Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Adventures with Grandpa -- Trip to Washington 2010 Chapter 5

Here we go with the fifth and final chapter of this edition of “Adventures with Grandpa.” If you think this has dragged on forever, imagine what it was like to experience it firsthand!

We got up early and left Ron’s house about 6:00 AM. Ron’s daughter had wanted to cook breakfast for us that morning and Uncle Frank wanted to pack us a lunch before we left, but we were (or I was) anxious to get on the road. Vera had the afternoon off! We had to get there! We didn’t get very far down the road, though, before Dad announced that he wanted to stop and visit a friend in Redding on the way, someone he “hasn’t seen in 50 years.” I was getting the idea that this might be an elderly person, and to be honest I wasn’t excited about it. Dad was sure that we would only be there for a couple of minutes, but you know how that goes. I can’t remember the woman’s name, but Dad called her with his cell phone to tell her we were passing through and wanted to stop and see her. She said that she would love to see us, but she had an important appointment that day and wouldn’t be home until around 3:00 PM. Since we would be passing through Redding more like 11:00 AM (even earlier if I had any say in it), Dad decided that we wouldn’t be able to stop. DARN!

Another thing that Dad has always done whenever we are driving toward California is sing, “California, here I come. Right back where I started from.” Unfortunately, that’s the only part of the song that he knows, so he sings just those two phrases over and over again. He’s done this all my life, and this trip was no exception. He also likes to sing a variation of our national anthem, the punch line of a joke he heard many years ago, “Jose, Can you See?” He repeats that one phrase over and over again, chuckling to himself, and will tell the joke AGAIN if you let him (I didn’t). When he isn’t singing one of those things, he amuses himself by singing, “Only 597 more miles to go. 597 more miles to go. High ho the dairy-oh, only 597 more miles to go,” every time we pass another mile marker with the mileage to our next destination on it. I can remember us kids singing that song when we were traveling as a family and it used to drive Mom crazy. Now I know where we got it! (He admitted to me that it irritated her when he sang it, too.) As a child I didn’t understand her irritation. Believe me, I do now!

A description of the trip also wouldn’t be complete without listing a few of his driving habits. During the first part of our trip (up through Nevada), I felt safe letting him drive. Wide open spaces, nobody on the road, a few animals here and there, not much to worry about. Driving on freeways in heavy traffic, though, can be a bit (even more than a bit) scary. He complains about the cruise control in my car, saying that it didn’t work. I ask him if he turned it on. He answers yes; in fact he turned it on twice to make sure it was working. I would have to try to explain to him that if he pushed the button twice, he likely turned it off again. He couldn’t seem to recognize the little light that comes on in the dash when the cruise control is on. He also likes to speed up and slow down, just using the cruise control instead of the gas pedal and brake, which can also be pretty crazy in heavy traffic. Then there’s more complaining about how it isn’t working right. In my mind I’m thinking, “If you would just flippin’ stop friggin’ messing with it, maybe just maybe it would!” Outwardly I’m just bracing for impact.

In addition to constant complaints about the cruise control, he was always adjusting the height of the steering wheel. There we are, careening down the freeway at 70+ miles per hour, and he decides to make an adjustment. He releases the lever, moves the steering wheel, and then tries to hold the steering wheel in place while fumbling around to try to find the lever to tighten it again. Meanwhile we are passing semis and zooming around corners. He couldn’t seem to tighten the steering wheel again, so there we were, driving along with a steering wheel that is flopping all around. It’s a miracle I have any hair left at all. Meanwhile, he is wondering why I don’t take a nap while he’s driving.

