Papa. Part one. On what would have been his 74th birthday.

When I was a little girl of six, we moved into a bigger house in a newer neighborhood. In the backyard was this beautiful Weeping Willow. I’d never seen one before and I found it’s natural ability to be a secret hiding place irresistible. But my parents wanted a pool so they pulled out my tree. It wasn’t all bad. My sister and I got an awful lot of use out of that pool over the years. My dad built a slide for the pool out of lava rock and poured cement. Not quite sure why it didn’t occur to him that those weren’t necessarily slippery, and therefore slide-worthy, but he went ahead with his plan. When it didn’t work, I remember him placing plastic over the cement slide so that it would be slippery, and I think he had a hose feeding water down it. But there was no sliding on that thing. The lava mountain he had built interspersed with plants was pretty enough, and the poured concrete steps up to the slide were great, but there was no salvaging that mess of a slide. So he buckled and bought a real one. One of those blue fiberglass numbers with its own running water to aid in sliding. We used the heck out of that thing too. It was Las Vegas in the late 70s and early 80s and it was HOT. So from the first of May until September we were out there pretty much daily. Sometimes dad would play with us and let us jump off his shoulders or chase us pretending to be a shark and we had to go to the oven if we were caught. (Which was the loveseat.) For some reason my dad also decided to cover the ground with some weird flowering ground cover instead of grass, which just brought wasps that would sting your feet, although once I even got stung between my fingers. But as a little kid you don’t mind that stuff so much. Jaime, my sister-younger by three years-and I had impressive tan lines every year and baked ourselves into very brown little children. Jaime was blond and blue-eyed, but still soaked up the rays. And I had long dark hair with eyes just as dark. My tanning added an ethnicity to my look that was completely undeserved, but there it was. 

Dad was great with his hands despite the previously mentioned escapade.  He was always making something. And at our previous house he built a tall, beautiful wooden fence that still stands elegantly today despite the house falling to shit due to lazy owners. He loved to build radio controlled airplanes and radio controlled cars. The planes he just flew around the neighborhood, but he actually raced the cars. I would act as his pit crew and run out into the course and flip the car back right side up, quickly running back again not to disturb the ongoing race. I loved that. 

Sometimes he took us to real racetracks where it was thunderously loud and the smell of gasoline and oil was overpowering. But somehow he made it feel special that we got to be there. I don’t really remember much else about the experience besides the noise, smell, and feeling special. Yet I grew up to like British TopGear, hate American Top Gear, and have no love for NASCAR. Blech. 

We also spent a lot of time with my dad’s brother and his family a lot when my sister and I were little. They lived hours away in the mountains of Southern California but we went most weekends. My mom and my aunt would play cribbage and drink wine. My dad and uncle would play pasture golf and drink beer. Pasture golf was made up by my uncle. There were holes in the ground filled with coffee cans with long pvc pipes poking out to mark them. The balls were tennis balls and mainly you had to avoid the poison oak and the lake. I have no idea if anyone ever won. 

But by the time I was twelve, everything changed. 

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