Monday, November 18, 2019

The Cabin is Gone

Before Dad went into assisted living the family members who could take the time off from work took Dad to the Oregon Coast where we spent our summers growing up in a tiny rental cabin.

The first night there, there was a huge Pacific storm and the next day dawned blustery, to say the least.
My husband and I had rented three suites, one with a huge kitchen and living room, that adjoined or were across the hall from the others so a few of us could gather. The biggest one was a corner unit with great views. Everyone involved had done so much for Dad this summer while we worked, this was our treat, lodging, food, everything.

With it being mid-week and during school, it was a small group but it was a tight group.  My cousin L (who shares with me the care of Dad now) and her Partner K., and Big Bro's beloved only daughter and her daughter (her husband, a former submariner was working and wasn't able to make it) and Partner and I.
 The storm had passed.
People and their animals ventured out.

I remember once as a kid the tide went out so far we could drive a car around the backside of Haystack.  Cars aren't allowed now, but 45 years ago, this beach was almost deserted but for the locals and the occasion moron that drove his car into the incoming tide and got stuck and watched it get covered with saltwater. Still everyone morning, before it was even light, Bro and I would head out to the rock to check out the tide pools, not disturbing anything, just taking in the wonders of the natural world.
We'd get up before light, being careful not to wake Mom, and head on down to the tide pools that were exposed, gingerly looking, while not harming anything that was there, hoping to find a prehistoric shell to take home.  On the old 60's TV cabinet at Dad's, as we moved him from his home we found a dish full of sand dollars. Many of you have seen a sand dollar. They're commonly sold in souvenir stores. But what you see is only the remaining skeleton of a living sea creature. When living, the sand dollar is covered with fine hair-like cilia that cover tiny spines, soft, and almost purple in color. But the remaining shell is beautiful, fragile, white. The essential essence of what this creature was.
We'd throw some of them back in the water, the tide moving as fast and as slow as life itself, even as we ourselves could not sense that momentum, believing that it would always be like this. All that distance between ourselves and the future, it was not even a thought in that long peaceful creep of a childhood afternoon.

I think back to that childhood beachside Cabin, But the cabin is gone.  It's wood cremated to ash, its foundation covered by the advance of time,  But from that time of my youth, it burned brightly in my mind, that one constant, that spot on earth on which we grew and spread our wings, even as we were rooted to its ground, drawing our faith together there with our life.
I spent a good part of my childhood summers and the occasional holiday weekend at that cabin, right on the water's edge, only a small margin of sand between the sea and tranquility. It was small and clean and within its walls were my happiest memories. Getting up before dawn with my older brother to walk miles to look at the wonders the night had exposed. Clouds caught on the mountains, the sky grey in the morning, a filtered, ocean blue-grey, hesitant cloud cover that we felt safe under.

Days running through the trees, down onto the sand, playing soldier or stormtrooper or spy. Days filled with time, as though it were something solid you could pick off the ground and put in your pocket.  But what I put in that pocket was a small stone, no moose etched on it, but a stone, a small smooth weight I carried in my pocket, worn smooth by the action of the waves that flirted with the shore. Waves are part of life, the cadence of your day, perhaps that is why I'm drawn to the shore. The beach where we vacationed, like any stretch of sand and stone, is formed of glacial drift and rock, the small stones that you can still hold in the palm of your hand are worn to their element. I would touch them, smooth against my skin, stroking the surfaces well rounded by the waters never-ending manipulative caress. But in addition to the stones, we'd find all sorts of treasures, branches and bits of bone, small pieces of the wild, tossed about by wind and galloping currents, and abandoned as casual playthings of the wild, just waiting to be picked up and held.
TV was not allowed at the cabin and we'd play outside unless it was raining hard enough to drown a duck, coming in only for lunch (and once to catch Dad watching football - busted!). We played, racing around rocks, trees, and water until supper, when we'd come into Mom, to freshly baked cheddar garlic bread and fresh-caught fish. We'd bound in and she'd take us in, in arms that smelled of flour, her auburn hair scented with Wind Song perfume, her laughter a balm to any skinned knee that might have occurred during the day's warfare. We ran until we couldn't take in a breath.  We drove our feet deep into the sand as if imprinting it forever.  We conquered the waves on skimboards, shooting across the wet sand with nothing more than the physics of motion and an inch of water, getting a sensation of movement of air and water, that never left either of us.
Nights were filled with the sound of the water lulling us to sleep after our nightly family time that consisted of board games, fires, Jiffy Pop popcorn, and always, prayer before our simple supper.

The cabin is gone.
I loved those mornings with my brother at the tide pool when no one was around and I had miles of the wild to myself. I loved it in the afternoon when the sun beat off my back while we played with a big weather balloon Dad got us and the chance of an encounter with something large of tooth and fin was simply an annoyance. I loved it when the fog lifted off the land and I could take the little Piper from the local airport where I worked as a teen, and follow eagles as they danced in tandem with the waves. With the light of the sky reflecting off my prop guiding me back to the airstrip, a wing-tipped to a pod of whales.

