This isn't supposed to be a vacation blog. But in the interest of avoiding posts about angry jihadists, office chatter, or nonexistent relationships, for the moment, that's what it is. If I had written an extensive account of my recent trip to California, the following would be excerpts:
Spent a couple days being reminded why people pay insanely high prices to live in San Diego. The man on the corner energetically flipping the sign for the tiny condos behind him (starting at 400 grand), didn't leave me completely agape this time. The visit was perfect: the weather, the beach, the cavorting seals. With most my college friends married and popping out babies, it was nice to spend the time with Mark and Cassie, the final holdouts. Of course they're both ticking time bombs.
At my aunt's house near Sacramento, my sister and I walked with my maternal grandmother through the large yard, stopping to hear grandma’s opinion on every twig and rock. Her brain tumor, although dormant, seems to not only have wiped her short-term memory, but also left her persistently curious about yard waste. We spent several minutes perched over a pile of stones while she monologued about their ideal shape and size, suggesting that my uncle should really give up a few for her garden. She's forgotten she doesn't garden anymore.
My grandfather, in his 90s, has had better luck with his health. He is lucid, soft spoken, and content, spending the days napping, reading, and surfing the web. While we were chatting, my grandmother crept up behind him and begin scraping his bald head with some kind of dried plant she must have found in the yard.
"Want to see what I pricked you with?" she asked, holding up her find for him to examine. He stared dully at her hand then turned back to me.
"I'm enjoying my retirement," he said.
The meat of the trip was with my other grandparents at their cabin on Lake McClure. While one set has slowed their lives down, my paternal grandparents don't yet seem to realize they're in their eighties. This was most comically illustrated when my grandfather tried to leap the railings of the cabin deck (he made it over, barely), or when, halfway up a ladder, I had to insist that he let me be the one to climb into the water tank to clean out the sand. When I’m in my eighties, I plan on catatonically staring at Jeopardy and doing lots of drooling. Definitely none of this leaping decks and climbing ladders business.
I can't describe how good it was to be with them: parents, grandparents, sister, brother-in-law, nieces. We spent a lot of time sitting out on the deck overlooking the lake, talking, or "philosophizing," as my grandmother puts it. For a few days it felt as if time had slowed down; as if this lone cabin on an empty hill had detached itself from the world across the lake.
We weren't completely alone, though. There were the wild burros. Invisible, out in the oak trees, they made the most ungodly noises at night. In my mind, they were molty, haggard beasts; or at the very least had a description that measured up to the horrible sounds they made. But when we spotted them on a hill, as my brother-in-law and I were paddling by in a makeshift raft, I found them to be deceptively normal. Handsome, even. Still, if they were talking donkeys, and we had somehow found ourselves in casual conversation, I would tactfully slip in a suggestion for throat surgery.
The elaborate plan to record my grandparents’ commentary on some old home movies didn’t go over so well. Technical difficulties. But watching them as newlyweds living in Hawaii, right across from Pearl Harbor, was just good. Also, it seems my father laughed a lot as a baby. He still laughs a lot.
It made me happy.
Thursday I’m leaving for the land of my dad’s birth. A week in Hawaii. I know I said this isn’t supposed to be a vacation blog but it is what it is.