I remember going on the train from Roaring Camp, in the Santa Cruz mountains, once when I was a kid. It's an old narrow gauge steam engine that takes you up to the top of Bear Mountain, through the redwoods and madrones and delicious smelling bay laurels. It was so long ago, Dad didn't remember it at all, but Linda and I both had faint recollections of the train, the place, the trees. After riding the train again yesterday, I wondered why I'd never taken my own kids on it. It's a lot of fun, and a really special, beautiful ride up through those big trees, to the top of the mountain. (Danny, Lauren, Julia - I'll make it up to you if I get the chance!) My Dad looked up into the branches and said, "These trees were made for hugging." If you know my Dad at all, you know that's just a wee bit out of character. That's how amazing it is up there. It will make a gruff old guy talk all soft and cuddly, even though he let Linda do the actual tree-hugging.
After the train ride, we went on over to Santa Cruz, my favorite old stomping grounds from high school, and had lunch almost on the beach. There's a great spot right next to the beach and the pier, where you can sit outside with a view of the boardwalk, beach, and pier. The prices are too high, and the food is nothing special, but to have a place to sit so close to the sand and sea and happy beach-goers was well worth the price.
Our Dad has trouble with his knees, after a career as a sprinkler fitter, carrying heavy metal pipe on his shoulders, up and down ladders for 35 years. Walking is a painful chore for him, that's almost as painful for his daughters to watch. We've climbed mountains with that man more than once, and run around on lots of beaches with him, so it's hard to see him unable to do the things he loves, but it's also a real pleasure to be able to do something that's close, that's still out there in the world, in Nature's lap. It's a not so gentle reminder that these machines we live in can only take so much, and will only go a limited number of miles. The good news is, the juice that keeps us going doesn't have to dry up. We can choose to stay interested and connected, and shift the way we do things even when our bodies change the rules and allow us less than they once did. I'm encouraged, and for the millionth time in my life, inspired by my Dad. He's an amazing guy. Some would call him stubborn. Well that's OK. Nothing wrong with a little stubbornness if it keeps you moving through life more or less on your own terms. A few of the things I've learned from my Dad: Stay stubborn, make adjustments, appreciate the trees, eat good food, learn a few good jokes, laugh a lot. Thanks Daddy. I think you're really great.
(All the pictures here are of my sister Linda and our Dad. Linda and I look a lot alike, but she's much smaller... I'm the Big Sister in more ways than one. Linda is the Middle Sister. Jill, the Little Sister, had to work. Phooey! It's much more fun when we're all together.)