I still believed that life was uncomplicated. I loved it in the evening when I could get in one last walk at my world's edge when the whole landscape took on an otherworldly look and I could dream the dreams of my future in the sky against the backdrop of clear, iridescent waters.

Even into adulthood, that cabin was our hearthstone, even if distant, that place where we all had the right to sit as a family. We were already traveling hundreds of miles of uncharted ocean and sky, earning under or beyond the ocean, our glory, or sometimes no more than a stale sandwich and strong coffee. But going back there was like rendering an account, the open sky and that mighty ocean our friend, our inspiration, our judge. We came back, sometimes scarred, but we came back whole, as family, to face the peace and the truth which was simply grasping each other's hand in prayer before someone decided to play "Mr. Pincher" with a crab claw on a sibling that outranked them.
The cabin is gone

It was sold and replaced with a condominium on the site where the little cottage and those of its kind stood. We went back one last time before the buildings were razed and watched the sun set on my innocence. I wanted to hold onto that night, the way the water smelled, the wash of colors of a Western skyline, the lonely cry of a bird of prey echoing off of the wind. I looked so hard, so long, that I forgot to blink, and my eyes teared up. I didn't want to shut them; I wanted to capture what I was seeing forever, a color imprint on the film of memory. I simply did not want to let go.
I think of how many years Mom has been gone, now Big Bro. I think of dreams shattered, of dreams born. Before I left home to come back to work this week, I dreamed of Big Bro at the cabin, and in my dream he was silent, simply hugging me while I could hear his heartbeat as if it was the only thing in the room. I wonder if his silence is more from my holding on to him than letting him go. But letting go is easier said than done.

The cabin is gone.
I know that parts of my life are over and the cadence of my days and my future will change once again. But dealing with change as I grew up was easier at the cabin because over the years it was as constant as the gentle waves upon the shore. And so very last night, as I sat in a quiet room, only my laptop to keep me company, I opened up my picture folder stored therein, where I carry those glimpses of places and people that I love. As the world outside stilled, I took myself back to it, as if I was there. I took myself back so I could let go.
As Partner I ventured on that second day in this last family trip, I looked out upon the water, and remembered those days, happy I was out in the rain, getting wet, in doing so. As we walked, we talked, of mice and men and many things, sharing stories that occurred before he was born, that made me what I am, as our past shapes us all, like wind and tide.

I didn't mean we were ALL serious. There were these seagulls, and off to the left, one solitary seagull  Partner asked why he wasn't joining and I said: "he is just waiting for his tern".  Laughing is good, even at really bad puns.

Time for some games as another shower comes through.
Cribbage and then Dominoes!
We're not type A or anything.
 Then a Trip to Bruce's Candy Kitchen established 1962 or 3.  I always remember it being there
Childhood favorites!  I don't care if your five or fifty - it's always fun to get hyped up on sugar and then go annoy your parents.
I just had the cheap point and shoot camera but you get the idea.
I got some "seafoam" candy and a HUGE bag of their incredible salt water taffy for my great-niece.
 Shasta is tired and it was time for supper.

So many meals in this small coastal town, in good times and in bad,  as children, even during a time my Mom was battling cancer. She may have been too weak some days to get out of bed, but we were there, with Dad cooking pancakes that were so bad that the dog took them out and buried them and the one I threw in the fireplace wouldn't burn. Years later we still laugh about those pancakes.

We were there when storms tossed tree limbs like toys, taking out a window and reminding us just how vast and powerful the sky and ocean were, understanding both their saving power and severity. We were there through joy and hope and loss, and many, many a dismantled crab.
But for our first night- Chicken Tetrazzini.

But first, some homemade bread, cheese and olive spread.
We paused to say grace, for family and all our blessings.  Then we dug in.
 Some homemade Cardamon bread for Breakfast with fruit and yogurt.
Then it was time to explore some more.  Dad can't walk on the beach, but he had fun on the balcony with the binoculars, waving at us.
The storm washed up all kinds of stuff.
But some things it didn't budge.
Halibut fish and chips for lunch!  Partner and I both can't do shellfish but I've got him hooked on Halibut.
After lots of walking after lunch out on the beach, Dad beat everyone at Cribbage. 
Then Dad took a little walk around the property with a view of the beach, then came in with Shasta to wait for the baseball game to start. We let him break the rule about TV, it was THE baseball game to watch apparently.

Before we knew it, it was time for "fresh off the boat" crab which K went and so generously bought. With it, there was mac and cheese and salad and garlic toast.





