Sunday, May 24, 2015

My Story - Part 4 - Grandpa


My grandfather was born in the 19th century. 1898 to be exact. Some people are born and live their entire lives in one particular historical period and other's lives straddle the end of one era and the beginning of another.  I have a theory that some people who witness great technological, social, economic, and/or political change during their lifetimes, especially when the change occurs during their formative years, have difficulties adjusting and gaining a purchase on life. (Yet some thrive under those same conditions). The year  Grandpa was born William McKinley was president and was assassinated  3 years later, the USS Maine was blown up in Havana harbor precipitating the Spanish American War.  When he was 5 years old in 1903 the Wright brothers built and flew the first airplane. He was 19 when the United States entered WWI and 43 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. I may be making excuses for my grandfather because when it came to navigating his way through life he seemed to prefer the fog of inebriation to the clarity of sobriety. He was an alcoholic.
    His people were the English and Scot-Irish who landed on eastern shores two centuries ago and gradually drifted down Appalachia and settled in the hills of Arkansas and Oklahoma where they made a living farming and share cropping until the winds of change, just as strong as the wind that blew the topsoil away, blew them to California where they became known as Okies. My grandmother said they didn't notice when the Great Depression came because they had always been poor. So my people stayed for another decade or so. Grandpa sold vegetables from a horse cart and was content if he managed to buy some flour, bacon, and coffee each day.  They lived for a time in abandoned farm houses. But, at the end of WWII  the family was drawn to California by the lure of jobs that paid steady money.

Friday, May 22, 2015

In the course of the years a close friendship will always reveal the shadow in the other as much as ourselves, to remain friends we must know the other and their difficulties and even their sins and encourage the best in them, not through critique but through addressing the better part of them, the leading creative edge of their incarnation, thus subtly discouraging what makes them smaller, less generous, less of themselves.
David Whyte

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Spring Blooms

I'm glad I snapped these photos when I did because a thunder 
storm came along and blew these Clematis flowers right offf
the vine.

We just planted this hosta.  It's called Orange Marmalade. I think
it goes well with the golden Japanese barberry next to it.

It's also a perfect complement to the Frances Williams hosta
on the right.

Gracen picked a peony.

It makes a good accessory for her
pink shirt.

Marley's Band Concert

It's a mystery to me how grandchildren grow up so fast.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Kelly on the Mountain

When Kelly told me she was going to go out on this ledge over in Arkansas
 I tried to talk her out of it. I can always photo shop her into the picture, 
but she insisted on going.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Part 3 continued - My Grandma

My grandma was an animal lover. I can't remember a time when she didn't have ducks and chickens in her back yard. She had a duck named Donald that would chase the grand kids all they way to the back door when they ventured toward the back of the lot, territory he deemed his own. She had white ducks, mallards, a mixture of the two, and the red faced Muscovies.  She had a squirrel that a family member brought to her all the way from Arkansas, an aviary containing hundreds of parakeets, a couple of large tortoises that wandered her back yard, and a crow named Jim who was granted house  privileges. Her dog was a feisty little bull dog mix that was as mean as he could be. No grand child was spared from being bitten. He and I gradually came to a truce and he would let me pet him for a few minutes before he bit me. I think he began to like me because he didn't break the skin anymore when he bit me. He loved to play fetch and would run after a ball time after time and then signal the end of the play session by biting me.  Every few years my grandma would start missing her family in Oklahoma and go back for a visit leaving Duke with me. He was a house dog which meant I had to take him for a walk every day.  Putting on his halter was very tricky but I learned to do it without being bitten. He would sleep on my bed and sometime during the night work his way under the covers and sleep at my feet.  If I moved he would bite me.

Grandma and Duke in her back yard.  Manhattan Beach 1957

When I was a kid the only black people I saw were the men who picked up the trash.  I was afraid of them. My grandma, a woman who was born in Alabama and never went to school beyond 3rd grade (she was self educated through reading) treated them as equals. She would would talk and laugh with them; they were friends. That made a big impression on me.  My parents were not overtly racist (I was never allowed to use the N word), but they believed the races should not mix or socialize. Years later my black friends and I would meet at grandma's for dinner and bible study.  Bible study?  My grandma?   Yes, she became a Christian late in life and I know it was a true conversion because she didn't cuss so much after that.

Every Friday afternoon after school my grandpa would arrive in his 1954 Ford pick up truck to pick me up so I could spend the night at grandma's house.  We would spend the evening sipping ice tea and watching TV shows like Sea Hunt, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, 77 Sunset Strip, and our favorite, The Twilight Zone. Those were good times but I was growing up.  My interests were wandering to girls and cars so one Friday afternoon when grandpa arrived I told him I didn't want to go. It seemed childish to spend the weekend with grandparents. The next time I spent the night with my grandma I had Dorothy and two little girls with me. Not long after that my family moved away from Hermosa Beach to La Puente in the San Gabriel Valley about 30 miles east of Los Angeles. I suppose because of my love of reading I have always looked at different periods of my life as chapters. This was definitely the end of a chapter as my childhood slipped away.  I had become a teenager.

