But, my mother lost her best friend on this earth.
The man who raised me for most of my life, who I called Pappa, but my boys affectionately referred to as ‘Boppa’, passed away this morning after a 6+ month battle with cancer.
I first met Norman Charles Case, the man who became my stepfather, sometime in 1980. My mom was still a fairly new officer on the Seattle Police Force and he was her new partner. He and his then wife, Nancy, invited us up for the weekend to their mountain cabin. I was at first utterly terrified of this giant 6’4, 210lb former Marine with the booming voice. By the end of the night I was riding around the cabin on his foot. By the end of the weekend, he was tossing me squealing into 4-foot snow drifts. ( I was tiny, they were over my head.)
Over the next several years, ‘Stormin Norman’ as he was known on the force, became a fixture in our lives. He and his wife Nancy, supported Mom through my parents rather messy divorce. Then after several years as partners including at least one near death experience, they realized they’d fallen in love. It was nearly a disaster.
Fortunately, Norm and Nancy pulled off an amicable divorce. Their two daughters, who became my sisters, were grown and gone. Nancy kept the Bothell house, mom and Norm took my brother and I to the mountain cabin. They were married there, on a Friday the 13th, in June of 1984. Gradually, that little one bedroom cabin with a ‘Mrs. Murphy’ became our three bedroom home for the next twenty years.
In March of ’85, my mom was badly hurt on the job, tho it took nearly 6 months for the doctors to realize, “oops, yes, that was a fracture of your neck, maybe we should stabilize that?” and ‘oh, by, the way, happy 1st anniversary.’ My stepdad’s only words of complaint through the coming years were along the lines of, “Carolyn! Will you stop trying to move that couch…. recliner… table…tank… stop that before you hurt yourself!”
He became my primary parent from then on, I only saw my birth father on the weekends, and my mother was frequently bedridden.
Over the years, he taught me a love of and respect for nature, a fascination with wild animals, that Louis L’Amour was one of the best authors on the planet, and no one was better than ‘The Duke’. He taught me that if you build something, you should build it to last (if a 2’4 is good, a 2’6 is better), craftmanship is an art and to build something with your hands is an act of love. He taught me to shoot a rifle, then a handgun, and to always stand on my own two feet.
Some of my best childhood memories are of standing on the porch with him, watching the trees sway in the midst of a windstorm, (especially the night four trees dropped on our road, one of them on my bedroom roof); going out to monitor the weekly bonfire, a ‘chore’, only to look up and see him standing on the porch balcony watching the bonfire with a fascination equal to my own. I remember going crabbing with the Hirschbergs every summer, especially during my teen years. We seemed to spend a lot of time out on the boat, in theory pulling up crabpots, but mostly talking, about his life, things he’d seen and done, places he’d been, about problems I was dealing with.
I was probably 10 years old the first time he let me shoot a shotgun. I remember the neighbor boy clipping the sapling that was our target. Then he handed me the gun, showed me how to seat it against my shoulder, warned me it would kick ( I might have weighed 50 lbs), said, in essence, point and shoot, and stepped back behind me. I was completely airborne, and he was laughing, when he caught me, and he laughed harder at my delight when I saw the two-inch hole I’d blown in the middle of the sapling. I always think that day was symbolic of our relationship. He gave me the knowledge I needed, trusted me to use it wisely, and was there to catch me if I needed it.
He wasn’t always perfect. He was a lousy driving instructor, and I’m still not convinced I’ve forgiven him for that elk head that greeted me on the front porch one morning at the end of hunting season. But, he was the rock that held our family together through some very trying times. He provided me the only stable home I remember.
Today he left us, passing through the Veil and on. I know he had family and friends there to greet him. I know he is safe and no longer in pain, but right now, it hurts. He left behind him his wife, five children, eight grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and one on the way (at last count!). He will be greatly missed.
Rest in Peace, Boppa. We will see you on the other side.