It’s All Relative


My grandpa died this week and Missoula lost some of its twinkle. Grandpa Harp was a man filled with love and someone who believed in simply being together. I am very proud to have inherited this trait.

Funnily enough, I am not a blood relative. Actually, when spelled out on paper, I am hardly related. Technically Grandpa Harp is my step-father’s sister-in-law’s father. But technicality is totally overrated and being related is totally relative.

Granpa Harp was the one I called when I was so sick that I could hardly see straight and through my fog of fevers, his was the only phone number I could muster. And sure enough, he came to get me in his little red truck and would hear nothing of my attempts to have him drop me off at home. He took me to his house where he and Granda Dori loved on me and watched as I sunk further and further away.

I wound up back in the hospital that night and came inches from dying. His love and Grandma Dori’s cooking were the last clear memories I had for a long, long time. And those memories where enough to motivate through many moments when I wanted nothing more than to give up on the new life I was barely surviving.

Why would a post about my Grandpa belong on a website touting the wonders of living in Missoula, MT? Well, it is because this man was an embodiment of Missoula.  Kind. Happy. Absolutely zero distinction between friends and family. Simple in the sense that joy does not come from making things complicated. This is the definition of Missoula, and of Harp.

There was no lunch other than the Missoula Club for a burger and a beer, no scorching August day that wasn’t quenched by a dip in his backyard pool. Harper’s swimming  pool is nothing fancy—it is  tiny, well tended and filled everyday with generations of Missoulians.  The door is always open and the fridge is always stocked.

So if you read this website to try to understand why Missoula is so special, think of this: there are little houses, on quiet streets. Inside those little houses there are big, beautiful, loving families and you can be a part of that family simply by showing up. So do. Show up. Jump in. Love them right back. Give the way they do. Aim for a long, happy Missoula life like Harp’s where at the end of the day everyone has a story of how you loved them just right. It’s all relative.


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Bio: Elke Govertsen is the publisher of Mamalode which is a magazine and website for area moms. When not juggling her family, business, and the laundry (disclosure – there is no laundry being done whatsoever) Elke tries to eek out time to write, do yoga, and read like a fiend.