Love you, Dad

Love you, Dad
Jules (Julius) Clavadetscher

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Deepen the Argument

"Choose words that deepen the argument for being alive."
- Padraig O Tuama

My friend and former pastor posted O Tuama's words on his Instagram several days ago and they brought me up short in my scrolling. After many weeks off from this blog I finally received the motivation to come back with the goal of assembling words to uplift and inspire, challenge in healthy ways, or even  admit passing sorrow and loss with an outlook toward gratitude and hope for the future. Lofty goals, admittedly, but the only way I could bring my fingers back to the keyboard.

We are surrounded by dark, blaring headlines, dire warnings and partisan fury. Though I have many story ideas squirreled away from years of dabbling, the plot lines about eco-wars and epidemics no longer appeal. What seemed futuristic in previous decades has now come to pass and visions of hope and beautiful alternatives seem more necessary than scary predictions.

My writing project over the past months has been a gift that lays out such visions of hope. My mother and I have been reading and transcribing the letters my father wrote to her during the 11 months he served in Vietnam -- 50 years ago exactly. Though lonely, hot, far away from home and surrounded by war, Dad focused on his fiancee and castles in the air built on their hopes for the future.

He wrote passages that prod me to reform my sometimes gloomy outlook:
"I am optimistic over the prospects offered by the Paris peace talks. They met for 6 1/2 hours yesterday but nobody said much about what occurred. I take this as a good sign that a real discussion of business is going on and nothing will be said until the results are finalized. I have been an optimist all along and will continue to be one. I think if I weren’t I would lose my mind."

As true today as they were in 1969 - we must be somewhat optimistic or we will lose our collective mind. Dad's words from Vietnam motivate me to actively hope and put work behind my dreams for my future and my children' futures. The possibilities are before us if we can only guide one another through the minefield of negative news and make a light for ourselves - and others - to follow.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

A Beautiful Life: Julius (Jules) Clavadetscher

POLSON — Julius (Jules) Clavadetscher,  former automotive executive, one-time mayor of Polson, and a loving husband and devoted father, died Dec. 15 from complications of progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) and Parkinson's syndrome. Montana has lost a dignified, thoughtful citizen but his family and friends will forever have him as a role model.
Jules was born May 3, 1943, to Herman and Ruth (O'Malley) Clavadetscher in Billings, their third and youngest son. After attending Billings Senior High School, he followed in the footsteps of his oldest brother, Greg, and his middle brother, David, to Georgetown University.               
After graduation he attended Columbia University in New York where he received a master's degree in business administration. Then on to his next life adventure, as an enlisted U.S. Army soldier serving his country in Vietnam. He served valiantly and talked little about his time in Vietnam.
When he returned to the United States he set out to find a job and marry the Billings teacher he had met on an arranged blind date. His union with Ann Murdo lasted more than 50 years. They celebrated their 50th anniversary on Sept. 6 in Polson, where they have lived since 2001.
Jules worked for Ford Motor Co. in New Jersey, where his and Ann's first three children -- Laura, John, and Karen -- were born, and in Michigan, where Mike and James rounded out the family.
In the 1980s Jules moved into executive offices at Nissan American Motor Co. With Nissan, the family moved to Irvine, California, then to the Boston, Massachusetts suburbs, before returning to Nissan's then-headquarters in Southern California. The family lived in Palos Verdes before Jules received an assignment in Northern California (Danville), where he was named a Nissan Vice President. From Danville, Jules and Ann moved to Polson, where they built a home in the Mission Bay subdivision.
Jules believed in building and serving communities. He joined the Polson Rotary Club, and he and Ann volunteered at the local food bank. He was a key member of the Greater Polson Community Foundation.
In 2004 Jules was appointed to the Polson City Council and later became mayor of Polson in 2006- a task he took like a duck to water. One of the most satisfying accomplishments as Mayor was working with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes to reconfigure the pier and parking area at Point Salish Park.
He and Ann cheered on the Griz, the Hoyas, the Wildcats, the Ducks, and numerous sports teams of all colors and stripes.
For the past six years, Jules suffered from Parkinson's disease and related conditions, gradually losing mobility and his voice but never his sense of humor. He participated in a medical trial in San Francisco with the hope of helping to find a cure for future generations. He has donated his brain to medical science in the hope that scientists can better understand the disease and find a cure.
Jules leaves behind his wife, Ann, his children Laura Dravenstott (Rob), John (Carol), Karen, Mike (Pam), and James (Molly) plus grandchildren Aden, William and Daniel Dravenstott of Colorado, Julia, Sean, and Audrey Clavadetscher of Chicago, Michael (Mac), Joey, Tommy, and Mae Clavadetscher of Marshfield, Massachusetts, and Jack, Benjamin, and Connor Clavadetscher of Petaluma, California. Also surviving are his brother, Greg (Martha), brother-in-law Bob (Marlene) Murdo and sisters-in-law Kay Clavadetscher and Pat Murdo. He also leaves behind numerous nieces, nephews and longtime friends from Billings and newer friends from Polson.
In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his brother, David, and two nephews. The family would like to thank Partners in Home Health for assistance in the past months.
Cremation has taken place. A memorial service will be held this coming summer. Donations may be made to the Polson Loaves and Fish Pantry, to the Greater Polson Community Foundation, to the CurePSP Foundation, or a charity of the donor’s choice.
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Monday, December 16, 2019

