Tag Archive: Family

Uncle Ross

My Grandfather on my mother’s side got around, he had more than one family which used to confuse me when I was little. As a result I had two uncles around the same age as my brother and me which I definitely thought was cool.  One year on a family meetup we snuck away from the adults. It was Summer of Love and we were in our teen years. We took the bus to Haight-Asbury, the streets were overflowing with long-haired flower children, tie-died feathered barefoot kissers,  pretty acid bubbles floating through the air, smooth skin star gazers gifting love and peace to everyone amid rays of crystal rainbows and joy, a scene I’ll never forget.

Ross lives in Santa Cruz and works at the Community Print Collective; I’d stopped at a campground near Watsonville, Pinto Lake County Recreation Area. The campsite/park was bustling with families and small kids. Being “little” (the LT is only 19′) I was given the parking spot in front near the lake so I stayed. There was no hot water for showers, supposedly PG&E was repairing the lines and would be done soon but I was told the same story in the morning…  word for word. I didn’t see anyone doing any work. I walked towards the lake area:  Polluted! Contact with the water was to be avoided! What a shame, little kids were fishing, yuck!

Pinto Lake, Warnings! DSC00212

There wasn’t much else to do other than give Olympia an impromptu bath after she rolled in some muck so I headed back out in the RV. . .  found another entrance to the Park about a mile or so away, almost missed it. Hiking trails, a fishing pier, large ball fields, playground, picnic areas and nature trails, there’s a sign saying to watch out for runners and disc throwers, apparently they play disc golf and although I didn’t know to look for the area, the Virgin Mary is believed to have appeared at this park. The lake is very pretty. I was the only non-Hispanic person so it was no surprise that the bathrooms had signs only in Spanish….  something about putting the paper in the water bowl before flushing…..  geesh! The park was a canopy of activity; ball games, runners, walkers, picnickers and disc players. The dogs liked it too.

Hiking Around Pinto Lake, Watsonville with Olympia nad Mason Pinto Lake, Watsonville with Olympia and Mason

Pinto Lake County Park

To my delight when I returned to my camp Uncle Ross had left a voice mail, soon he was on his way to visit. We spent several hours in peace (all the little kids and other day time visitors had been told it was time to go and the gate locked.) Ross and I sat on my green camp chairs in front of the LT watching the lake in the dusk and into the dark.  I think this was the first time I had company, my mother’s little folding table from the ARVO (the cabin cruiser the family had when I was a kid) holding our mugs of tea, the dogs frisking about and finally settling inside as we talked . .. serious and very interesting talk about autism, Alzheimer’s, research and exercise in auditory training, sounds and perception and of course dogs and families. I was happy. I was happy for the connection to my uncle, happy for the birds and sounds of the lake, happy for the freedom of the LT, happy for my happy dogs that enjoy traveling with me.

My camp spot at Pinto Lake

My camp spot at Pinto Lake

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Pinto Lake Reflection

Tranquility ( Hajime Mizoguchi )


I have in my possession two of the saddest letters. . . even re-reading them, they gripe my heart. They are written by my Cousin Byron Raphael; the one who looked after Elvis in his early years in the mid ’50’s, to my Aunt Hermione, his mother. In the letters he is 55 telling of hardships: I hate the mindless opening of x number of cartons and the grind of cleaning up after somebody who’s had one too many. But, let’s face it, I have no skills or craft and this is the best I’m going to get. . . he speaks of his menial job where he is berated although his boss knows of his illness and how his wife works a menial job where she is propositioned by her boss. He says: I always had my dreams, my plan, my hopes and my tomorrows. But those are things I can only read about in books now. It’s the time in one’s life when you accept that your deepest dreams are gone. That, I find is the true death because it’s the time one stops living and stops feeling so the pain is stilled. I feel like a man standing high on a cliff overlooking his life and feeling forgotten but not yet gone. He ends that letter oddly by telling him his mother, my aunt to give a greeting to my father and his family but not to share his condition.

The other letter is worse:. . .Please believe me that I am not afraid of being ill and only the heavy pain gives me anxious feelings. . . . he tells how his Buick brunt out, and selling the last of his stocks at a loss. His wild life demolished, his career gone, his health is terrible and he can find no income other than as a bag boy or a dishwasher, yet his wife stays close working at a coffee shop and traveling by bus. He wishes better for her. I hate myself when I see Cherie come home from a job that she’s so much better than. I don’t have the guts to walk in front of a speeding car but I have stopped taking medications and I’m hoping that if something happens I don’t linger and make it worse for everyone. Page two of this letter is not in my possession; most of my aunt’s personal papers were strangely absent from her home after her death. Someone simply missed these two pages.

Byron is gone. Before his death he wrote the expose that many did not like about Elvis, I know it brought him money. I want to honor him. I never knew him well; he and I seem to have been similar. He  had a highly sensitive system; unable to handle medications, inflicted by terrors and bad reactions to drugs and the environment at a time when such sensitivity was not accepted. He suffered bad luck, bad choices, poor decisions, bad advice…. I do not know. When I read his letters I do know that I have not been wrong to not cave to my own illnesses nor loss of my income and career. He reminds me that blind acceptance is hitting the dark wall of the maze. One needs to hold to dreams and to take chances. It’s better to fall in the midst of reaching for what you want, like Forrest who at last had his land, than to become mired in the grind for the ordinary. No one should be bereft of innate joy. And no one of us should be unable to carry the light to others, no one should turn aside for we are all one people, one experience in a zillion voices.  Our strengths are different, our weakness effects us in ways we may not share. He says, life holds nothing for me now except Cherie and she must not spend any more of her best years with someone like me. My Dear Cousin in that you are wrong. ….

My next post will be full of photos I took at a wonderful friend’s home in Placerville.
Kudos to true friendship and enough money to make life work.