I’m back from my Tucson adventure

IMG_20180315_113328079_HDR[1]I have just returned from driving to the Tucson Festival of Books and the associated master workshop in poetry. Three thousand miles. Eight days of driving. Three days of Tucson, Arizona. I know. That’s nuts. I wanted an adventure. I got one. I wanted to see the territory between here and there, not just fly over it. I have seen it.

I’m flailing in an avalanche of receipts, dirty clothes, unmowed lawns, uncleaned rooms, undone chores, books, written notes, typed notes, recorded notes, and memories I don’t want to lose as I sink into the overflow.

I want to hold on to that first sight of desert cactus, the winter-green hills of California where the cattle grazed, the llama watching freeway traffic, the woman at the Canyonville, Oregon gas station who was eating German chocolate cake at 8 a.m. and who called me “Sweetie,” the new writer friends with whom I ate, drank, laughed, and learned, the big hugs from cousins Adrienne and John in Tucson, the excitement when I found the street in Burbank, California, where my late husband Fred grew up, watching the cowfolk in Coalinga, the quirky antique shop at Chiriaco Summit, the incredible banana chocolate chip muffin from Mimi’s in Casa Grande, eating Denny’s chocolate lava cake and talking to my dad while sitting by the pool on a warm night in Blythe, California on my birthday. And so much more.

IMG_20180311_153719123[1]I don’t need to hold on to the traffic in Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Stockton; the rain, wind, snow, and fog; the disappointment of the Royal Sun Best Western Hotel in Tucson and the hurt in my feet when the walk to the book festival proved far longer than these old feet could handle in tennis shoes; the really terrible shrimp-bacon-creamed avocado flatbread I ate for dinner one night; the Mexican restaurant run by Chinese people; the tight schedule that made it impossible to turn off I-5 to visit my father or my brother or my cousins; having to leave Annie in “doggie jail,” or the worrisome amount of money I spent. Nope. Let those go.

The Tucson Festival of Books was huge and amazing. I entered a raffle and won a $50 Amazon gift certificate. I bought a few books. I used up two pens and wore out the batteries on my voice recorder. The poetry workshop blew my mind.

IMG_20180308_151037105[1]Was it worth it? I won’t be driving that far on such a tight schedule again. Having to go 400 miles a day in order to arrive at the festival on time and get home in time to play the piano for Saturday Mass took some of the joy out of it. Much better to take time to explore the side roads, see the family, and sit still for a while.

Annie is overjoyed to have me home. My bed feels so much better than every other bed I slept in. The pellet stove is still a pain. The trees look the same. Everything looks the same, but I’m not the same. I think that’s a good thing.

Last night on the phone, my dad, who is 95, asked how old I was. When I told him, he exclaimed, “66! How the hell did you get to be so old?” He counseled that the way to stay healthy into old age is to keep active. If you sit in a chair and do nothing, you die. I agree. Where shall I go next?

 

 

Advertisements

Dad’s 94th birthday full of surprises

Dad42911People can be rude, annoying and selfish, but sometimes they can be so very, very good.

Yesterday was my father Ed Fagalde’s 94th birthday. I couldn’t be in San Jose to help him celebrate. I worried that he’d be spending the day alone, that even though he says, “It’s just another day,” he would be sad. But people stepped up, people you wouldn’t even expect.

Yes, Dad’s cousin called from Texas, my aunt took him to lunch on Saturday, and my brother’s family took him to lunch on Sunday (Thank you!). Yes, I sent a gift, which arrived on his doorstep on time. But nobody expected a neighbor he barely knew to call to wish him happy birthday and invite him to come over. And nobody expected what happened when he went to dinner alone at his favorite restaurant, the Country Inn on Saratoga Avenue.

Eating dinner alone at a restaurant can be daunting. You find yourself surrounded by couples and families while you have no one to talk to. I always bring a book, but Dad just eats in silence since Mom died in 2002.

Not this time. The manager joined him at the table, saying the staff could run the place without him. They talked like old friends. Indeed they have been seeing each other at the restaurant for many years. At dessert time, seven workers sang to him and brought him a candlelit slice of cake that was so big he brought most of it home to enjoy later. And when he asked about his check, he was told the meal was “on the house.”

It wasn’t over. At church yesterday morning, even though it was First Communion Day and the place was packed with little girls in white dresses and little boys in suits, the congregation honored my father. He didn’t expect it. He’s not active in church activities. He sits in the second to last row with a young family with three kids who have claimed him as an extra grandfather. They’re the only ones who know his name. He had just come back from the restroom when a woman up front told him not to sit down. She announced that it was his birthday, and over 500 people applauded him. He was thrilled. The priest asked how old he was—94—and how long he had been coming to St. Martin’s—65 years. San Jose is a big city. It’s easy to be anonymous in the crowd. But not this time. People recognized and honored him. That was the best gift anyone could have given him.

Last night on the phone, Dad said someone asked him how he kept going so long. Eating and sleeping, he said. When you stop doing that, you’re done.

Dad still lives on his own in the house where I grew up. Since he broke his hip in 2014, he can’t move like he used to, but he’s an independent cuss and he has good genes. His father lived to 98. His cousin made it to 96. We all know that things could change at any minute—or not. Meanwhile, I am blessed to have him, and I am so grateful that people paid attention this year. It matters.

Look up and notice the people sitting alone. Say hello. They might be great people like my my father.

Happy birthday, Dad.