My grandfather Emil Bartylla (we all always called him Bup) passed away this morning. I took this photo of him and my mom at a Father’s Day gathering almost fifteen years ago. Bup was such a fixture in my life — and this picture is at the house I would take the bus to occasionally when I was in kindergarten. It was the house where my mom grew up. The house Nannie and Bup built in the ’50s, when all of Woodbury was just potato and corn fields, an apple orchard, and some radio antennas.
I told Mykala it feels like the foundational bedrock-givens of our lives, those pieces of ground keep falling out from under us, and we land in a hole, and then the bottom of that hole once again falls out from under us. This pandemic means having a large get-together to hug and cry and remember Bup has to wait.
But I can remember a little on my own. I remember the coffee percolator always running at Nannie and Bup’s. I remember Wheel of Fortune on the TV in the evening, shortly after Nannie died, nearly thirty years ago. I remember when everyone came over to re-roof the house. I remember how Bup helped me build a school project in his wood shop. I remember his warm hugs on holidays. And I remember all of our families, all four of Nannie and Bup’s children and their kids on vacation at Wolf Lake… I must have been just four years old. I remember the Christmas when I got this huge Lego helicopter, and how Bup and I marveled at the mechanical winch on it. I remember the story Bup would tell, how he sailed on a Navy destroyer in the Pacific straight through a hurricane, engines on full speed on one direction for a day, then a day in the eye of the hurricane, then another day, engines on full speed in the opposite direction as they sailed out the other side of the storm.
I guess I don’t know where we are now, in the eye of a hurricane, on our way out, or just on our way in. Hard to say. We’ll miss you, Bup.
Lens at 31mm, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/80s
Snapped Jun 20, 2005 at 1:48pm
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