Redondo Pier c. 1953

Historic Perspective:1959
  •  Alaska becomes a state
  • Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, and Richie Valens die in a plane crash
  • The first transcontinental commercial jet flight. $301 LA to NY
  • Fidel Castro overthrows Batista to govern Cuba

Friday, May 08, 2015

The End of an Era

We've had an old barn on our property for as long as we have owned it.  It was old when we arrived and over the years, especially since we've had no cows or horses of our own, it has fallen into disarray.  So today, with the help of our neighbor Mike, a member of the local volunteer fire dept, we burned it down.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Dorothy's Latest Cake

If you are familiar with the computer game Minecraft this cake will make sense to you.  If not you will probably think Dorothy dropped it between the oven and the kitchen table.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Heartbreak begins the moment we are asked to let go but cannot, in other words, it colors and inhabits and magnifies each and every day; heartbreak is not a visitation, but a path that human beings follow through even the most average life. Heartbreak is an indication of our sincerity: in a love relationship, in a life's work, in trying to learn a musical instrument, in the attempt to shape a better more generous self. Heartbreak is the beautifully helpless side of love and affection and is [an] essence and emblem of care... Heartbreak has its own way of inhabiting time and its own beautiful and trying patience in coming and going.
David Whyte

Dorothy's Latest Cake

Sunday, April 19, 2015

My Story Part 3 – Grandma


As the twig is bent so grows the tree. --  My grandma was a powerful force on my formative years and my life took a certain direction because of her. She was a rough old gal who cussed like a sailor, dipped snuff and used a 3 pound coffee can for a spittoon. She was loud, opinionated, and eccentric. She was my cheerleader.  She was in my corner.   I adored her. I have always felt that she singled me out from her 9 other grand kids for special attention. Yet, I think all the others felt the same. On Saturday mornings my sisters and I would go grocery shopping with grandma. We could help ourselves to candy bars and eat them right there in the store. We gave the wrappers to grandma and she paid for them at the check out. Once home with the groceries it was soda floats for all of us. She bought orange soda, strawberry, cola , and root beer in those big Mother's Pride bottles and we had our favorite over ice cream in a tall glass. We slurped them up with a new invention, the “flex” straw.

Feeling special didn't exempt me from suffering the consequences of my actions like when I and my two cousins were playing with squirt guns at Grandma's house and made the mistake of squirting her.  She broke our guns and laughed at us when we cried. Once we climbed up her peach tree and made so much commotion the hard green peaches began falling to the ground. She picked them up and knocked us out of the tree with them. Our love for her was unfazed.
Because of my precocious reading ability Grandma bought me a Little Golden Book every week.
Over the years we spent a lot of time at the library. My favorite book from those times is The Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton Porter. That book was so real to me because it takes place at the sea shore and I could visualize the story unfolding on the sands of  Hermosa Beach where I lived and the Palos Verdes peninsula  nearby. I've recommended this book to the the grand kids but the Little Scout is no match for Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen.

                                                          Redondo Beach public library

 We went through a science fiction phase and our favorite from those years was The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham. We talk about that book for years. As I grew older she introduced me to books like Cannery Row and The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck and Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell. I was finding books on my own by then and recommended them to Grandma. She got a kick out of Phillip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint. We had long discussions about books by Henry David Thoreau, Alan Watts, and Robert Ardrey.

Palos Verdes Peninsula

Ada Slay 1949, my grandma

Historic Perspective:

When we were reading The Keeper of the Bees my uncle Bob was fighting in Korea.

The year we read Portnoy's Complaint  Neal Armstrong walked on the moon.

(To be continued)

note: This project has turned out to be more difficult than I first imagined. When you start digging in the memory closet you find things unthought of for years. So, I'll have to decide whether to bring out the skeletons or just push them back into the corner of the closet..

Friday, April 17, 2015

Perhaps this sounds very simple, but simple things are always the most difficult.  In actual life it requires the greatest discipline to be simple, and the acceptance of oneself is the essence of the moral problem and the epitome of a whole outlook upon life.

C.G. Jung

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

My Story (part 2)

I suppose before I begin my story I should establish the context from which my life evolved and took shape. I was born in 1945 a few days after atomic bombs were dropped on the Japanese cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima and the day before the Japanese announced their surrender to the Allied Forces. The war that brought employment to my family was grinding to a stop and leaving our family as well as many others without resources. The last job in Oklahoma my father worked at was spreading grease over the fuselages and wings of the bombers that had been manufactured at the Douglas Aircraft factory at Tinker's Field in Oklahoma City. The grease was to preserve the skin of the airplanes that would never see action because the war and my father's job had come to an end.
An uncle who had also worked for Douglas Aircraft learned that the company was still in operation and hiring workers in Long Beach, California so he traveled to the sunshine state and was soon working and doing well. When they heard the news my parents and grand parents started making plans to make the move. In 1947 with my grand parents and an aunt driving a Model A Ford pick up truck loaded with belongings and my dad driving a 1933 Ford sedan they set out for a new life. The sedan broke down in Arizona and Dad had to sell it and buy passage for the family on a Greyhound bus. He continued the trip in the truck with Grandpa and Grandma and my mother managed the long bus ride to get me and my three sisters to California with the help of her younger sister.

A fourth sister was born in 1948

Our life has become so economic and practical in its orientation that, as you get older, the claims of the moment upon you are so great, you hardly know where the hell you are, or what it is you intended. You are always doing something that is required of you. Where is your bliss station? You have to try to find it.
Joseph Campell

Sunday, April 12, 2015

My Story

It's time for me to write my story. I'll be 70 years old soon and since I'm experiencing short term memory loss and the general befuddlement that comes with the passing of years I think it best to put to paper things that I've thought and experienced over the years before the inexorable mental and physical frailties take their toll. I've heard people say that they wished their grand parents or parents had written down the history of the family before they died. So many valuable stories fade away and are forgotten. Very few families have a written history. What I want to write is not a linear memoir or autobiography set in chronological order, but a mental connecting the dots of my life and my perception of the world around me that would give me, and any curious family member or reader, some idea of how I got to this place in life, both geographically and psychologically. So, in the coming weeks and months I'll be gathering my thoughts in to a semblance of order. Maybe I'll throw in a photo or two.