He Touched the Face of God

"On the wings of powerful love and prayer, he burst into glory on his new birthday."
- Father Costello, St. Ignatius of Loyola

"Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings..."
- From "High Flight," by John Gillespie Magee

On Sunday, December 15, at 12:40am, I woke from an unsettled rest as my brother James flicked on the lights and said, "Dad is gone." The bed was barely warm; we had only left my parents' room an hour before, after a sacramental day spent praying, telling stories and laughing amidst our tears. Throughout that day Dad's breathing changed from rapid, shallow breaths to spurts of shallow breathing followed by long pauses that gradually extended in duration and caused us all to turn and watch him with our own held breath. During these pauses, Mom placed her hand on his chest and leaned forward to see if he was still with us.

Miraculously, he did stay with us as all five children arrived throughout the day Friday and Saturday on flights from Los Angeles, Boston, Denver and Chicago. As each person entered the room, my sister, Karen, would update Dad, who seemed to grasp her message and move a little closer to heaven with each arrival. Though afraid of the unknown - none of us, including Mom, had ever witnessed a death - our love for Dad and our family flowed around the room as we encircled the bed, each of us holding on to Dad wherever we could reach a hand, a foot, an arm. He was warm with the effort of his breathing, and  not fully conscious, but his strong spirit held him to the room as we all waited together.

Dad had been ill for years, plagued by PSP (para supranuclear palsy), most likely caused by exposure to Agent Orange during his year in Vietnam with the US Army. Thanks to the careful, dedicated nursing of my mom, his quality of life and his life itself extended long past the deadline predicted by his physicians.  Adjusted as we were to his gradual decline, no one knew when to expect the rallying cry, "Come."  We may have even missed the moment - it came so quickly at the end - were it not for my brother, Michael, whose co-worker approached him a week ago to ask how Dad was doing.

"Not well," said Mike, and his friend urged him to go see Dad without delay. "You have to go now," she said, "You won't regret it."

Mike called my mother, determined that Dad was worse, the hospice nurse had started daily visits and had started Dad on morphine. My brother sent out the alert that time was short and the remaining four siblings made immediate plans to come from around the country, scheduling flights and cars and coordinating with my aunt and uncle in Montana to get to Dad as quickly as possible.  Anxiety settled like angry hedgehogs in all stomachs as we waited for late flights, prayed for the snow to stop and the roads to clear.

