Monday, June 24, 2019
I had my morning tour of Concept2, which Meredith Breiland arranged (details to come), then drove an hour east and just north of St. Johnsbury, VT, to Lyndonville.
Three miles out of town runs a year-round brook that skirts the edge of the farm of Ron and Judy Groskopf. Judy was raised in St. Johnsbury. Like me, Ron was raised in Sonoma, CA. He is a third generation Sonoman through his paternal grandfather and fourth generation Sonoman on his paternal grandmother’s side.
Ron is three years older than I and, since we were young, one of the older guys who was always good to me. My father was Ron’s and my math teacher and coach at Sonoma Valley High School. Not only that, Ron is the older brother of Charlene – my former wife and the mother of our son Ian and daughter Eryn. Ergo, he and Judy are my kids’ maternal uncle and aunt. Family.
Ron Groskopf therefore looms large for me, and has, for almost sixty years. Although his sister and I went our separate ways long ago, Ron and I never did get divorce. But to my discredit I never did resolve things with him. I left matters dangling.
Ron graduated from University of Nevada-Reno the year I started at Cal. He had been in ROTC, so, soon after graduation, off he went to Vietnam, as a second lieutenant, US Army, 101st Airborne.
So wrapped up was I in living the college life, rowing crew, keeping my grades up, courting his sister Charlene, and shooting my mouth off about what a lousy war we were in, that not once did I ever give proper consideration to Ron’s sense of duty or the danger he faced every day.*
Nonetheless, the two of us always got along well over the years afterward – how generous of him! And always he, and after he married, Judy as well, were good to my children. And still I did not keep up with him.
Visiting them on their farm would have made the trip from Oregon worthwhile, even had nothing else good come of it. Ron and Judy Groskopf are the same people they were last time I saw them 30+ years ago. They are full of good cheer and love for Ian and Eryn and me; sad to hear my father had died and eager to share stories about him; positive about family news; grateful I came to see them.
And Ron, a third-generation trucker (my son is fourth-), loved Alan’s boat trailer; and as a guy whose family kept a classic Chris Craft at Lake Tahoe when he was a kid, he was enthralled with BETTER ANGEL.
The visit truly was short and sweet.
Milling around outside as I was leaving, I said to Ron, “You were an older kid I looked up to. Still do.” We gave each other a back-cracking hug, shook hands and said good-bye.
It’s that simple.
* Read Karl Marlantes’s marvelous book Matterhorn. You’ll learn something about the combat life of 2nd lieutenants in Vietnam. Their life expectancy was not long.