after spending the first 22 years of my life in texas, i packed my bags and moved to california for a job. and a change. and an adventure. 11 years later, i am here. with my husband. and two children. and we have built a life. that we love. and it kind of feels like my california. my world. people come. and visit. then leave. and we are here. and most days…it feels complete.
i have enjoyed having my mom’s sister so close, and three of my cousins, and two years ago, gramma dorie (my mom’s mom) moved in with my aunt. which really felt like an extended family support for us. and we are blessed to have them. they love us so well.
and then my parents bought a place here. and my grandparents (my dad’s parents) and brother came for thanksgiving. and all the sudden. we were all here. my family of 11 years ago. my family of my childhood.
and i was reminded, that long before this was my california. this was their california. my grandparents were both raised in southern california. and they raised their children here.
my grandmother is sick with alzheimers. so today, my father, brother and i drove she and my grandfather to covina, azusa, and glendora, knowing this is probably the last time they will be here. we saw the house where they raised my dad and aunt. the street where the three of them remembered every name of every neighbor from 1956. my dad laughed as he talked about skateboarding to friend’s houses, and uni-cycling down main street. and the time he ran 5 miles to work because his car wouldn’t start. they said the trees looked bigger. the houses smaller. the streets narrower. there was a memory and story on every corner. the jewlery store where he bought my mom’s engagement ring. where they bought fresh tortillas. where they ate dinner on special occasions. we walked on the high school campus where my parents met. and peeked in the gym where my dad used to play basketball. we drove to the house where my grandfather grew up. we toured the fire station where he served the last 12 years before he retired. where he slept 4 nights a week. waiting for calls. where he hung his clothes after fighting raging forest fires into the night. and he told us about the edison fire in which he lost 8 men, like it was yesterday.
then we drove down the hill to the house where my grandmother grew up…where she was brought home from the hospital, a surprise baby to aging parents with two older brothers and a father that adored her. and a mother that she never got along with. we knocked on the door. and met the current residents. and with all clarity of mind, my grandmother explained that this was her house. and then, my grandparents walked in, and stood in front of the fire place. the very spot where they were married 65 years ago. they recited their vows.
and i cried.
and minutes later my grandmother asked if we could go to the house she grew up in. and then again. and again. she had no recollection. of any stop. or conversation. or any picture. but she remembered the reality of 50, 60 and 70 years ago. she told stories and remembered names. she was there, even more than she was here with us today.
we walked along rows of tombstones, until we found the place where my grandfather’s father is buried.
i cried all day. little tears of surprise. at being here. with them. experiencing this moment. experiencing…their california.
we ended the day at my parents house for dinner. and following dinner, my two grandmothers and i sat at the table and played gin. it couldn’t have been more perfect. every holiday i remember growing up, my mom invited everyone over for dinner. and following a quick dinner (because my family is not much for deep dinner time conversation) my grandmothers, and i when i was old enough, would play cards at the kitchen table. it was something to do with our hands and minds as we talked about what was going on in life…and love and our family. and there we were. and it was heavy. the weight of their lives. and their love. and how it has shaped me. i’ll never forget.