Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Quest for Grandpa's Butterflies

My grandpa passed away about nine years ago.
It is his wife that just passed away last week.

My Grandpa and Grandma are together again in heaven.

When the family gets together and talks about Grandpa and Grandma, there are a few things that always come up...

1. The house.
Grandpa built their house. It was amazing. Cathedral ceiling in the living room. Massive stone fireplace and chimney. It was a really cool house.

2. The Greenhouse.
Grandpa built the Greenhouse business as well and most of us in the family worked there at one time or another.

3. Camping and canoeing.
One of my favorite memories is going on a backpacking and canoeing trip in Canada with Grandma, Grandpa, my sister and my cousin. A week in the wilderness, carrying everything we needed.

4. Butterflies.
Always butterflies. Grandpa collected them. He caught many of them himself. His collection is beautiful. Stunning. It was in his office at home and always drew us there. I don't think there was a time that we visited and didn't look at the butterflies. Even after he passed away... I started taking Liza and Jason to see the butterflies. Grandpa taught us how to catch them and handle them so we didn't hurt the wings. Grandpa is the reason me, and many of his other grandkids, love butterflies.

Eventually, Grandma needed to get rid of the collection. She was selling the house and moving into a smaller one. The collection had to go.

It ended up at Genesee Environmental Center in Genesee, PA... two hours from my hometown.

I always said it would be nice to have a few of the butterflies in the family... but they had been given away.

With Grandma passing last week and all the family coming together and conversations of the butterflies happening... I knew it was time to go see them. It is what is left of Grandpa and Grandma. The house has been sold, the business is gone (literally an empty lot), and they are no longer here to take us on outdoor adventures.

But the butterflies remain.


Enter spontaneous weekend adventure...

I got home from visiting with family Friday afternoon and ran my idea by my sidekick.


I needed to go see Grandpa's Butterflies and I needed to ask the owners if I could take a case home.

Mike was in, so we called up his mom and asked if she could watch the kids overnight. She was in too! So I mapped it all out on mapquest, booked a hotel and repacked for the weekend.

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On Saturday we dropped the kids off and headed out for the 3 1/2 hour drive. We drove to the middle of nowhere... and then we drove some more. We left Pennsylvania and stayed in Wellsville, NY for the night. We ate dinner at Beef Haus and I highly recommend it if you ever find yourself in this nice little town!




This morning we headed back to PA to see Grandpa's butterflies.




Genesee Environmental Center is in the middle of nowhere... but every Sunday they serve breakfast/brunch from 8-1... so we went for breakfast.


I wasn't sure how I would feel when I saw Grandpa's butterflies, but I didn't expect that I would cry before I even went in. We had to sit in the van for a few minutes so I could get myself together. Finally, we went in... and there were Grandpa's butterflies. All of them.


And I started crying again.

After looking at the butterflies for a while we sat down to eat some breakfast. I told the waitress who I was... and cried again.

I think the realization that a generation of my family is gone finally really hit me... and I realized that the butterflies were all that was left... and I was going to ask them for a case and I counted on them saying no. They had a right to... the butterflies are theirs now.

The owners came out and introduced themselves and let us know that our breakfast would be free. They told me how much they love having the butterflies and how much people talk about them and enjoy looking at them.

I finally got myself together... again... and enjoyed my breakfast. (The food was really great!) And then I took some pictures of the butterflies and walked around the grounds for a bit.




I was nervous. I had gone with a mission and I didn't know if I could actually ask for one of those cases of butterflies.

Just before leaving I asked to speak with the owners. I told them the importance of the butterflies to the family... the memories. And then I asked. I said, "I'm going to ask you a question, and I realize it's a big thing to ask, so please take some time to think about it before answering. I was hoping that I would be able to have one of the cases of butterflies. I would like to take them home and see if I can split them up and share them with all of Grandpa's grandkids."

I had hardly even finished when the owner said "SURE! Which one? How about one of these?"

And I got my case of butterflies to bring home!!!


I am SOOOOO incredibly grateful for the kindness and generosity and understanding of those who are now fortunate enough to have Grandpa's butterfly collection.

I HOPE that I am able to split them up without damaging the wings and put them in frames and share them with my generation of the Undercoffer family... the cousins.

I love that I was able to bring a case of Grandpa's butterflies back to the family! As for the rest of the butterflies... I think they are in the perfect place! If you find yourself in a drive-able distance from Genesee, PA on a Sunday, please go check them out! And if you are family... let them know. :)

As for me... I'm going to enjoy having the family's case of butterflies in my home until I can learn how to properly do what needs done.


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