My family lost a good friend this weekend. His name was Wayne Kakela and he was an American original. He and my Dad went to college together and they were big buddies. He and Linda and Annie and Kate are dear friends of ours, and central to many of my family’s greatest adventures. They have been our neighbors in Steamboat Springs for over 30 years. They are the reason we bought a place in Steamboat. Wayne is the one who moved our cabin from the town out to Strawberry Park. My nephew calls him his Steamboat Papa.
Wayne was a character. He was a builder, an artist, a rancher, a black powder enthusiast, a rugby player, a raconteur, a collector, a proud Fin, and an authentic Man of the West, though he was from Minnesota. He could fix anything and everything, and he did. He liked barter more than he liked money. I think about those mountain men who braved the snow and the Rockies back in the early 1800s and I don’t have to wonder what they were like. I knew one.
As I study genealogy, I’ve come to realize that friends are as important as family in telling our family histories. The Kakelas are an integral part of my family’s story and I’ll have a lot more to say about them in the memoir I’m writing.
Today I’m heartbroken over Wayne’s death. And today I’ve been thinking of one of my favorite quotes:
The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection, that one is sometimes willing to commit sins for the sake of loyalty, that one does not push asceticism to the point where it makes friendly intercourse impossible, and that one is prepared in the end to be defeated and broken up by life, which is the inevitable price of fastening one’s love upon other human individuals. — George Orwell
Life will break us all and it broke me a little today, but I wouldn’t trade that breakage for any of my memories of Wayne. If anything, Wayne’s death presses upon me the fierce urgency of now and redoubles my determination to get my memoir written. And I am comforted by the idea that my Dad and Wayne are sitting by a heavenly stream right now, in the shade of a cottonwood grove, drinking wine, eating steak and sharing a big laugh.