Thursday, February 16, 2012

A great gift

We normally celebrate Mother's Day in May and Father's Day in June.  In reality, at least to me, today is Mother's Day and Father's Day.  On this date, 54 years ago, my mom and dad became parents for the first time.  It is humbling to know that two people so loved each other that they wanted to spread that love to someone else and so became pregnant and had a child.  

Becoming a parent is the toughest thing anyone can ever do in life.  There is no instruction manual.  If you have more than one, they don't turn out the same, so you can't even use the lessons learned on child number 1 and have them work on child number 2.  And God help you if you decide to have that third child, because then they outnumber you and you're in trouble for the rest of your life.  I'm kidding about that last part, mainly because I don't want to scar my youngest for life.

I've received a lot of birthday wishes from friends of mine on Facebook today.  Thank you all very much for taking the time out of your day to wish me a happy birthday.  I am truly overwhelmed.  My present seems to be on permanent back order, so I guess I'll just have to be patient and hope it arrives soon.  But that's OK, because in reality, I received the best present many years ago.

Next time it's your birthday, if your parents are still around, call them up and thank them for bringing you into the world.  It's the greatest gift you'll probably ever receive until you give that same gift to someone else.

It's my birthday.  Thanks Mom and Dad.  I love you and I especially love my birthday present.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day

Today is Valentine's Day.  That's when people are supposed to show their love to the person they love in some special way.  How about showing your love to that person every single day?  

Why do people expect flowers, or chocolates, or something else on Valentine's Day.  Wouldn't it make more sense to surprise that someone special with something on March 13th, just because they're not expecting it?  We build up Valentine's Day so much that most people are disappointed when it is all over.

I guess that makes me a humbug for Valentine's Day.  Nah.  I'm a romantic at heart.  25 years ago today, I didn't bring my girlfriend chocolate or a card.  Ooops.  I had other plans that day.  I took her to Disneyland.  We went on rides, we ate and walked around the park and just enjoyed ourselves.  

Sometime after dinner, we went over to Tomorrowland and got on the Skyway ride that rides above Tomorrowland and Fantasyland.  By the time we'd gotten to the Fantasyland station, I no longer had a girlfriend.  

Ah, but this isn't a sad story at all.  No, actually, 25 years ago, I proposed to her in that Skyway car as we were floating over Fantasyland.  I think that's rather appropriate, because, in my opinion, I've been living a fantasy for the past 25 years.  I get to live with my wife, my confidant, my best friend.  She makes me whole.  She completes me.

I have no idea why she puts up with me sometimes, but she does.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Friend, mother, grandmother, mother-in-law

I met Adele Grossman in the summer of 1986 when my then girlfriend, now wife, brought me to her house to meet the parents for the first time.  To this day, I can still remember the look on her face when she came in the door after finding out that my wife and I were engaged.  She was thrilled that she could throw another party.  And what a party she threw.

She was like that.  Generous, kind, loving and very outspoken.  I grew to love her over the years.  I don't think any man could have had a better mother-in-law even if they tried to create the perfect mother-in-law.  

In her 60s, she went back to college to earn her undergraduate degree, graduating from Cal State San Bernardino with a degree in Political Science.  When she went back to school, it spurred me to also go back to school to earn my masters degree.  

She was a reader of books, mostly non-fiction.  Her library at their house is amazing with a large collection of biographies and other assorted non-fiction political type books.  If you wanted to read about United States government, or a person of interest in history, all you had to do was go downstairs at their house and you could find something there.

She doted on her three grandchildren.  I have many favorite photos, but this photo that I'm posting is by far and away my favorite shot of her.  Her health had just started to decline at this point, so she's using her grandson Andy, my middle child for support, which Andy willingly gave.  He was 16 years old at the time, just on the cusp of manhood.  We were on a walk along the shore of Lake Arrowhead and you can see the happiness in both their eyes as they experienced this walk together.

Unfortunately, her health continued to decline and sometime in the early morning hours on Monday, she passed away in her sleep.  She will be missed by all who knew her.  She was a great friend to her husband, a wonderful mother to her two daughters, a loving grandmother to my three children and the best mother-in-law I will ever know.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

America's Best Idea

I've been watching Ken Burns' film on the National Parks recently.  Today, I just finished episode 5 of the six that make up the series.  It is a very interesting series that goes through the history of the National Parks in the U.S. and I would highly recommend it for anyone, particularly if they have a great love of the outdoors.  The photography in the series is top notch and it's fun to watch and see if you can guess which park the photo was taken.

Growing up we did a lot of camping in National Parks.  Our first trip, in the summer when I was four years old was taken to Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks.  I remember very little of that first trip save the after the fact memories preserved in many of my dad's slide.  I do remember my parents getting mules for us to ride on and go around the valley floor.  We did most of the touristy things you did in Yosemite, including a stop in the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias to visit the Wawona Tree.

My dad used to tell us a story of his mom showing him a picture book of national parks with one photo of the Wawona Tree, a hollowed out tree that you could drive your car through.  He said his mom, my grandmother, used to tell him that she was going to go see that tree after she retired.  Unfortunately, she never did and I'm convinced that my dad made a pilgrimage for his mother that first summer after we'd moved out to California.

One of the souvenirs we brought back from this first camping trip was a Viewmaster and three disks of photos of Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park.  You could put a disk in the Viewmaster and view 3D images of the park.  It was almost like being there every time you looked at the photos. 

The following years, we ended up at many of the major national parks in the western United States.  One summer it was Lassen, Crater Lake, Mt. Rainier and Olympic National Parks.  We camped right at the base of Mt. Rainier and never saw the mountain as it was shrouded in clouds and very cold and we had nothing but rain for three days.  The ranger told us that if it got much colder it might snow, so we pulled up camp and headed over to Olympic rain forest where it didn't rain on us at all.

We went to Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Wind Cave National Parks, with a stop at Mt. Rushmore.  Another summer, we went to the Grand Canyon.  One spring, we spent a week at the Stovepipe Wells campground located below sea level in Death Valley National monument.

Every so often, we'd head back to Yosemite, mainly because we loved it so much.  The scenery there is incomparable, the vistas breathtaking.  There are crowds, but we've learned over the course of the years that all you really have to do is get on a trail and hike for ten minutes and you pretty much have the trail and the area to yourselves.  Most people stay near the roads.

I have many fond memories of the National Parks and I also hoped that my children have good memories too.  As they were growing up, we went camping in many parks too.  This summer, my youngest and I will venture to Yosemite, providing we can get a camping reservation there.  If not, then our alternate plan is to visit Cedar Breaks National Monument, Bryce Canyon, Zion and Capital Reef National Parks in southern Utah.  We've been to all of these areas before and that's OK.  We know we will enjoy them again.

Photos taken at Cedar Breaks National Monument, North Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park and Yosemite National Park.