Saturday, December 08, 2012

The trip....

Cattle cars...

Large trucks often rush noisily pass our house loaded with livestock, usually cattle, sometimes pigs. In the summer, when the windows are open, we notice that the smell lingers in the air long after the truck has barreled down the highway. The animals are crammed in so tightly that they can barely move. This is done for more reasons than just monetary greed to get as many animals as possible on the truck. Animals that are packed tightly together are less likely to fall and break something if the truck comes to a sudden stop or there is a sharp curve in the road.

Let’s make the seats really narrow and the aisle between the seats really narrow, and make the distance between the rows just a little shorter so we can add some more rows and see if we can’t get just a few more people into this tube of metal…

And indeed, they have packed us tightly together, but in this case it is all about money and not for some other more altruistic reason.

And the metal tube hurtles down the runway at the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport and launches itself into the air, and we spend about 3 hours crammed together, feeling like so many cattle in a truck or perhaps sardines in a can, and we head into the West and land in off-and-on drizzle in Los Angeles.

Before it is practical to be standing up, I am in the aisle, as is the woman across from me – a flight attendant who has been given a seat on the flight. She also complains about cramped knees. I do not wish to appear ungrateful. I am very thankful that I have arrived safely – the aching joints will shortly calm down.

Where the heart is…

Home is where the heart is, or so the saying goes. But what if your heart is in two places? What if your heart is here, in this house on a quiet street in a neighborhood of tract homes in south Los Angeles, and also 1500 miles away on 8 acres of land in southern Missouri?

I am so glad to be here. Dramatic changes take place in the life of a young child in an 18-month period, say from 2 years to 3.5 years, and similar dramatic changes can take place in 18 months when a person becomes elderly. I last saw my father in June 2011, and he is now 88.


The changes taking place in his aging body are inevitable and not unexpected, but sad nonetheless. Although he is in extremely good health – heart, lungs, and other organ systems appear to be working well – he has lost the strength in his legs and has become rather feeble. He can still walk around his house, has a walking stick for shorter distances, and needs a wheelchair for lengthy journeys. Fortunately, he still has nearly all of his “wits about him.” He does occasionally get confused and forgets stuff. But he can fix simple food, cook his own breakfast, and take care of himself. He reads the newspaper “cover to cover” and still enjoys working the crossword puzzle. He has not yet been caught in the vice grip of serious dementia or “old timer’s disease,” for which I am very thankful. He is cheerful and happy and still makes faces at me to make me laugh, and he is fun to be around.

Shopping for food…

My brother’s birthday was the day after I arrived. I was about a month into my 4th year when he was born. Funny thing. I am still 4 years older than he is. For his birthday present, he wanted me to cook food with him. We went to an amazing Mexican market and scoured the produce section for fresh “everything”…



several different kinds of chilies, tomatoes, tomatillos, cilantro, onions, avocados, Mexican-style cheese, and freshly made corn tortillas, still warm from the oven (the market makes its own tortillas on the premises).

 
I paid for the groceries, and then we went back to his house and used these fresh ingredients to put together a Mexican-style feast of enchiladas, chile rellano (I neglected to remove the ribs along with the seeds so some of the chili peppers were quite lively), and guacamole, all topped off with cherry pie. Cherry pie? Yep. Cherry pie with a candle in the middle.

On Sunday I went shopping and bought stuff and I cooked for Dad and my brother and his wife… lamb curry, a curried bean dish, gingered carrots, and broccoli with lemon sauce. The difference between almost winter in southern California and almost winter in Missouri is that one can go out the back door and pick a lemon off the tree (if one happens to live in a house with a lemon tree in the back yard).


They ate everything down to the last bite – there were no leftovers. A sight to warm the cockles of the heart of a cook whose food in the past has, on occasion, had a somewhat underwhelming response…

At the other home where my heart is, I actually don’t cook much any more, other than your basic “stick a large piece of meat in the oven at 350 degrees” and various strange things I throw together for my lunch. Richard is the one scouring recipes for interesting ways to fix vegetables and does most of the cooking these days, so it has actually been fun to cook for people, and very gratifying that they actually liked it enough to eat it all and weren’t just being polite.

Bearing witness…

There is a lovely line in the sweet movie Let’s Dance where Beverly, the character played by Susan Sarandon, talks to private detective she has hired to tail her husband, played by Richard Gere. They are discussing marriage…

We need a witness to our lives. There's a billion people on the planet... I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you're promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things... all of it, all of the time, every day. You're saying 'Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness'."

So it was that various family members gathered at the small amphitheater overlooking the Pacific Ocean at Laguna Beach on Saturday


and bore witness to the marriage of my sister’s oldest daughter, who has chosen a life partner to bear witness to her life.

It had been raining more or less constantly for the past 2 days, and rain was forecast for that day as well. God answered many prayers. There was a break in the rain… it was perfect…



no wind coming off the ocean, so that nobody froze, and a light cloud cover with intermittent sunshine, so that nobody roasted…


and it was beautiful.

Remembering…

He directed me with pinpoint accuracy on the trip we took to the harbor to see the battleship USS Iowa, which has been decommissioned and permanently docked in San Pedro.


During his tour of duty in WW II, the supply ship he served on steamed alongside the USS Iowa and sent groceries over to the crew in cargo nets attached to cables that they shot from one deck to the other.


One of the ships my father served on picked up soldiers who had been wounded during the invasions. He saw some horrible things, but he was on a ship and did not have to fire a gun and kill people, and there were enough fun things that happened so that his war experience was not the nightmare from which many young men never recovered. 


He recalled on one tour that they picked up some Marines who had been in one of the invasions, and several of them decided to “go for a swim,” while they were steaming in the open ocean. Some of them were never found. Finally, the captain barred anyone from being topside except those on guard duty.

Mini-reunion…

I graduated in June 1967 and our 45th high school class reunion is happening today. I had to decide whether to extend the trip several more days so I could attend the reunion or come home. I decided to come home. I had one best friend during high school, and she and her husband came to the house on Tuesday. He sat with my father and visited with him. I sat with her, and we visited…

and it was lovely. It was a great reunion.

A bit of culture…

The day before I left to come home, my sweet sister took the day off from her job as an elementary school librarian...

and we went to the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana and strolled through the various exhibits. Art covering 5000 years of Chinese history and culture…


exhibits of artifacts from the Pacific islands…

 
early California history, and art by California artists.



Pins that Madeleine K. Albright wore during her diplomatic career…. jewelry, and eggs, and other objects created by Peter Carl FabergĂ©…

And a meal at a Greek restaurant. Oh my.

Home again…

My brother picked me up at 5 a.m. to take me to the airport. There were no delays on the freeway. We were there in probably less than 15 minutes. It took less than 10 minutes to check the bag and get my boarding pass. A very kind airline employee helped me press the buttons on the monitor. There was no line at the security checkpoint. I spent a very stress-free couple of hours watching the people. I met a delightful trio of women at Dallas-Ft. Worth who had bought a package deal for Branson and were on their way there.

For the finale to what was one of the less stressful flights I have ever taken was a phalaenopsis orchid peaking over the top of the back seat.



Now, if I can just keep it alive…

2 comments:

Victoria - Ozarks Crescent Mural said...

What a sweet trip and a wonderful family! I enjoyed tagging along.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Oh the wedding looks lovely..I am glad you got to go and be with family, your Dad looks really good for 88!
Good luck with that Orchid:)