As Dad and I approached the corner of Harriet and Mar Vista streets, I held my breath. Would the house be there? Would it look the same? I hadn't seen it in almost 20 years. It might be nothing but a parking lot or a new apartment building.
It was still there, and it looked better than ever: Grandpa's house.
For most of my life, we never went to the beach without stopping at my grandparents' house on a hill above Seacliff Beach, about 10 minutes south of Santa Cruz. Grandpa Clarence and Grandma Rachel Fagalde had moved there when he retired after many decades as foreman of the Dorrance Ranch in San Jose. He spent his days fishing and puttering in the garden that he called his Garden of Eden while Grandma Rachel dabbled in writing and painting.
My brother Mike and I and our seven cousins all grew up visiting that house. We had vague memories of the ranch, but this was the house we knew well. I remember it as yellow, with roses all along a white fence and a huge hydrangea plant near the garage. Above the garage door hung a giant wooden image of a halibut that Grandpa had caught on the Seacliff pier. Grandpa had expanded the one-bedroom house, adding a second bedroom, a laundry room, and a porch where he cleaned his fish. No permits, no codes, wires hanging here and there, but it was cozy. From the back yard, pigeons cooed from their pens, and the latest dog barked at the gate, waiting to say hello as a calico cat rubbed against our ankles.
As we climbed the creaky steps of the porch that isn't there any more, we might see Grandma Rachel in the kitchen. We'd ring the cowbell hanging by a string from a nail, hear footsteps, and then Grandpa would open the door, shouting, "Oh-ho! Look who's here." Soon we'd be smothered in hugs and urged to relax on the couch.
The house was small and rickety, smelling of mildew and cigar smoke, its paneled walls covered with paintings, a Dutch cuckoo clock marking off the hours. All year long, the wall heater made it sweaty-hot inside. We'd perch on the couch behind a coffee table covered with magazines and glass floats while Grandpa told stories and Grandma Rachel talked at the same time about her family or read letters to us. Sometimes they'd prevail on me to play a tune on the piano or organ, whatever Grandpa had most recently bartered for in his flea-market wanderings. We'd have a bite to eat on the old Formica table in the kitchen, tour the garden as Grandpa filled a bag with berries, corn and zucchini for us to take home, and sit in the car in the driveway for an hour as the talk went on and on until finally we'd back out with the view of Rachel in her apron and Grandpa standing with his arm raised in farewell.
Last month, when I visited my dad in California, we took a trip to Santa Cruz. The pier and boardwalk brought great memories for both of us. We gorged on crab sandwiches and smiled at the sea lions barking from the docks. Much has changed. New homes and shopping centers have sprouted up everywhere. But one thing didn't change: We went to Grandpa's house.
The house, sold in the early 1990s after Grandma Rachel passed away and Grandpa went to live in a nursing home, was vacant, so Dad and I had a chance to look in the windows and wander around the yard. The new owners have done great things inside, completely renovating the kitchen, putting in new walls, new floors, and a new heater. I imagine it smells of fresh paint now. Outside, the rose bushes, the pigeon coops and the bamboo along the fence are gone, but the garage, raw and out of plumb, looks the same. Standing in the driveway, I can hear the echoes of voices from long ago and imagine that any minute the door will open and I'll see Grandpa with his rosy cheeks and white hair coming out to greet us.
I'm just plugging along, working on my book and churning out some new writing that will come to light in time. See the blogs for a report on the Future of Freelancing conference which I attended at Stanford University last month. That was an eye-opener.
June was a busy month for music. I played at the Samaritan House Garden Tour and the Toledo Street Market, as well as leading music at Mass and at the weeklong vacation Bible School at Sacred Heart. Fun stuff! Now I have a little space in my schedule, so it you need some singing, guitar, or piano, let me know. It needs to be on the Oregon coast, unless you're paying for transportation, in which case, have axe will travel. The CD isn't finished yet, but it's coming.
Annie will be 2 1/2 the month. While I was gone, she survived her first stay at the Alsea River Boarding Kennels. When she walked into the room with all those dogs barking from their kennels, my poor frightened pup tucked her tail between her legs and tried to back out, but she came out fat and happy and greeted me with a big sloppy kiss.
Fred is, um, what can I say? One does not recover from Alzheimer's Disease. He is doing as well as can be expected. Timberwood Court is a good place, and they take good care of him, but he is terribly confused. He doesn't remember much, doesn't always know who I am, and is starting to have a little trouble walking. He still loves to sing, and, as always, he would love to have visitors.
Somewhere Inside by Laura Ling and Lisa Ling, HarperCollins Publishers, 2010. In 2009, Laura Ling and her co-worker Euna Lee were working on an investigative cable TV report on the North Korean border with China. Their guide let them cross the border for only a moment before they hurried back, but they were in trouble. Korean soldiers captured them and took them to the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. They were held captive there for five months. While Laura's sister Lisa, also a journalist, worked to get Laura and Euna free, they were persistently interrogated, then tried and sentenced to a labor camp for 12 years. This true story, told alternately by Laura and Lisa, is fascinating. I read it in two days, truly unable to stop. The writing is masterful, the story an epic with real bad guys and heroes and mounting suspense. I just wish it hadn't really happened.
Gimme Refuge by Matt Love, Nestucca Spit Press, 2010. Gimme Refuge is the story of Matt's 10-year stint as caretaker of the Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge on the Oregon Coast. A high school teacher who wanted to be a writer, he took a chance on a rodent-infested falling-down house in the middle of a blackberry-choked former dairy farm to create a new life for himself and clear the way to become a writer. We follow his efforts to make the house livable and return the refuge to its natural state. At the same time, he struggles with a new teaching job at a nearby private school. His methods are wild, but he gets results. It's a good story well told.
Edith’s Diary by Patricia Highsmith, Simon & Schuster, 1977. Edith Howland seems to have a pretty good life. She and her newspaperman husband Brett live in a nice Pennsylvania home. She writes articles and soon joins a friend in putting out their own newspaper. Her son Cliffie is a bit of a problem, but surely he’ll grow out of it. But no. Everything goes wrong, and one day while writing in her diary, Edith starts making things up. Her real life might be flawed, but the life she creates in her diary is perfect. As her world collapses, she moves more and more into her fantasy world. Edith's Diary is a bit of a slow read that often feels as if it were written in 1927 instead of 1977, but it is also a revealing picture of how people deal with life’s challenges. The suspense continues to the last sentence.
Summer has brought warm days lounging on the deck and wading in the surf, salmonberries on the backyard vines, and dog fur all over everything. Life is good on the Oregon Coast. Come visit; it's bound to be cooler than wherever you live—unless you already live here. Happy birthday this month to Gretchen and to those singing sisters Marie and Terry. As always, we remember my mother and my Uncle Bob, who were both born in July and died in July. Have a save and happy Fourth of July. See you next month.
Meanwhile, visit the blogs or come see me on Facebook.
All contents copyright 2010, Sue Fagalde Lick
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