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Transitions …

Tony Vagneur

It’s a simple thing to drop off a uniform at the ski company offices and be on my way. The end of winter is here, another season almost over, but that can’t explain the melancholy. There’s a burning in my eyes, maybe because Iris DeMent’s CD is providing one of her inimitable tear-jerkers as background to my mood, but I suspect it runs much deeper than that. Did a susceptibility to such moods start early in my life, at a time my memory cannot access, or did it develop over the years from seeing too much … something? This event, or that event, taken by themselves, walk through our lives with some sort of expectation that things will happen, can’t be helped, but when they start cropping up, we are left open to the realization that some situations will never come our way again in this life. It wasn’t that long ago, deep into the cold of January, that a matriarch of the Vagneur clan died. Ruth Vagneur gave it up after a long life, leaving behind a vital, and still local family. At Red Butte Cemetery, as we prepared to lower the coffin, the undertaker opined that bitter winter was preventing his electronic machine from doing its job. My cousin Kent pulled four lariats from the back of his truck, and in a manner befitting a ranching family of five generations out in Woody Creek, we gently lowered Ruth down in a style consistent with the old times around here. A week or so ago, lifelong native Sam Stapleton died at his house after putting up the good fight for the past few years. Or for a lifetime, I guess, if you want to look at it that way. “A kaleidoscope of stories,” was how Gregg Anderson of the Prince of Peace Chapel put it last Friday as we listened to friends and family pay their last respects. Sammy Pete was a cousin of mine and we shared some stories that might, in the proper company, bear repeating. We once worked in tandem to save a little girl from potentially life-threatening injury on a spooked horse, but talking about heroic things he’d done wasn’t the stuff of Sam, so I’m not going to mention it, either. But, you know, a guy like that leaves a hole when he ducks out on you.Yesterday, we took the time, for the second Friday in a row, to visit the Prince of Peace Chapel, this time to say our last good-byes to Norbert Anthes, a good friend who’s put sunshine into our lives since almost before we knew him. The usual drive on a Friday night, just to get home, and when it turns into a nightmare, the lives of many are unalterably changed. Wouldn’t you like to grasp that powerful handshake and see the twinkle in those eyes, just one more time?If nothing else, we learn equality from death, for we each leave for the next world with about the same accouterments. Forget monuments and things named after you – it’s the repetition of your name on the lips of friends and family that provides lasting memory in this world of ours. The tears can’t be held back, but the grass is greening up, the horses slicking down. The cutting pain of these deaths, and others, will slowly dull, and no matter how far inward our thoughts may have been turned, life moves on and we continue our participation. My daughter will be coming home from college this summer, a special friend is arriving soon for a rendezvous, and spring, however incongruously, signals a rebirth of life. Maybe the uniform won’t fit next year, or I may not be here to wear it, but the life that has been partially intertwined with it is good and appreciated, and already, I’m worried about being in shape for next ski season. Tony Vagneur wonders how our portfolios will be judged, standing before the metaphorical gaze of St. Peter. Read Tony here on Saturdays and send mail to ajv@sopris.net


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