One of the things you never really anticipate when you’re climbing in years is taking care of your aging parents. I’ve wrote this many times, here it goes again, my mom is from Bisbee, Arizona. There are two main events there, the 4th of July and the stair climb where I can count on at least some of my family being there.
My summers with my grandparents there were magical. The mornings were chores and summer school with my grandma until noon, then we had to be home by the time the TV had a message saying, “It’s 10 o’clock, do you know where your children are?” That summer school from my grandma’s dining table saved my ass when I had to switch schools again at the end of my summer stay there. I’d head back to Manhattan Beach to a new house and a new school. I went to 7 different schools, but my summers were always in Bisbee.
When my brother and I would get there, the first thing my grandpa would do would give us the coins he collected throughout the year for us to march down to Browder’s toy store. Mrs. Browder was in her 80’s when I was a kid, she was so sweet to us. This trip, I went into the museum there and met her grand-daughter who’s a volunteer there. It never occurred to me that she was a woman business owner? Her husband had passed away when the kids were little, making her sole provider. Learn something new every time I go there.
The last time I went to that museum, which is now run my the Smithsonian, the volunteer was the mailman’s wife. It turned out he had around 10 kids!! Sylvester was my grandparents mailman my whole childhood, I’d actually write notes on the envelope to him saying, “Hi.” She was thrilled I remembered him.
For those reasons, I love still going back and bringing back the childhood memories. I should call Bisbee my Bittersweet Bisbee, because those are all just fond memories now. When my grandmother died I had just had my 2nd son the day after the funeral and couldn’t go. I went months later, the house was exactly the same and we were all sitting there as if she was still in the room. I took a picture I always loved off the wall, then everyone started crying. She was gone, so were the family memories in that house, taking that picture down was the beginning of everyone realizing that an era was over.
An era of 4th of July’s with all my cousins in one place, lemon meringue pies, a full house at all times, sitting on the porch, huge dinners, baseball games in the backyard, hide and go seek where there was a secret passageway from the bedroom to the laundry room, big (haunted?) walk in closets, thunderstorms that lit up the whole house, buckets of rain water we collected to wash hair because the water was so hard there, a tortoise that lived under the porch my whole life and found a new home when she died. Mostly, that home was where we all felt loved and secure. My grandma and her sisters would spend all day cooking “supper.” Both sets of my mom’s grandparents lived in Bisbee, she went to school with all her 1st cousins.
We spent this 4th of July in front of once was once my great-grandparents house, next door to my grandparents house. My cousin, Grant, passed away last year and the house went to his wife and her daughter, not his own kids. They had been married over 25 years, she deserves it and I have no attachment to the house besides saying it being in the family. I certainly don’t want it. Still, she works in a different state now and banned us from setting foot on the property. People grieve in different ways I guess? She owes us nothing, I just thought the whole time she liked us? We still got together on the public part of the property.
My grandparents house next door is now rented to a couple who had invited their whole family over for the 4th of July for a party. These houses are primo for the parade and the fireworks, they’re perfect party houses. That took me aback, then I thought that house was meant for parties on the porch and it’s been more of a shame no one’s used it for that the past 20-some years my grandma has been gone.
Letting go of my childhood is interesting. My uncle still lives there and would like my grandparents house to go to his son. He and my mother are still co-owners and rent it, meaning her portion would go to my brother & I one day. I’ve forfeited my part of the house to my brother and cousin, I have no claims to that house. My uncle has been there his whole life, my cousin grew up there and spent a lot of time in that house too. He might have been 10 when she passed away? I was 12 when my grandpa passed away, I still remember him vividly with great memories. In letting go of the houses, it’s like taking that picture off the wall. My mom said she may never get a chance to go back, we might have both said good-bye to Bisbee? I don’t know.
My mom’s generation is almost gone now too, each time we say goodbye to another one of her 1st cousins. For my mom, it seems like going back there is going back to ghosts. She’s 81, she does really well but there’s hardly anything left there for her besides her brother and a few remaining 1st cousins. We took one to the parade, Margie, who is in a group home now with her brother gone…she is a 12 year old trapped in a 75 year old body. Then there’s Fred, who I see every time I go. Fred is my “save the day” cousin. We went to breakfast yesterday, I gave him a big hug and he said, “I will see you again.” I loved that. He and my mom are a year apart, they went all through school together.
Spent the morning writing, time to move on with my real life which is while I was gone my son and his wife just moved back to his childhood home.
The featured image is the last of the Elk’s club, country club pool sign. If we did all our chores and homework, we’d head out with my cousins for a day in the pool. I still remember my move from the baby pool over to the “big pool” to play with my older cousins. This is now just a sign, the pools are long gone. To anyone else, this probably looks like the road to a Stephen King novel. To me, it still looks full of life near the last few decades of mine.