Monday, June 9, 2014

Memories of Bob Written By His Grandkids

Today I want to start posting a couple eulogies that My Grandkids gave at Bob's memorial service.  I am so proud of them!  The first one was given by Paul Shriver, Carla and Jim's oldest son.  He lives in California now and is a script writer for trailers for games.  He has every young person's dream job.  He plays computer games all day!  Here is his speech:

Paul on horseback with his Grampa

My grandpa is going to go down as the stuff of American legends. Pecos Bill roping tornadoes, Paul Bunyun taming a blue ox, Teddy Roosevelt’s walking stick, and Bob Manville’s shirtless singing.
I’ve always seen him as a walking embodiment of the American West. The man in the cowboy boots who was never afraid. The man who beat cancer more times than XXX. The man who was king of the Cabin.
Like all legends, his passing from this world is almost mythical.

Bob still his optimistic self.

On his last Friday, the hospice people said he wouldn’t make it through the weekend. Ever the fighter, Friday night passed and he was still holding on. Saturday night came and went, Bob Manville was still with us. And then on Sunday, a couple hundred miles away, there appeared a raging storm cell on Wyoming Highway 450 between Wright and Newcastle. Stormchasers from Oklahoma tripped over themselves as they filmed this incredible image of the clouds sweeping majestically across the plains and then opening like the of eye of a cyclops.  This celestial cylinder descended from heaven to Earth. Or maybe going up from Earth toward the sky.

He made it through the weekend and died on a Monday. I like to think that that storm cell was Grandpa’s spirit taking one last victory lap across the West before departing to whatever’s next.
I’ve heard all these incredible second-hand stories of Grandpa from before I was born. Flying makeshift planes over precarious mountains, navigating onto unfinished dirt landing strips. He was a combat medic. He rode horses, four-wheelers, six-wheelers, three-wheelers, snow mobiles, Argos, trucks, tractors, blue WWII-era jeeps . Anything that could be steered, he guided expertly.

The man lived 78 years and touched more souls than we could count.
I want to share a few anecdotes.

Grampa in the stockyards at the National Western  trying to look gruff!

As a kid, I’d spend my summers at the cabin. These adventures with my cousins and Meemo and Grandpa into the realm of Manville were the best possible way to spend the summer.
Through all the time I spent with him, Grandpa remained a kind of stoic paragon of badassery. Tenacious, but a little mysterious.
There are a few things I can say with certainty about my grandpa.
He was absolutely a no bullshit kind of guy. Forgive me, I feel a little bad about using the term bullshit in a church. But Bob Manville would have no reservations. He didn’t sugar coat the truth. He told you what was what and he did it in no uncertain terms.

Bob and Allen Koester loading up the pack horse on an infamous backpacking trip

 Grandpa was the first person I heard curse. My mom would always scold him, but that never stopped him. If anything it just egged him on. 
“Penny! The damned democrats are at it again!”
“Ugh, the Broncos really got their asses kicked into the dirt.”
“You kids knock off the nonsense or I’m gonna beat your butts!”
It wasn’t ever vulgar when he cursed. To my innocent virgin ears it was just… cool. Like he wasn’t afraid to wield this harsher language.
Like any grandfather, he had a healthy stable of stupid jokes.
I’d say something like Grandpa I’m hungry.
And he’d say Hi Hungry, I’m Bob
Classic grandpa.
He had nicknames for most of his Grandkids. My brother Thomas, he called you Tomasina, Colton was Coaltrain, Skyman. I don’t think Erin got one because she was the lone granddaughter, his prairie princess.
And he would call me Red, or Redhead sometimes.

Maybe not shirtless this time but still a familiar scene in recent years!

As any of us grandkids can attest, it was not rare to see him sprawled on the couch shirtless. Watching his Westerns, or doing his crosswords, not giving a damn what anybody thought.
Most of the time he was also singing Way down upon Smokey River or Louie Louie Louie Louie. Singing very loudly. Singing pretty close to in-tune. But the words more often than not were ridiculously inaccurate.
He showed us a lot of the scars he had across his belly from surgeries and cancers.
Does it hurt? I remember asking him.
Nah, they just keep cutting it out. He said. Only thing is they’re running out of places to cut. And then he laughed. Like he really wasn’t afraid at all.

In high school and college, I would sometimes bring girlfriends up to the Cabin. When he met a girl he liked, his eyes would light up and out of nowhere he would activate this insane Casanova charm.
This genuine smile a mile-wide would turn on and he would enter what I like to call “True Gentlemen”-mode.
Tip his cowboy hat, say “Well howdy miss.”
This old, weathered cowboy would captivate those girls and they would be absolutely woo’d by him.
That was the grandpa I knew and had seen my whole life.
But I sensed there was a layer below that was sort of unknown to me. 
Grandpa was a man who could recount the process of something very well.
I remember him describing his chemotherapy and the implications of his test results and how the doctors would be doing X procedure with Y medicine. It was technical and medical but he described it with knowledge.
The thing he didn’t share was his feelings about the results. His hopes or fears. It was all words related to the technical course of action. Matter of fact. No bullshit.
I think that’s a hallmark of tough mountain folk. It’s near impossible to get them… us, to open up. Anyone who ever talked to him on the phone knows his favorite phrase. What-not-so.
I honestly have no idea what “what-not-so” even means. It’s not in the dictionary. It’s not something I’ve ever heard anyone else say.
I think its ambiguity makes it very versatile as a phone phrase.
It could mean anything from “I don’t want to talk to you, but I’m being polite” to “You’re my family and I’m proud of you and support you through thick and thin.”
So maybe that’s the heart of “what-not-so”. It’s all that’s left unsaid, that doesn’t need to be said because it’s deeply felt.
The one time with me that Grandpa skipped what-not-so and said what he felt was the last time I saw him.
I remember I said good-bye to him and I knew it was going to be the last time. He sat in that blue chair, a blanket wrapped around him, looking more frail than he’d ever been.
I hugged him and looked into his eyes and I saw something that I’d never seen before. His eyes were soft and piercing at the same time. It was weird and intense, but comforting and intimate. Like I was seeing him and he was seeing into me.
He said, “Goodbye Paul. I love you.”
And his arms gave me a really firm squeeze that surprised me, he was still super strong.

Grampa is telling Thomas how to set the headgate.

There is one distinct image I have of him that’s probably how I’ll remember him forever, and I want to share it with the wider world.
It was early on a summer morning, maybe around 7 am.
I was going to use the bathroom or play gamegear or who knows what, and I saw him standing, looking out the north window on the second story of the Cabin. He had binoculars pulled to his eyes, surveying cattle or the last remnants of melting snow on the ridge.
He was shirtless, of course. His boots were on. His scars exposed for the world to see, and he was singing loudly, obnoxiously some might say. Some.  
But he towered there, studying the land, the morning light splashing across his scarred stomach. And in this moment, I saw him as this heroic figure. No fears in the world. A swagger that couldn’t be measured by any instruments known to man. A conqueror of cancer. The American Legend.
He looked over at me and he said, “Did I wake you from your beauty sleep Redhead?”
He gave me a big ole grin. And then in his deep baritone he went right back to singing, “Way down upon the Smokey River.”
And that was my grandpa.  
By Paul Shriver, May 27, 2014

Tomorrow I will have Erin's memories. and hopefully some more pictures.

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