Monday, December 09, 2013

Travel Journal: Nov 27-Dec 6 San Diego: Dad's Birthday

The day after Thanksgiving:
Another celebration, another gathering.
Another table setting, this time with family silver and candlesticks and festive centerpieces.
This time we gather at my parent's house to celebrate my Dad's 90th birthday.
Jeff and Rachel cook a birthday dinner for Dad, relieving my mom (and me!) of kitchen duty.
They are both really great cooks and enjoy planning and preparing meals together.

Before the busy kitchen time, a walk to the beach is taken.
The tide is low and the waves very small, perfect for walking about and for letting the toddler have water fun.

At six weeks of age Luke was dipped ceremonially into the water at this same beach.
During his next trip to the beach last November he was not yet walking.
That trip he enjoyed being swung on the swings at the beach playground last November.
This year...he dashes away from the swings and slides and races to get into the water instead.

I think we have another generation who will swim and surf with vigor every possible chance he gets.

Beach time at the end of November.
The water actually is pretty warm.
Two days later I was in the water too, wading up to my waist...yeah, it was nice.

From being carried to the water, held tightly in his father's arms, to now racing in the water apart from his parent's reach.
The snapshots of his first and current beach experience testifies how quickly a child grows.

Run Luke!

A random strand of kelp has arranged itself as cryptic script on the sand.
Whimsical thought:
Perhaps it is the ocean's message of praise, cast up upon the shore.

Lovely family time!

Back at my parent's house, Jeff has slipped on his maternal great grandmother Vida's home made apron.
She passed away when Jeff was about three.
How she would have laughed to have seen him wearing her rick rack trimmed apron now!

Dinner is served. 

This house never held more than a dozen gathered together for Thanksgiving or any other holiday either.
There was a time when there was a children's table set up near by to hold the four youngest grand children, which always included me.

This gathering is for six, plus a rambunctious toddler too young for a chair at either a child's or adult table!

Dad looks dapper at his customary head of the table position.
It has been a tough year for him, and yet he is going strong, albeit with a bandaged ear from the latest skin cancer removal, and a massive skin graft replacing a five inch by three inch surgical removal of his scalp down to the skull.
The graft was a miracle of modern medicine and a very long difficult process to undergo.
He is just now freed of a vacuum pack that has been attached to his head for weeks and weeks.
Reason alone to celebrate!

Not really suggesting Dad is a turkey!
It is his choice to routinely celebrate his birthday in conjunction with Thanksgiving.
Long story short-ish:
Dad's actual birthday is December 23.
He had twin older sisters, and during the grim days of the Great Depression, the twins would pool their money to purchase ONE gift between them to give to Dad that was to serve for BOTH his birthday AND Christmas gift.
He, on the other hand, was on the hook for a gift for each twin on their September birthday and two more come Christmas.
He got one gift, he gave four.
He rebelled and demanded his birthday be moved up a month in order to at least get two gifts total (one joint gift from the twins for his birthday, and one joint gift from the twins for Christmas) from his sisters.
The childhood ploy has continued up unto this day.
(One twin still lives; she's 93 and lives in Oregon and I think she stiffed him all together this year!)

Dad has excellent health aside from the never ending skin cancer battles which has been fought with radiation, chemicals, and mostly with a lots of slicing away of his face.
Rare is the call home that doesn't include a passing remark about yet another place has been found needing surgery.
He reports it all in good humor and thankfulness that the cancer is not a kind that can kill.

Great Grandpa Dustin and his first great grandchild Luke Dustin.
One is one, one is 90.

My Dad sees Luke and memories of his childhood arise.
They are mostly unhappy memories; Dad was raised in difficult years and the children of the 20's and 30's were treated harshly.
For a time my Dad lived in an orphanage.
He has memories of things that no child should experience or see.
Dad is astonished at the toys that Luke routinely enjoys, and the attention he receives from all of us.
It wasn't like that for him.
His own paternal grandmother raised him some of the time, with lots of Germanic strictness and little money to be had.
It wasn't an uncommon kind of childhood in that era.

 Dad's maternal grandparents lived far away from San Diego, all the way on the east coast in Massachusetts.
Last week I was looking through those grandparent's hometown paper's archives.
There I found the engagement announcement of Dad's parents, and their wedding announcement back in April of 1919.
World War I was being covered in the news along with those two cheery notices.
The couple had wed, gone to visit family in New York and two years later had moved to San Francisco.
I found the Springfield MA newspaper announcement of Dad's twin sister's birth in San Francisco, and later an announcement of my Dad's birth in San Diego as well.
It was the first time Dad's name made the newspaper.
It would by no means be the last!
It made me smile to think of those far away grandparents placing newspaper announcements of the birth of their grandchildren who lived so far away.
Later there was a blurry photo of their daughter posing with her twin girls and "Dexter", my Dad's middle name.
He was about four and dressed in a sailor suit.
Who knew back then that one day that same child would grow up to wear a real sailor suit and fight in another world war.
Seeing those announcements told me that those far away grandparents cared.
It was nice to know after all these years.

We take pictures of the oldest and youngest family member together.

I regret not set up my camera with a bounce flash, and taking technically better picture.

