In My Mind’s Eye: Remembering Dad

Here’s my annual Father’s Day post, adapted from an article I wrote in 1997 for the San Francisco Chronicle about the relationship I shared with my dad. Here’s to fathers everywhere…There’s an image I have captured in my mind. I’m in my car in front of the home my parents have shared for most of their 45 married years. Mom and Dad are standing on the front porch.

From the street, I can see the huge eucalyptus tree in their backyard, silhouetted against the evening sky. It’s gently swaying in the warm breeze while the full moon illuminates the manicured lawn. My parents are smiling and waving as I drive away after a visit.

Mom lives alone now that Dad is in an Alzheimer’s nursing facility, so that scenario has changed. But it never does in my mind. My parents always stood on the porch to wave good-bye when I left. Even in pouring rain, they still stood in the open doorway together. I always looked back and returned their waves. Continue reading

The Sweetest Gift

Mother’s Day is my annual tribute to my mom…an exceptionally thoughtful, giving and loving person who also happened to be my best friend. How lucky was I? Happy Mother’s Day Mom.

My mom, Loretta Rose, with Bailey

She gave me love as well as life; so whatever goodness I may bring to Earth began with the gift of my mother’s heart……Robert Sexton

At some point in our relationship, my mom transitioned from being my parent to also being a great friend. I’d say it happened in 1985, when she was diagnosed with incurable, inoperable lung cancer. Continue reading

Growing Up Rich

My family, 1963

My family, 1963. Brother Bill, Dad, Mom, sister Vicki and me, the shrimp

Being a weekend of remembrance, I drove by my childhood home, taking the familiar road I ventured down for 44 years until my parents died in 2004. Our once tan and brown home is bright blue now. Concrete sits where plants once grew and our paneled wood door is painted white and harbors a metal security door that screams STAY AWAY.

Parked in front of a house that holds special memories for me (but today looks almost unrecognizable), I realize it’s not really about the house but the people inside who made it a home.

I grew up in Santa Venetia, which sits in an unincorporated section of Marin County, CA. Situated along a canal, the small community was originally planned to resemble the water roadways of Venice. That never happened but some winters seemed to prove otherwise.

Santa Venetia in 1914

Santa Venetia canal in 1914

You see, whenever it stormed, sections of our neighborhood flooded, especially during high tide. Since our home sat near a dip in the road, my parents bought a sump pump they shared with our neighbors. In hindsight, a rowboat might have been a better investment. That’s because during severe storms, water often seeped into our dining room, ruining the floor and staining the grass-cloth wallpaper. Both needed replacing more than once so every winter Mom worried herself sick.

Our family home from 1950 to 2004

Our family home from 1960 to 2004

When my parents bought our home on Galerita Way, it was intended to be our “starter” house. But we never left. And thank goodness for that. Now don’t get me wrong; it was a modest home for sure; not much to look at and not in a desirable neighborhood. But what a spectacular upbringing.

Day at the beach

Day at the beach

I grew up back when kids played outside until way past dark, grudgingly coming inside only when summoned. Money was tight even though both my parents worked, yet each year they managed a 2-week family vacation to Lake Tahoe. That was our big treat. And most Sundays during summer we skied at Lake Berryessa with friends. It was bliss.

dad in boat with us

To us kids, new shoes were a big deal. Just going to a drive-in movie caused my sister and I to dance excitedly in anticipation. We lived in a tiny house with bedrooms the size of matchboxes but that didn’t matter to us. We’d never heard of a family room and didn’t care that our dining room was once a bedroom.

I grew up in the 60s with orange shag carpet, a one-car garage and an above-ground Dough-boy pool neighborhood friends helped us erect. We had block parties and dinner parties; on weekends the adults often gathered in front yards to visit. It was a simple, innocent time. At least it seemed that way to me.

The day we got a color TV, neighbors piled in to watch; it was quite an event. I remember the first time I saw the colorfully bright NBC peacock.

NBC peakcock

Sunday evenings after dinner we gathered in front of the TV. I’d sit on that orange shag while we all watched Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color.

I still recall many of my neighborhood friends, which is pretty amazing considering my pathetic memory. My young life was filled with ping pong games, carefree days of swimming and countless summer BBQ’s. I tell ya, I couldn’t have asked for a better childhood.

Remembering those days now, I wouldn’t change a thing; not the community we lived in or our tiny tan and brown house on a street that flooded. Although we didn’t have much, we had what we needed.

Celebrating my birthday

The truth is, I always knew I was adored. And if you’re blessed enough to have that, you somehow know you have all you need.

My family

My family, 1985

 

I haven’t been able to post anything new the last couple weeks. Just got my internet back today, so here’s a post from May, 2015. I’ll be back next week tho!