Back to the trip, we drove along, passing through Oregon, California, and down towards Sacramento. When Dad was driving, I relieved my anxiety by texting Vera and attempting to laugh it off. It’s either laugh about it or cry! We finally arrived at Wiscombe Funeral Home midafternoon. I doubt that there are many other visitors there who fall out of their cars and kiss the ground when they arrive! Vera came outside to greet us and led us inside. She noticed me furtively glancing around and laughingly told me that there were currently no “customers” present. What a relief! Shawn Wiscombe, who lived in Caliente for a number of years and was even Dad’s neighbor for a while there, came downstairs to talk to us. He plans to sell the mortuary and move to Texas. I was worried for a moment that Vera would follow him there (it would be even harder to visit her there), but she wants to stay in California. The mortuary is adjacent to the University of California Davis campus, and Dad mentioned that when he was choosing his college, the final decision was between UCD and Utah State. He enjoyed looking at the campus and thinking about what his life might have been going there. It’s kind of mind-boggling to think what a difference that choice might have made to our entire family’s existence! Funny how small decisions can change everything.

We had a grand tour of the facilities. Very interesting! Then we went to Vera’s place, a cute apartment. We sat down to chat for a bit before going to dinner. I thought I was doing my best to include Dad in the conversation, but before long, snoring sounds came from his side of the sofa. That meant that it was safe for Vera and me to have a REAL conversation! Just talking without repeating, explaining, and rewording for Dad’s benefit!

After Dad woke up from his nap we went to a nice Italian restaurant. Then we went on a long stroll through an arboretum that’s maintained by UCD. They have a lot of plants that are labeled with their common and Latin names, so of course we had to stop every three steps or so to read another sign and examine the plant. Of course this doesn’t mean that we only analyzed the plants that were labeled. We looked at unlabeled plants, too, and tried to divine their origins. And of course there was later the inevitable quiz. Anyone who has spent any time at all with Dad knows this drill well.

I guess I shouldn’t tell this part of the story (TMI), but here I go anyway. (Besides, I asked Vera, and she said I should go ahead!) When we first arrived at the arboretum, Dad tooted (it was just a little one), and I thought it sounded just like a quack. I looked over at Vera and asked, “Did he just step on a duck?” We grinned maniacally at each other and I started to tell her a few family stories on the subject (mainly starring her father, my mother, and one of my old boyfriends). Right then we turned the corner and there they were … some ducks, floating serenely on the river. It really tickled me and I started to giggle so hard that my vision blurred and I could hardly walk. Vera had to elbow me a few times to get me back on track. Dad apparently didn’t notice my hysteria and continued to examine all the plants, commenting on their history and origin, which got me going even worse. I guess you had to be there, but the memory still causes my eyes to leak a little.

After touring the arboretum for a few hours, we returned to Vera’s house, where she graciously slept on the couch so that I could have her bed and Dad slept in her second bedroom. We (Vera and I) stayed up too late chatting, but it was worth it. It was so nice, such a fun visit.

Early the next morning we got up and headed for home, another long, arduous drive. I have one more description to tell before I finish this long thing and get it published. It happened not long after we left Vera’s place. We were driving over Donnor’s Pass, and I was behind the wheel. Dad decided it was time for breakfast, so he got out his little plastic bowl and poured in some cereal, but he couldn’t find his spoon. I told him that I might have one in the console or glove compartment of my car, so he dug through them, but the best he could find was a spork, one of those fork/spoon things they give you at Taco Bell. I tried to tell him that it would work okay, but he wanted his spoon, so he decided to crawl to the back of the car to look for it. He undid his seat belt and proceeded to climb into the back, crawling across all of the junk we had piled back there (it seemed so full of stuff, I’m not sure how we managed to put Amanda’s cedar chest in there, too – Vera can attest to it, she had to attempt to ride back there between the mortuary and her apartment the day before). Keep in mind that we are traveling down a mountainous, curvy road and I am speeding around corners. There was an occasional THUMP from the back of the car where Dad bumped against one side or other of the car as he searched. I was also nervous that in his return to the front seat, he might kick me in the head or something (memories from long trips with my siblings and me crammed in the back of a station wagon kept returning). He never found his spoon, though, and eventually returned empty-handed. He resigned himself to using the spork. He pulled out his bottle of Caliente tap water, poured it over his cereal, and ate.

We made it back to Caliente about 3:30 PM. We loaded my newly-refurbished bird cage (it was falling apart and Dad fixed it for me – he originally made it for me many years ago) and I was on my way.

ODOMETER – 2,796. Home again, home again, jiggity jig! I survived another adventure with Grandpa!