It's hard to believe but it's been an entire year since my dad passed away.
To commemorate his passing, my family gathered at a farm owned by a family friend.
The weather was hot, the cherries ripe for the picking, and in the evening we joined in a circle and shared what insights we gained this past year without him.
I cry over my dad's death all the time. So does my mom, so do other family members. It's something I doubt I'll ever shake. Shopping for a Father's Day card then you suddenly realize you aren't buying one this year. Expecting to hear him take his customary 3 steps then spit out the front door every morning at 6am. I get pounded by grief with each holiday and special event, yet the unexpected reminders of his death are the ones that tear at me the most.
What struck me more than anything after my dad's memorial was how badly the men in our family needed this commemoration. As many men do, they held their emotions in this past year. Suddenly, in front of family they love (in-laws, surrogate siblings, close relations) they came face to face with the feelings of loss. My dad was loved and admired by many. He was a second father to a number of our friends, and a close confidant of many relatives. We put a bench in a special spot for him and I look forward to visiting the farm and having conversations with my Dad for many years to come.
The Drive Home
My sister, daughter and I had to drive home from Grass Valley, CA back to L.A. It's about an 8 hour drive. To get from the central valley of California to LA, you need to traverse this big mountain road called The Grapevine. It's a ruthless stretch of highway that consumers car radiators like candy and makes truckers cry like babies.
Fortunatley I have good Grapevine Mojo and never had a problem. Except Sunday when it was on fire and the entire road was closed.
We were 1 hour from my sister's house. 1 hour away if the Grapevine hadn't been a raging inferno. After conferring not only with fellow stranded motorists but my brother in law in Oakland, we decided not to sit and wait but to keep moving. My brother in law had all his maps out and was so happy to help us out. His Inner Boy Scout was earning a merit badge big time.
Now back to my dad for a moment. If this were a family vacation, he would have told us that we were the lucky winners of a dream vacation in Lebec, CA and that our prize would be a night at the nearest motor lodge, room service, and a swim in the Olympic sized pool. He'd maneuver our dusty station wagon to the motel and we'd be in hog heaven jumping on the motel beds, ordering Cokes from room service (we'd catch hell for that later when he got the bill) and disrupting everyone in earshot with our laughing. When asked why the Olympic sized pool was so small, he would have looked at us in disbelief. "This pool was specially built for the 1952 Midget Olympics. Didn't you ever hear of Hound Dog Henderson, the 3 foot tall high jumper?"
I was probably the only one who bought those stories... well, I was the youngest!
Anyhow, back to my journey home. Unlike Dad, we opted to keep going. Everyone had things to do Monday morning so it wasn't the time to pay hotel bills.
With my brother in law on the cell phone in Oakland, he mapped out a route for us that I confirmed w/ a local. Go north, over the Tehachapi Pass, down to Mojave, through the Antelope Valley, then you'll be in Santa Clarita 20 miles north of LA.
It all looked so easy on paper.
OK, the down side: it took over 3 hours.
The up side: It was a beautiful drive!
Up the mountains we saw the golden light of late afternoon reflect on the hills, then on the pass we watched a train circle up a mountain track going in and out of tunnels dug into rock. On our descent we watched the oaks turn into Joshua trees and before you know it we're in the Mojave desert. Edwards AFB was next to us - good thing the Space Shuttle didn't land that day too. We saw places I'd only read on maps and now I can happily say I've been to Lancaster.
It was a long trip, but with many sweet moments.