Dad - he just ignored the kids being silly AND the sides and worked on his crab til he had this heaping pile of crabmeat on his plate and then ate it all at once with a bit of cocktail sauce.

The rest of the family had headed back to Central Oregon to work the next day, so it was just my husband, favorite cousin and her Partner and Dad.  We poured some wine and enjoyed every minute.
After a good night's sleep, it was soon time to go.  K. taking Shasta out for one last romp on the beach before an 11-hour drive for them, back to the mountains.
 Then back, as we gathered up our things.
Shasta senses something is changing as bags are gathered up, sticking close to her favorite human.

Partner and I made one last trip, by ourselves, to the spot where my parents rented a cabin when Bro and I were children, right on the water, the place now a huge hotel.  The dynamics of the ocean have changed, a river inlet to the ocean now shifted so much closer to the shoreline, where it had once been a huge expanse of beach.
This view is one I knew for my entire childhood - but for the water being a little further away when we were little.

What is it about certain things in life, the simplest of things, a tool, a smell, the feel of a piece of wood or small stone in your hand that evokes a place, a voice, a wistful goodbye, that makes you feel like a small child walking on a path of life that got suddenly big. And like a child, you deeply sense how it makes you feel, but the words you know to explain it are so very limited, so you just sit and look, and breathe it in.

The only sound I hear is the internal tick of a clock, the only other thing I can sense is a taste of salt, that of the ocean, or tears, I can not tell, but distilled there on my tongue taking me back some 40 or so years to that wooded area where we played soldier and spy, almost unchanged.  As I stood there, I could hear my brother calling to me from deep within the green - We've beaten the bad guys, come join me.   Not too soon Big Bro, I hope, but I will see you again

Then it was time to load up Dad and say goodbye.
Dad with my beloved cousin L, - who he took under his wing after her Dad died in a fishing boat accident when she was a young woman.  He will see her again, with her loving partner and family member K., but Dad knew it would be his last time here, with the family.

As he got into the car, I saw the tears as all he could get out was "last trip. . "  Then I said "but you DID beat everyone over the age of 5 in Cribbage"-- and he slyly chuckled "I did" and laughed, enjoying the car ride back to his house with a stop for marionberry pie before we got on the ferry.  Good memories to the end.
A couple of days later, Partner and I load up the rental car to take one last ferry ride to catch our flight home.  Dad watches me through the window from that old recliner that has faded, there where the light fell strongest. I wonder, does he see a grown woman, a few laugh lines there beneath the long red ponytail and ball cap? Or does he still see a little auburn-haired girl growing into adulthood at the speed of sound?  Does he recall all of those moments that haunt the winter of our memory, or just those golden days of summer at the beach, unmarred by rain or thunder? Or has he simply surrendered it all over to simply this moment, now, these remaining days that are left?

He yawns and his eyes close, there in the late Autumn sun, one last exhalation that empties his body of waking or worrying. The neighborhood lay in that soft hazy light that makes the houses look like old photos, faded scraps of color that scatter lightly on the earth, lighter than dust, with which one hard rain would wash forever from our sight and memory, were we not to gather them up to protect them.
I remind myself that love is more about how I feel in my heart than how others feel about me, that home has more to do with those who love me, than their being with me this very moment. And when I think of Big Bro standing against the landscape in my dream, still strong and healthy, I realize something. The undercurrents of ocean and sky had shaped him, eroding away all but what is essential; until all that was left was pure love, a pristine light that is his soul.  That, I will always have with me.

I tell myself, not how much I miss him, and will soon miss my whole family, but that I am thankful for who they were to me, and always will be.

The cabin is gone, but it's the memories that matter. They are in me, the way waves, incessant, after a long time, cease to be sound, yet are still there

 - LBJ

7 comments:

  1. There is something so special about a place where we vacationed as children. Having a place like that, with no television, just games, fun and family is a treasure. I am sure that the cabin is one of your happy place. I know you can close your eyes and smell it, and hear the waves crash. Keep those memories close.

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  2. Ah, the sweetness of fond memories:)

    Woos - Lightning, Misty, and Timber

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  3. Hari OM
    what a wonderful trip... Love and blessings about. YAM xx

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  4. Is shellfish a gout trigger for you? It certainly is for me, shrimp especially.

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    1. I'm allergic to shellfish - which is why there was the mac and cheese as a side. But yes, it's a big trigger for a lot of people.

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  5. Such beautiful memories from a time long ago.

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  6. We had a childhood "dream" place where we vacationed every year. But it was in the Cook Forest in PA, where we rented a cabin on the side of the Clarion River. The sound of the water flowing over the pebbles is a sound each of us siblings, and our children as well, love to hear and will always remember clearly.

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Welcome to The Book of Barkley and the Blogville dog blogging community. This blog was created for more memories of Barkley as well as updates on Abby the Senior rescue Lab, who we adopted in 2014.

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