She has done SO much for my Dad, and she and Keith, whose Mom lives about an hour from my Dad, did an incredible amount of work to help with getting Dad's house cleaned out and sold. She is like a sister, and I consider him a "brother in law".
He lost his home and all his possessions in the California Campfire while they were visiting Dad. To tell you about the kind of people they are, his neighbor, who also had NO family and was elderly, has been living with him and Liz in her home in the mountains since the fire as she had no place to go that she could afford after her rental home burned. He's retired (IT guy) and was getting back on track when he was recently diagnosed with stomach cancer. He starts chemo this week. Please keep Keith in your prayers.
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.
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 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, 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.
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.
The cabin is gone
Dad, my brother, his daughter, and granddaughter.
The cabin is gone.
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.
I got some "seafoam" candy and a HUGE bag of their incredible salt water taffy for my great-niece.
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.
We paused to say grace, for family and all our blessings. Then we dug in.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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