.’ He never gave up hope that I’d stay healthy enough to have a good life with him.”
He carried a AAA card. He loved TripTiks and Tour Books not only because they were maps & guide books with lots of trivia, but also because they meant he’d get to travel. Susan said the most exciting trip they took together was when they went to San Francisco, when they were first dating. She said part of the thrill was that he surprised her with the trip, and the other part was that they were traveling together when they weren’t even married! Her vote for second best was their trip to Italy several years ago. They also enjoyed at least a month in Florida every winter, as well as frequent trips to the beaches of North and South Carolina. They also made treks to Vegas, Hawaii, Ireland, Alaska, many National Parks, and even a 28 day cross country tour. In addition to many memorable family vacations as kids, Glenn and Karin recently took a trip with their Dad back to Palmerton, PA to see his roots and visit with the extended family he loved so much.
He carried his long “Snyder” fingers, which he used after a long day of work to throw baseballs or shoot endless hoops with Alex and Glenn throughout their childhoods. He would come home from work each night and take off his shoes (and imaginary sweater, because since he’d pull in the driveway right when Mr. Rogers would go off air, Karin for a while thought they might be the same guy.) He would draw the same duck every night for her for months on end. He would help build school projects like balsa wood boats and tissue paper kites like a true engineer. He would take the neighborhood kids on a joy ride in his ’57 Chevy. He would cheer for sports played by his kids and grandkids and anything played by Wake Forest. He would massage Susan after a particularly rough round of chemo. He carefully chose greeting cards and signed them with his unforgettable penmanship. He would pet the family’s dogs, especially the one they named after him so he wouldn’t get mad at them for getting a puppy while he was out of town for work. He loved a dance floor and was especially happy to use those Snyder fingers to lead anyone brave enough to trust him to do a dip. (Spoiler alert: never trust Colin with a dip.)
He carried a baggie of apple slices, glucose tablets, & his fancy blood sugar monitor. He had to check to see if he was being too sweet, right? One thing he didn’t carry with him was anger, aggression, or malice. He was always kind and gentle to everyone; strangers included. Glenn remembers being with him at a train station in a very rough part of Chicago, and he needed directions. He just walked right up to a very dangerous looking guy like it was a normal thing. He assumed the best in people.
He carried patience with him as well, with people and situations. Glenn says he’s never met anyone more comfortable standing in a long line! He never seemed to be in a rush, and always had time to treat people with respect. He liked to read someone’s name tag at a store or restaurant and address them by their name.
He carried an encyclopedia. He, of course, owned the gold-leafed versions peddled by World Book, but he didn’t really need those. (Though he couldn’t get rid of them either. On one of his last days, he came out of a dementia fog and complained that he didn’t know what was wrong with Goodwill because they wouldn’t take his most recent set.) Glenn and Karin fell in love with learning through the family’s “excitelopedias,” which their Dad would read to them frequently. He had plenty of facts and figures on a wide range of subjects stored in that smart brain of his, and he was cataloging his own Google searches before such a thing existed.
He carried an AARP card. He was retired after serving at the same company (AT&T) for his entire working life. He was the definition of a lifelong learner and asked questions to understand everything, especially people. We’re sad that he wasn’t able to pepper questions at the residents of the Friends Home, since he and Susan moved in only days before his cancer diagnosis. We’re sure at least one of the residents would have been “encouraged” to learn the speed of light.
He carried newspaper clippings, such as memorable sports events or just an article he thought you might like. Even long after the internet made sharing things 1 click away, he’d meticulously cut out the article, put it in an envelope, put a stamp on it, and mail it to you. Three days later you’d get to read it. Like I said, he was a fan of patience!
Colin carried service, family, and perseverance. He carried kindness, devotion, and an enthusiasm for learning. And in the end, he carried us all…to this place, today, together. We are all honored to have been a part of his life and thankful to have received his unconditional love.
Of course, we wish he were here physically to continue celebrating his life with us. We can’t have him with us, but you can carry something he always had with him for the next time you’ve got a tear to shed or a shed to clear. (We gave out hankies…clean ones.)
There’s a book my kids read in high school called The Things They Carried (by Tim O’Brien.) It is about the Vietnam War and the things those who were deployed brought with them from home. As you know, it always intrigues me to hear the stories behind the stuff we have, but especially when the stuff we carry is limited.
I’m carrying grief right now. It’s not tangible, but it feels like it’s weighting my bags beyond the allowed limit. Up until a couple of hours ago, I had planned to carry my dad’s cremains and take him to the kite festival for All Saint’s Day. But I decided I’m not ready to let him go just yet.
And just as there’s much to mourn, there’s much to celebrate. I’m hoping I’ll be able to balance the two over these next few weeks.
You’ll remember, my dad is the one who would show me Norway on the globe. I had called him from there, but I’m sad that i wasn’t able to tell him more about our trip. Do me a favor and make that extra call or visit to someone you love.
I finished this blog post before having to fill out the customs form. On it, they had all kinds of strange questions to answer that made me feel like I was taking a trick question version of the SAT. My favorite was when it asked how many bags you are carrying, including hand baggage and checked. The next question was how many bags are you not carrying. I wanted to write in “infinite emotional."
Forgive me if I’ve already written about the things you carry. I am feeling like i may have.
What is something you carry with you?
What does someone you love carry with them?
What does a character you’re creating carry?
I was crying my eyes out reading your beautiful words about your dad (Uncle Corky)! He was so loved in the Snyder family. The similarities between him and my dad were crazy. When I was visiting and talking with him I kept tearing up because I actually felt like I was seeing dad through him.
The hankie thing really got me! Dad always had a hankie too! In the early years always a white one with his suits. Then when he retired he went to the red bandanna’s like the engineers used since he worked for the railroad. I gave one of his bandannas to each grandchild and my brother and I kept one! Mine is tied to my console shift in the car and I have dads memories with me always.
The penmanship is uncanny. I’m sure you recognized Tom’s handwriting as your dads whenever you got mail from him. It’s crazy how it was almost identical. We both had amazing fathers who are reunited now in our Lords Heavenly Kingdom 🙏💜🥰
What a wonderful
Tribute to your dad! Now I know who
Gave you that travel bug! You will carry him
In your heart and in memories on every adventure to come. ❤️