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Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles’

Charlize and I are on the road again. We spent two weeks visiting my son and his family in their beautiful new home in Carlsbad, California. Rosalie would have loved the house and the neighborhood, both idyllic.

The trip south from Edmonds was made in two and a half days traveling I-5, fast but boring, even though the drive was a new one for us. Freeway speeds and heavy traffic don’t equate to enjoyment of the experience, at least not for me.

Coming home we left early Sunday morning and managed to clear the Los Angeles traffic before eight AM.  At Santa Clarita we left the I-5 and worked our way west to US 101 and Santa Paula. Then we headed north along the coast. At about ten in the morning we arrived in Gavita and joined CA 1, the Pacific Coast Highway.

In Lompoc we found a coffee shop and I got my two Splenda latte but only after Charlize found a suitable location for a long overdue pee. Since we were in no particular hurry I occupied a table in the sun outside the coffee shop. Charlize was content to lay in the shade I created. Within minutes a lady stopped and asked if she could pet Charlize, who is always open to new friendships. It wasn’t long before I found out she had two German shepherd dogs who were also rescues.

She noticed the Washington plates on Old Blue and it wasn’t long until I found out that her father, in his mid-eighties, lives in Edmonds where she was raised. Her Dad recently had a stroke and she had to move him from his home to a private elder care home. She said the family that owns the place is very nice, very experienced in caring for the elderly and that her Dad had his own little suite in the house. She told me he seems to be happy with his situation but I had the feeling that she was trying to convince herself. After she left us I turned to Charlize:

“You see what we have to look forward to girl? Hopefully you won’t be around when that happens to me. I need to keep my act together until you are ten or twelve, I suppose.”

Charlize looked at me with the quizzical expression she gets when trying to fathom what on earth I’m talking about but only responded with a tail wag. I suppose that is about as much as I can expect in response to a morbid thought. She was happy to leap back into Old Blue.

Back on the road we made our way, twisting and turning, rarely reaching speeds of fifty miles per hour mostly slowing to twenty-five or thirty for the curves. On our left were spectacular ocean vistas, one after another. We found a place for lunch in San Simon and Charlize made friends with an adorable four-year old sitting with her family at the table next to us on the patio.

Matilda’s mother told me it was impossible to keep her away from any dog, she just had to pet all of them. I offered some grandfatherly advice about being too trusting of strange dogs but it was clear that my warning had little effect on either mother or daughter. One more thing on the long list of things I have no control over.

It was a spectacular afternoon driving on the coast highway, stopping every half-hour or so at an overlook just to gaze at the waves coming in and the surf breaking. Eventually we arrived in Monterey. After settling in to the historic Munras Hotel Charlize strolled while I limped to Cannery row where Charlize introduced me to some more friendly folks. Charlize is impatient and fickle though. If the conversation lasts more than three or four minutes and nobody is paying sufficient attention to her, she is anxious to be off to find another new friend.

That evening Charlize and I ate tapas on the dog friendly patio at the hotel and she made friends with all the service staff. I was just along for the experience, and to pay the bill.

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Recently the Gross family gathered at the Chevy Chase Cabins overlooking Discovery Bay for a week. My brother and his family including his son and family who live in Germany along with my two sons and their families. It was great fun and Charlize played well with the granddaughters and grandnieces.

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The frustrations of the last four days before my obsessively determined departure date are over. Who would believe that a newly single adult male and his dog could experience so many problems trying to get out of town?  But all came together and Charlize and I, comfortable in Old Blue and pulling the Frog, were the last to board the Edmonds-Kingston ferry.

Old Blue is the 2012 Dodge Ram 1500 in charge of making our journey possible. The Frog is my brand new, excellent and comfortable, albeit slightly crowded with both of us in attendance, R-POD camping trailer. Frog pulls like a dream sticking close to Old Blue’s tail.

The purpose of this road trip is to try to understand what I will do with my remaining years. I’m seventy-six years old and was married to the only girl I ever truly loved for fifty-two of those years. I’m not accustomed to making decisions on my own and Charlize, my just adopted three-year old rescue German shepherd, is a good listener but doesn’t contribute much, except enthusiasm, to the decision-making process.

We traveled familiar roads, taken previously with Rosalie, to Port Townsend, Sequim, and Port Angeles. Once west of Port Angeles we were in new territory. We took a short detour to see what the destruction of the dam had wrought to the Elwha River, now flowing grey with silt and debris, but I hadn’t seen it prior to the return to a more natural state. Undoing our well-meant but destructive “improvements” to Mother Nature may take some time.

Decided, at the last moment to forego the civilized amenities of an RV park in Forks and pressed on to the Kalaloch campgrounds, where my Senior Pass to all the National Parks and Recreational Lands bought a night for only $7, there are sone advantages to being “senior”.

We are about fifty or sixty feet above the beach, where gentle breakers provide soothing, monotonous background to my day of calm healing, away from the reminders of our house, her things and a previous life. Charlize keeps close watch on me. She seems to need respite from her previous life as much as I do.

Half the campground is closed, the road barred by a red and white-stripped railroad-crossing-type gate. I suppose only those seeking solitude find their way to this place, normally rain soaked but now dry. There are thirty odd camping spots in the open half but when I went to bed last night only seven were occupied. Charlize and I walked the place before and after dinner and not a single person greeted us, everyone holed up in their campers. In the fifties my family used to do a lot of car camping, with a luggage trailer and big umbrella tent. The only type of vacation my folks could afford. My sons and I backpacked. Rosalie wasn’t much interested in camping, preferring modern plumbing. I remember campgrounds as friendly places.

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The Start

I was holding her close, cradling her head in my arms when she died. As I write this, it was thirty days, three hours and thirty-six minutes ago. April 23rd we would have celebrated fifty-three years of marriage. I’m coping, sort of.

“Well,” she said, pulling the nasal tube flowing oxygen out of her nostrils, “pretty soon you’ll be able to get a dog.” That happened the week before she passed.

Bear, our last German shepherd died six years ago, we didn’t get another dog.  That is the only period in my life that I can remember, being dog less. Rosalie developed balance problems and we were worried that she would trip or fall over a dog, thus dog less. She knew I missed having a dog and her statement out-of-the-blue was an example of her dark sense of humor. I told her to stop talking nonsense.

The last six months all my prayers were that the end would be fast and with as little pain and discomfort as possible. The diagnosis was stage four-lung cancer. It came on January 4, 2012. The oncologist told us the average statistics were survival for three to six months. We practiced positive thinking and prayer and with her typical quiet determination, Rosalie made it to six months, then eight, then ten and counting. She tired easily but appeared normal to all but me, and our two sons. She needed supplemental oxygen in mid-December and on Dec. 27 the oncologist suggested home hospice care. The hospice people showed up and enrolled her on Jan. 2. She died two days later.

Charlize, pronounced Charley, is a rescue dog, another German shepherd, about three years old. She’s been with me since January 15. We are two injured beings who need each other. The first two days she was apprehensive and distraught but every day since we have bonded more and she is calming. I keep her with me all the time. She is housebroken and vehicle broken (yeah), and fetches a tennis ball like a retriever, good exercise for her and saves my gimpy ankle. On February 1 Charlize and I will embark on an extended road trip. We will meet new friends, both people and dogs, and should have some interesting tales to tell. You can follow our adventures here.

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