Dad (Part 2)

Dear Liza,

When Momma and Dad bought the house in Lompoc, the first thing to do was make it ready to live in. The back yard was all weeds and the house had been badly used. Everything needed fixing. But for them, this was part of the fun.

Dad, getting the backyard in shape

While they worked, they got to know their neighbors and the town. Momma joined the Alpha Club and Dad joined Elks. This was a lucky thing for the Elks, because they were just beginning to build a new lodge, and Dad helped with electrical work and general hauling. He designed and helped build the floats for parades. He even barbecued dinner for everyone!

One of the many Elks’ floats he designed and built

My folks were natural joiners. They loved playing cards or going dancing with friends, and if those new folks liked camping, so much the better.

After they had lived in Lompoc for about ten years, they bought a fine fifth wheel trailer. Dad got an idea. “How about we go in the road long term?” Momma was against it. She couldn’t imagine leaving her garden or her friends. “Let’s try it for six months,”. Dad promised. “If you hate it, I won’t mention it again.”

Yet another adventure!

So they rented the house to a friend, packed up, and headed off. By the end of the six months, momma was sold on the idea, and they traveled to every state they could drive to over the next eight years. Dad loved history and would visit every tiny museum and library. They went to church every Sunday at whatever church was closest. They made new friends all over the country.

Every now and then, they would swing by our house in Salinas, say hello, and help the kids with their bar mitzvah projects, then head off again. They had so much fun!

Stopping by for a visit

In September of 1988 they came by Salinas on their way home, and I took the day off to go with them to Point Lobos. It was the last day we got to spend together.

My last picture of Momma and Dad together

They were heading home when dad had a stroke and died in his sleep. We were all shocked, as he had seemed in very good health. The family got the trailer moved back to Lompoc, and Momma lived in it for a year, right in the back yard. Even after taking care of the many details required of new widows, she wasn’t quite ready to take up regular life yet, having lost “the most fun part” of her life after 51 years.

Dad’s funeral at the Elks’ lodge

But one day when we were visiting, she wiped her eyes after yet another cry, and said, “If Lowell saw me sitting here, crying like a baby, he’d come down and kick my butt.” Sometimes, when I am sad, I say the same thing. Thanks, Dad.


Grandma Judy

Camping with Our Dads

Dear Liza,

Your Daddy David told me that you and your classmates got to go camping last week. I spent almost every weekend of my childhood camping, so I know how fun it is!

Two year old me, on top of the world!

Your great Grandpa Lowell, my dad, was a great camper. He loved and respected the forest and desert and made sure we were responsible with our trash and our campfires. He always found just the right balance between “just like home” and “roughing it”.

Ten year old me, hydraulic engineer, and Grandma Billie

My favorite thing was playing in whatever water was around. I would make bath tubs for my troll doll, Tina, or soaking tubs for me.

Dinner, caught by Grandpa Lowell and Uncle Tim

When I graduated from High School, my mom’s gift to me was a really good typewriter. My dad’s gift was a ten-day backpacking trip in Sequoia National Park with him, Uncle Tim, and Grandpa Nelson.

Me, Grandpa Nelson, and Uncle Tim, 1974

What an adventure! Grandpa did all the planning, mapping us out a route that was easy hiking with good scenery, near Jerky Meadow. He made sure we all carried enough supplies but not too much weight. We took off two days after my graduation.

We started very early one morning and by that afternoon we had been passed by several badly organized groups of loud, littering hikers. They rambled through the forest with their radios blasting music, yelling and dropping gum wrappers.

“Are we gonna be stuck with them for the whole trip?” Grandpa Lowell wondered out loud.

Just chillin’…

That evening, while we were relaxing, Uncle Tim took off for a walk. He came back in about an hour. “I found our spot,” he said. We put our packs back on and followed him, cross country, for about two miles.

“This is more like it!” Dad said. We were off the trail far enough that we didn’t hear anyone else. We had a whole bend in the river to ourselves, with a sandy bank to spread out on and tall rocks to climb. It was the perfect gift for me, a ready to move out high school graduate who needed one more chunk of childhood before launching into the real world.

And while finding these pictures, I found another: Your Daddy David and Grandpa Nelson, on a hike to celebrate David’s Bar Mitzvah.

Your Daddy David and Grandpa Nelson, 1993


Grandma Judy