The Day I Almost Died

In honor of my godson’s birthday, here’s a post from May, 2015

I almost died the day my godson Martin was born. But more about that later…

1st birthday

Martin’s 1st birthday

I’m godmother to 4 kids – Eric, Corie, Martin and my nephew Kevin. Hard to believe people actually entrusted me with their children’s religious upbringing, isn’t it?what were they thinkingNever mind the last time I knelt in a pew was during the Reagan administration. Maybe that’s an exaggeration…more like the Clinton era.

First Holy Communion

First Holy Communion

Now don’t get me wrong; I may not be a church-going Catholic but I’m on good terms with the Big Guy. He knows, although I’m not a weekly parishioner, most days I attempt to be a decent human being. For instance, I’m pretty sure I’ve only violated three of the Ten Commandments. I can’t be certain though since I only remember four.

10 CommandmentsActually, I’m lucky to be alive to break any of the Commandments.

That brings us to when I almost died the day Martin was born. It was November 4, 1992. His parents, Sharon and Jim, invited me to videotape Martin’s big entrance. But when Jim called saying it was almost time, I’d just finished a graveyard shift so was half asleep.

Still, I did my best Danica Patrick impersonation to reach the hospital 45 minutes away.

Danica Patrick

Speeding at 80 mph, I nodded off, almost hitting the center divider. I was heading toward the white light, if you know what I mean. Suddenly, it was as if my guardian angel gave me a whiff of smelling salts and snapped me awake. If my life flashed before my eyes, I was simply too tired to notice. Anyway, turns out I needn’t have hurried; Martin took his sweet time getting here.

Oh so close...

Oh so close…

Fast forward to last weekend, when my now 22-year-old godson graduated the from University of Dallas. Unlike in my blog, The Art of Travel, this time my only issue on the plane was enduring a three hour flight with the sweet, headphone-wearing young gal next to me humming to music on her iPhone. The. Entire. Three. Hours.

 

Coulda been worse I guess. She wasn’t an awful hummer. And at least I wasn’t next to the guy 5 rows up who forgot his headphones though still enjoyed a comedy on his laptop. It was a Seinfeld episode – the one where Jerry can’t remember the name of his date but knows it rhymes with a woman’s body part. I know this because I, and everyone within 5 rows of him, heard every word. (If you’re wondering, her name was Delores.)

Over in Dallas, during a night of flash flooding and thunderstorms that shook our hotel and triggered our cell phone alarms at 3:00 a.m., we waited for a tornado to hit. Why do folks fear measly earthquakes? Texas can keep their tornadoes. Give me a ground shaker any day of the week.

Anyway, my godson, sporting a little ponytail, a goatee and a broad smile, proudly accepted his BA in Business. What a journey it’s been.

He’s the handsome one in the middle

I admit I had my doubts about that kid as a tyke, when he’d pull out tufts of his sister Caitlin’s hair or, from his car seat, bit off chunks of padding from the car door upholstery. Let’s just say he was quite a handful.

Check out that devilish grin (Martin's, not mine)

Check out that devilish grin (Martin’s, not mine)

Martin and his sister Caitlin

Martin and sister Caitlin

But no need to worry; this story has a happy ending. Martin grew, both literally and figuratively (he’s now 6’5″) to become an engaging, kind and considerate young man. And perhaps most importantly, he calls his godmother on her birthday and on Mother’s Day too. That’s without knowing he’s already in my Will.

Yep, last Sunday was quite a day. Watching Martin graduate, I had a hard time believing 22 years had already passed since that day on November 4, 1992 when two great things happened: my godson made his late but grand entrance into the world and I lived to see it.
Jim, Caitlin, Martin and Sharon

Jim, Caitlin, Martin and Sharon

 

Martin and me bowling

martin and me at airport

 

In My Mind’s Eye: Remembering Dad

Here’s my annual Father’s Day post, adapted from an article I wrote in 1997 for the San Francisco Chronicle about the relationship I shared with my dad. Here’s to fathers everywhere…There’s an image I have captured in my mind. I’m in my car in front of the home my parents have shared for most of their 45 married years. Mom and Dad are standing on the front porch.

From the street, I can see the huge eucalyptus tree in their backyard, silhouetted against the evening sky. It’s gently swaying in the warm breeze while the full moon illuminates the manicured lawn. My parents are smiling and waving as I drive away after a visit.

Mom lives alone now that Dad is in an Alzheimer’s nursing facility, so that scenario has changed. But it never does in my mind. My parents always stood on the porch to wave good-bye when I left. Even in pouring rain, they still stood in the open doorway together. I always looked back and returned their waves. Continue reading