In the mid-70s when my mom was in Jr. High they moved to the coastal town of Ventura, CA. Because that was where all the good construction jobs were. That's where I was born. They lived right down the street from a great park. This park had the play areas fenced in with wood stumps that varied in height. When we were little my grampa would take us to the park. And he was always so patient. He would hold our hands while we walked all the way around the play area on the stumps. I've always been afraid of heights, but I would occasionally try to slide down the pole, or the big slide, and inevitably got stuck and refused to come down. My grampa was 6'4" and would reach up for me to come down. He'd have to convince me that he wouldn't drop me. (I was 4, but thought he wouldn't be able to carry my weight or he would miss me when I fell.) He never missed. He would push us on the swings for a long time. Probably much longer than he wanted to, but he never rushed us. He also lived by a community college that has a swap meet every weekend. We would go and he'd always get us something little there. Ventura has a marina with a bunch of little shops and a carousel. My grandparents would take us there and let us ride the carousel, buy us tiny little baby porcelain dolls that were about 2 inches big. If we were really good, they would buy us cotton candy (pink, of course!). They also would take us to the museum and we could play in the "tide pools" there. One time we saw a live shark egg there! It was cool! It looked like a rectangular pouch with a ball on one end, and you could see the little shark developing inside! Sometimes they'd buy is "trouble dolls" or fools gold from the gift shop. Trouble dolls were a local indian tradition. There were 5 dolls in a teeny-tiny box. You were supposed to tell them your troubles, and they would work at night to help resolve them. My grandparents live near a lot of farm land. The neighboring town of Oxnard is famous for its strawberries. My grandparents used to buy these huge half flats of strawberries and share them with us when we visited. Grampa used to tell me to "Eat up! It'll put hair on your chest!" I think he did it so he could have more strawberries, because inevitably I would put the strawberry I was eating down and not go for any more that night. Grampa used to like to go to the swap meet and buy fabric from a whole-saler and send it to me for dresses when I was a teenager. I made several really pretty ones, and I still have some of his fabric. I think I'll make Launa something. Maybe I'll have enough material to make something for both of us so we can match.
After I had Daniel, I took him for a visit when he was about 18 months old. When grampa heard that I was bringing him, he unearthed the little red Radio Flyer wagon that we used to play in when we visited him as kids. Of course, by the time Daniel came to use it, it was rusted and a mess. So Grampa sanded it down and re-painted it so Daniel could have something to play in when he got there. While we visited, my grandparents took us to the beach and the marina. Grampa took us to the swap meet. Even though my grampa was no longer a farmer by profession, he loved to grow things and would create a garden each spring. It was planting time when we got there, so Daniel helped Grampa plant cucumbers. At 7 years old, Daniel still remembers that! When we talk about him he always asks, "Is that the grampa I planted cucumbers with?" He is.
When Grampa found out that I was having a girl, he went down to the swap-meet and bought a pretty little frilly dress for her to wear when she got here. We went for another visit when Launa was about 18 months old. I don't think I managed to get any pictures with him. I don't know how I did that.
By the time my Gramma Gross died last year he had deteriorated badly. We visited him in the nursing home he was in at the time. He was so skinny and he couldn't walk. This was not the Grampa I remembered from my childhood. It was a hard thing to see. The last 2 1/2 - 3 years have not been good ones for Grampa. My grampa has had many struggles in this life. He suffered greatly with depression. When my mom was a very small girl, her family was in a hideous car wreck. One of the children didn't live through it. Today, he got to see her. He gets to hold the baby that I lost. And those that my cousins lost. While it hurts me now, I know that he is whole again. He is seeing the ones that he's been missing. He is not depressed. His body moves the way he wants it to. No more Parkinson's. Yes, this is a good day for you Grampa.
I look forward to the day I get to see you again. And I'll miss you until then. I love you Grampa.