The anxiety and fear diminished for me upon arrival as I joined the circle around Dad, reliving childhood adventures with an intrepid father who perpetually urged us to scale mountains both literal and figurative. We took turns reading the Prayer of St. Francis, praying the rosary, and weeping as we assured Dad that his work on Earth was done and that it was okay to go.

My mother channeled a spiritual strength that astonished us, leading both prayers and reassurances to Dad. After boxes of tissues were handed around we again resumed our story-telling and laughter, keeping one eye on the clock as we waited for our last sibling to arrive. Karen kept updating my father, letting him know that John was coming, he was almost there.

John arrived at 9pm with my aunt after navigating a snowstorm and icy roads, and in time to share the circle of laughter and love. My mom sent us off to rest after 11 and James stayed with her and my father, lying on the floor next to Dad and timing the pauses between his breaths in that dark and peaceful room. In a beautiful counterpoint to childbirth, where contractions speed up in frequency and duration, the spaces between Dad's breaths increased and gave way to long periods of pause as his body struggled to release his spirit and give birth to his new life. When he left us and James called everyone for the final goodbye, his spirit lingered in the room while we consoled each other and celebrated the beautiful manner in which he left.

Standing so near the veil between the known life and the great unknown has both blessed and shaken us. In a short time we have grown and changed immensely in a sacramental manner that has further bonded us to one another. We are grateful for Dad's beautiful passage and for this new bond, his final earthly gift to us all.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Tactile Creativity

eThe only solution I see to a crazy world is to create something new. A new way of thinking, a new hierarchy of priorities, a new object of beauty. In the past, writing has been my main creative outlet but now I crave something more elemental and tactile. I'm drawn to British reality shows about interior design or baking; the British are more polite, less ruthlessly competitive, and their brave attempts to try something new inspire me to attempt my own art projects.

Currently my project is a mosaic, a wave theme to be mounted on wood and hung in the master bathroom. In the event that it fails, no one will have to view it except me and Rob, and occasionally the children when they come in to snag toilet paper. I also want to paint the kitchen chairs green, which met with raised eyebrows and protestations from the boys, but remarkable forbearance from Rob. He seems to get it - that creative endeavors provide peace of mind and clear short-term goals that help alleviate nameless fears for the future.

As a result of my craving for tactile creativity, my writing has decreased. I weary of ideas, arguments and philosophy, and lean into my desire to create a happier, more colorful home space that smells of cinnamon and occasionally chocolate (brownies are best ). I long to change broken plates into art (after first smashing them on the porch - tremendously satisfying) or turning that old, brown banana into muffins.  My kitchen is more satisfying than a world stage, my happy family a better audience than potentially disgruntled readers. (Not that any of you are disgruntled - you are the happy readers, whom I cherish!)

So off to smash some plates and buy some clear gloves so I don't glue my fingers together. I might need them to type some day.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Funky Fall

"These frightening possibilities cannot be denied, but neither can they be taken as facts. The only fact is that we don't know what will happen in the future, and to imagine that we do is foolish. It is not unusual for history to proceed by a process of reversal: momentum going in one direction is replaced by momentum in the opposite."
- "The Religion of Politics, the Politics of Religion," Norman Fischer, The Sun May 2005

Lulled  by the high count of readers who kept returning to Halloween and pumpkin blog posts of old, I deleted blogging from my to-do list for early fall. A funk descended on me and I struggled to find the path out. Headline and current events hit my psyche like dual bludgeons, and the sorrow from missing my daughter (a freshman at college) and worry for my father (in hospice care) weigh me down. A final blow was worry and stress about my 13-year-old son, whose eighth-grade road has been rocky. I thought ahead to high school and panicked, not knowing where to send him or how to magically ensure a safe and successful road.

In finding my way out of the dark, I followed a few paths. First, realizing that I was borrowing trouble for the future and attempting, in vain, to control what "should' happen with my son. We only have today, as I have learned time and time again. The movies that play in the cockeyed scary theaters of our mind need to be turned off as soon as previews roll - never allowed to proceed into full-length features.

