Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Beautiful California

I went to California to check on my dad who is in the hospital there. He is not doing so well. Still on a ventilator.
In a rehab center in a bed he cannot leave, unable to speak, but still bright in his mind. We had to make some decisions about his care he and I so this was a serious trip.

 It has been 30 years since I put my feet on the ground there or admired the gold and green hills and wildflowers that grow everywhere. As we crossed over the Golden Gate Bridge I thought of the first time I had seen it and how amazed I was at its immensity.  At the beautiful, brightly painted houses one on top of the other along the streets, the tallest trees, the thickness of the green of the Golden Gate Park and the people. Lots and lots of people. There was a music Festival wrapping up  and many of them were milling about along the street. I smiled so many of them looked like the people did the first time I came in 1974, funny how things roll back around. Headbands,  long skirts,  sandals, it looked like a clip of Woodstock.

My cousin Karen who is like my Dads sister was driving our rental car, and my 81 year old Aunt Margaret was chatting from the back seat and though I was supposed to be navigating with the Garmin ( that my Dad calls "Bitching Betty")  I could not take my eyes off of the ocean. The Sunday Sailboats and all the people lining the bridge taking pictures and doing tourist things. And the beautiful beautiful water.

I had never seen the ocean til I made my first trip to California to see my Dad when I was 13 and I made him take me to the beach the day after I got there I wanted to see it so bad. It was huge, it was wild crashing on the pebbled beach and it was cold. So cold. There were rocks and it was grey and misty and nothing like what I had imagined. When I put my bare feet in they instantly became numb but I didn't care it was THE OCEAN...

I had so many firsts those summers with my Dad. My first time in California, my first time to visit a museum, eat in a french restaurant where he ordered for me,  Escargot,  and I loved it and didn't even care that it was snails. Trips to Napa to ride horses and visit the wineries, the rows of grapes stretching out forever. Riding the ferry back and forth and feeding the seagulls, ordering me a dressed up tomato juice and we clicked our glasses just like I was a grown up.

Visiting China Town and walking around Ghiradelli Square where he told me he liked to come and watch all the pretty girls sit outside at lunchtime. Going to the Pier and watching the seals and just walking downtown and marveling at the houses they called the painted ladies, telling me stories about Haight Ashbury and what it was like. We squeezed a lot of life into the short times we got to be together.

The last time I was there I was 23. When he picked me up from the Airport we drove to his  place which was the bottom of a 4 story house and he was good friends with the people who owned the house and when we arrived they
had a little party and my Dad opened a bottle of Dom Perignon the kind with the beautiful flowers on the front of the bottle  and we all toasted together. We went for a lot of walks in the hills around the house with the dogs and I talked about what I wanted to do with my life. He asked me if I ever thought about maybe moving there. It was the only time he ever asked me if I wanted to leave Oklahoma. He said he could help me find a job if I wanted to think about it. I said maybe. But I think we both knew I would not do it. My Dad was there and I loved him. But I just could not think of leaving Oklahoma.

Now I think about how brave he was to just go to California when he was young and make a life. He's been there for more than 30 years. So when he got ready to retire I asked him "Do you want to come to Oklahoma? I would help you find a place to live.." But I knew what his answer would be without him answering really. Because I knew that my Dad would never leave California,  where you can smell the Eucalyptus in the air, and see the lights of the city on the water at night, where all your friends and memories and life is.

It was awkward because of the bed but I leaned over and laid my head on his chest and listened to his heart. He held the back of my head and stroked my arm and I said" I love you Daddy". And even though I didn't say it I think he knows that I bless his life and where he is.

We all just do the best we can.

In beautiful California.

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