On the other hand...sometimes pictures just have to be taken as quickly as a baby will allow.

Great grandma Dustin gets her picture taken too, quickly, in the kitchen, as Luke is just about done for the night.
Jeff seems so tall next to mom!

We took a break after dinner to watch a ball game played by Dad's and Jeff's college, San Diego State University.
The tv remote rests next to the dessert plates...the game is still going.
I had thought about buying a 9 and a 0 candle, but didn't.
90 singles candles?
How about one really big candle instead?
Dad clowns around, pretending to be a befuddled 90 year old trying to blow out a candle.
(I find it quite funny how my aunt expressed her disdain for eating dinner with the "old" people in her retirement/care center home.  Just try telling her that at 93 she is by definition "old" herself!)

Not even a guess what one would wish for at age 90.

What ever it was, he seemed pleased.

Gift opening time!

His gift: a long red plaid flannel robe, long enough to cover him down to his ankles when he sits in his recliner.
He also gets a pair of shearling slippers.
And a wild purple tie to wear with the purple wig he speaks of purchasing to wear in the future to cover his now ravished scalp.
That should be quite a look.
My Dad has never hesitated to stand out in a crowd.
While we waited for dinner, Mom handed me the latest newspaper write up on my Dad.
Dad is in a local newspaper article again, this time about the latest chapter his long life.
He has had an interesting life.
He may be (kinda of) 90 (we may be sending birthday greetings again on Dec. 23...) but he is still engaged in living an active life, making headlines, and getting the most out of life.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Travel Journal: San Diego Nov 27- Dec 6 2013: Thanksgiving

The second day of our San Diego visit dawned sunny and bright, as so often Thanksgiving mornings are wont to do there.
The persimmon tree leaves and fruit lingered on, catching the sunlight and creating small masterpieces thereby.

Our son, his wife and their son were also in town, staying with my parents over the holidays.
They joined us at Bernie's Dad's house for the day.
Luke amazed his both his great grandfathers during his visit by constructing complex creations using oversized Legos.
What a 19 month old can do now!
I guess when we were that young we mostly drooled and slept...this latest generation astonishes the eighty+ year old crowd!

Thanksgiving meal was a combination of ready made store purchased dinner with additional home made pies and side dishes.
(Hal dug right in.)
The house's original stove was used to create its 56th Thanksgiving meal.
I recall the time the same stove once was filled with plastic blocks by Jeff as a two year old.
I learned never to pre-heat an oven without checking inside first after that disaster.

This year Luke enjoyed some table top food.
Last year he was not yet on such solid treats.

Father and son.
I was in charge of setting the table this year.
Six place settings I carefully placed, each with goblets, only realizing after we sat that there were only five adults there to enjoy.
It has been a year since Bernie's mom Barbara passed away two days after Thanksgiving.
Last year we were a much bigger group, with other grandchildren coming to be near their end-of-life grandmother.
Thanksgiving will always have that memory of loss woven in now.
As well as good memories of  the many years when twenty+ family members would crowd in to serve up food.
Memories of my first Thanksgiving at that house arose.
I was married but 11 months and secretly 8 weeks unexpectedly pregnant.
We had planned to announce the coming baby at Christmas time.
Barbara was working hard in the kitchen as I fought unprecedented prenatal fatigue.
Seeing me rest my head for a moment on the breakfast bar, she smiled and declared "You are pregnant."
Our secret was out.
I think she was the first person to know besides Bernie.

After dinner we took a walk up to a neighborhood playground.
Autumn pods curled, leaves scuffled as we walked and talked.
Bernie shared memories and stories of the neighborhood he grew up in.
We counted front yard cats and Christmas displays as we went along.

A first, I think.
Maybe a new tradition:
Heading for the swing sets after Thanksgiving dinner.

Rachel holds Luke's brown bear as she swings; the bear seems happy to ride along.

The low sun cast a golden glow upon us all.

Varying sizes of slides were tested out.

Mom goes down first, to prove it really is fun.

Grandpa Bernie helps Luke do a strong man routine on the bar.

Luke has learned which edge of the slide produces the fast ride.

This sort of fun can go on forever, and will last forever in my mind.

Back home after dark, we lit candles on the small Hannakiah.

Spun the dreildels.

A few more years and it will matter to him upon which side the dreidle falls.
For now, he just wants me to spin the top again.

I know there will never be another Hannukah/Thanksgiving Day in my lifetime.
I don't know how many more Thanksgivings Bernie and his family will celebrate together in this house.
Fifty-six times so far.
How many more times in the future?
We know one day the great grandfather will also be gone, and the house will be sold.
One can never knows the timing of what the future holds.
In my mind's eye I see ghosts of family no longer with us; Bernie's grandmothers who used to sit on the couch as their nine great grandchildren scurried and chased about.
I see Bernie's younger brother, arriving late, leaving early, cracking jokes and charming everyone young and old with his wit.
And I see Barbara, as she was once captured in a photograph after Thanksgiving, with pots and pans and dishes piled high in the kitchen, with her exclaiming "I need to clean up the kitchen before I can clean up the kitchen!"

This Thanksgiving together was one more blessing in a long chain of blessings.
I was, and am, thankful for memories of the past and for memories that are still being made.