Thursday, May 15, 2008

Rest In Peace, Papa

I don't even know how to begin to write this one. My grandfather, Ted Ostrem, passed away last Thursday morning after struggling to fight off an infection in his lungs that he caught after his second surgery last week. I've never lost someone so close to me. Losing Grant's Dad two weeks ago was hard, but I didn't know him very well on a personal level. Losing my babysitter and close family friend, Anna Bonde, when I was 13 was hard too but our relationship had barely developed. The loss of my father's mom, my grandmother, happened when I was too young to remember anything about her; I've only seen video of her holding me as a baby and pictures of her with my Dad. I was not prepared for this.

At 20 years old, I've had lots of time with Papa and we've shared so many memories. I would say that the majority of them revolved around our favorite sport and our strongest connection: golf. I remember when he came out to visit and rode around with Grandma in the golf cart at Hales Location for one of my high school golf team practices. I shot 39 that day, finishing the 9th hole off with a long birdie putt that rolled right in. I remember teeing off at Glendoveer so many times with Papa and his friend, Dick. I remember his jerky swing that would send the ball clear to the right or to the left, or on rare occasions, straight down the middle. I remember his knack for scrambling for par or bogey even when he found himself deep in the Oregon trees. I use many of the tricks he used in the forest to improve my own game in those woody situations. I remember arriving at Portland International Airport so many times and seeing his warm smile fill the room when he saw us coming. He would excitedly tell me about all the golf tips he'd read about in Golf Digest that could fix his game, and how I could help implement those tools into his deteriorating swing. I remember him regaling me with tales of his holes-in-one, as he had two in his lifetime. I remember his joy for the game, and his pure sadness when he had to give it up after being put on oxygen full-time.

I remember our trips to the many different driving ranges. There was the one out in Oregon City with the giant schooner wagon. There was Hound Hollow, which closed down when I was younger. There was one out in Eastmoreland. There was one in Tualatin with island greens surrounded by water. Papa always loved watching my swing. "Straight as an arrow!" he'd say, if my ball happened to flutter straight even though it didn't go nearly as far as I normally hit it. "Look at that one fly!" he'd say, if my shot was very long but veered far off course. He always found a positive way to look at a golf shot, regardless of the result. I remember putting on his burnt orange carpet in their house on Southeast Francis. I can still hear the sound of a golf ball rolling into those little plastic cups. Papa would sit on the couch and listen for the connection of polyurethane on plastic and shout out, "Three in a row! You won't forget your old grandpa when you get to the Masters now will ya?" My own Dad always loved golf too, but I don't think I would have ever developed the deep love for the game that I have now if not for my grandfather's influence.

Another one of his favorite things to do was go fishing. I never found it all that appealing as I grew older, but I remember that we used to fish together when I was a kid. He'd teach me how to cast and where to throw the line and how to tie the bait on the lure. I remember walking down those brown rickety stairs and meeting the musty garage smell as I walked through the door to get our rods. We had a cooler completely full of bottles of Clearly Canadian sparkling water, always in either strawberry or raspberry flavor. Papa always knew where the fish were hiding. I'd like to go fishing again this summer in his memory. It's been years since I've gone out on the water to fish and I know if I do, he'll be right there beside me, guiding my line towards the perfect fishing hole.

He used to show me some of his old card tricks. He'd play Rummikub with me and Grandma and my younger sister, Hannah. He loved Grandma's cooking: he ate salads with Kraft Brand Zesty Italian dressing -- his favorite; he loved fresh turkey sandwiches with the spicy brown mustard that had a beaver on the label; he raved about fresh fish and never seemed to have dinner without it. We used to watch Seattle Mariners' games on TV and he'd always cheer on our favorite player, Edgar Martinez, and yell at manager Lou Piniella when he'd send in perpetual disappointment Jose Paniagua, a middle reliever who blew just about every lead the M's ever had in the late 90's. We'd watch the British Open almost every July when my family would visit, and I remember watching the Jean Van de Velde collapse in 1999, right as it happened.

It's still very hard to think that I won't see him when I go out to Oregon to visit. I know he struggled with his health problems and hated being away from golf and fishing, so it is nice to know that he was relieved of those medical anxieties and that he's probably playing endless rounds of golf with his old friends up in the clouds. It's also nice that I'll always have the memories of him to cherish for the rest of my life. But as nice as those things are, I still won't hear his laugh again. That rough, full-body laugh that I would hear as we watched episodes of Scrubs together. I won't see him handing me the sports page of The Oregonian at the breakfast table when I get up at Grandma's house in the morning. It's hard to imagine not hearing his voice again, whether it be cheering me on at the golf course or telling me about the latest problem with the Portland Trailblazers as we watched games together. It's too bad he won't see the team as the franchise begins to make a positive turnaround, since he always used to complain about the "thugs" and "troublemakers" on the team that brought about the nickname of the "Jail-blazers." Now, the team is young and on the rise, led by players who excel on and off the court.

Papa was a very proud man. I'll always admire the way he carried himself and kept a smile on his face even when he felt nothing like smiling. He gave me a great passion in golf and I'm so grateful for his influence on me. He always taught me that it was okay to make mistakes but to realize that it was what I learned from them that really mattered. He's someone who I'll always look up to and remember fondly in my heart. I love him so much, and I will miss him every day. Rest in peace, Papa, and save us a tee time for when I meet you up there in the clouds, many years from now.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for such a thoughtful and caring tribute to your grandfather. Papa Ted was a real gem, one of the most generous people I have ever known. I am thankful that you got to spend as much time with him as you did, and it doesn't surprise me that he has been such a big influence on you. He will be missed by all who knew him...

Peter Kittle said...


What a wonderful tribute to your grandfather. Although I didn't know him well, his generous and joyful spirit was always present when I visited the house on Francis.

Uncle Peter

Penny Kittle said...


I love this tribute to Papa. He loved you so much! I know his times on the golf course with you were special to him and he never forgot you catching that trout when we were out fishing. He loved everything about you: your honesty and responsibility and your good sense of humor. He was always as competitive as you and just as serious about sports. He truly admired your achievements in school and was confident that you will live an honorable, happy life. He often reminded me how proud he was of you. We all are.