Secondly, faith illuminated the great lesson; I have to admit my powerlessness and trust in the power and positivity of the universal Oneness.  The great unifying love, or God, has shepherded me through dark, dark times in the past and I need to learn again (and again) to rely on something greater than myself.

Lastly, when stress and worry trigger my jaw pain, head pain, or psychic pain, I remember that I found my way through pain and illness in the past with help from mindfulness, faith and caregivers. It's frustrating to go over this bend in the road yet again- I wish I could be done with it forever -  but ultimately a relief to have networks in place to help.

The quote at the top of this blog is something I read every day. The only fact is that we don't know - that I don't know - what will happen. To worry and obsess will merely take away my joy in today. I hope the words are helpful to you, and that your road is rising and you stand in the sun.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Make America Greta Again

"You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you."
- Greta Thunberg speech to the United Nations Climate Action Summit (

Sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg took the UN's Climate Action Summit by storm last week, delivering a scathing speech that dared to tell truth to power. Thunberg, who identifies as a person with Asperger's Syndrome, inspired tens of thousands of youth (and their affiliated adults) to participate in the world Climate Strike on Friday, September 20, and she is a role model and inspiration to all in the neurodiverse community. A friend of mine who has a daughter with Asperger's bought her girl a T-shirt with the caption "Make America Greta Again."

Thunberg inspires me while at the same time bringing my fears about climate change to the forefront of my mind, an uncomfortable place for them to be. I first learned about climate change during my Environmental Studies program at San Jose State, where I went to get a second BA and a California teaching credential. That was twenty year ago, and it chills me to now experience the temperature rises and extreme weather events that were predicted in 1999 (actually long before).  We have done nothing, really, to save our faltering planet for future generations, and I fear that young people will, in fact, never forgive us.

I agonized over the decision to have children twenty years ago and ultimately decided that the hope and purpose they inspire would be necessary for my positive interaction with the world. And still I feel torn about their futures - though their existence has  been an unadulterated good to me, what kind of future lies before them when I am gone? 

Thunberg is right - we must act to have the right to hope, we must push our local and national governments to move forward, we must change the bad actors in Washington and we must use our consumer power for good whenever possible. We must act, because everything hangs in the balance.

Monday, September 16, 2019

For What Will Be, Yes.

"For what has been, we thank you. For what will be, Yes."
-prayer of unknown origin

My brother John resurrected this childhood prayer when we were in Montana last weekend. We gathered around a festive table to celebrate my parents' fiftieth wedding anniversary and John began this simple grace. After the sign of the cross, this statement used to precede an individual thanks from each family member, proceeding from youngest to oldest. Unprepared, Michael and I hesitated a minute before we spoke, though Mom didn't falter. She thanked God for us, for those family members who couldn't be with us, and for her husband. My father cannot speak but he gave the sign for "I love you," after which we turned our food with constricted throats.

In this difficult time of transition, as we try to free Dad from worry and let him go - most assuredly to whatever heaven might exist - I cannot think of a more perfect prayer. For fifty good years of marriage, a pure example of selfless love for five children and thirteen grandchildren, God, we thank you. For what will be, we must try to say "yes."

The deep emotions were balanced by some quiet time outside in my father's beloved Montana. While Dad napped in the late mornings, my brothers and I took the stand-up paddleboards out on Flathead Lake. The scorching summer sun muted by autumn's haze, we glided over glassy shallows and peered at the fish and plants below. In one area, a pine tree had recently fallen and its boughs waved under gentle swells. In another small cove, an old dock had collapsed and we maneuvered between pointy remnants of its supporting beams.

The hidden landscapes made me think of the struggles and joys that lie beneath the tapestry of my parents' marriage. The struggles they shared, all the moves we made across country with their resulting changes, losses they suffered and joys celebrated together.  So much richness, so much vibrant life. So much to be thankful for, even as we struggle to say yes to things to come.