I prefer winter and Fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show. ~Andrew Wyeth

Sunday, April 17, 2011

"An Old Man Loved.. is Winter with Flowers" Part II

As I walked to the top of the property this morning I thought about the way life changes constantly and how we, sometimes, fear this obvious truth.

How these huge old trees at the top of the rise were standing upright and living when we first moved here. Now they lay in the spring grass, mulching into the earth and becoming a part of the soil that nurtured them.
This was a little house that we found when we first bought the property some fifteen years ago. It stood erect and almost livable then. Now, slowly,  it's being engulfed by the Poison Oak and every year becomes more a part of the  natural environment that seems to be pulling it's wooden skeleton back into the earth.
It's a passage. It's the way of all things.
  My uncle's birthday was a wonderful celebration: This was a party for my Uncle's FIRST (as someone said) ninety years . A celebration in a town that knew him well and respected him enormously. A celebration of someone who had reached a milestone in his life.
He was movie star handsome. He was born in Berkeley, California but grew up in the Napa Valley on a ranch with my mother and a sister and lots of relatives. His father died when he was only 2 years old so his mother brought her family, from Berkeley, back to the family ranch in Napa where he developed his love of fishing, hunting and got into all kinds of mischief with his cousins. He joined the Navy and then, after the war, he married and had three daughters.
When he was offered a job in Susanville, CA. he took it and the rest is history. Other than a very miserable short job near San Jose and getting a Master's degree in Eugene, Oregon, he has always lived in Susanville.
He was a track coach at the high school and then worked at Lassen Junior College.
On Saturday night we realized the impact he had on so many people's lives. He was visibly touch by the warm tribute in his honor.
There were all the coaches and teachers there that he had worked with over the years.
Some former students  told stories about this man who was tough but fair, who pushed them on to a achieve more than they thought they ever could and the respect they had for him.
 And of course his family was there. His two daughters got up and talked about their dad.... Memories of being young and having a "coach" for a dad.
 It was a wonderful evening with good wishes, lots of stories and really great homemade food. I'm still drooling over a cheesecake pie that Sis, my cousin and I snuck out of the hall, ( there were only two pieces left) brought back to the B&B that night to eat again, with our innkeepers, to see if we could figure out what was in it. OMG! It was so good. We're still working on this. My cousin and I are researching it on the Internet. I will let you know if we come up with anything. We couldn't fine the person who made it. I would guess that they left early or figured that there wouldn't be any left to take back home with them. THEY WOULD HAVE BEEN RIGHT. We know it had cut up cranberries (dried) IN the cheesecake and lots of orange zest on top of it. IT was creamy and delightful. Excuse me..... my mouth is watering again.
Everyone left the Senior Center full of good food and good wishes for our Uncle. It was a wonderful evening.
The next day we drove over to my Uncle's house. ( please notice that the snow is completely gone.)
and had another little party of our own with lots of the leftover food and lots of conversation. We don't get to see our cousins very often so this was a nice time to talk about being young.. and vacations that we spent together.. and grandma's house in Napa.. the Ranch and all the childhood memories of  places we shared. We talked about our mothers and looked at old photos of them when they were very young. We talked about missing our cousin, Uncle Jimmy's oldest daughter and how she would have enjoyed this weekend. She died of cancer a few years back. She was only in her 50's. It was very sad. Maybe she was watching all of this, somewhere,  with Mom and Grandma. I hope she was. We miss her so.
This is my uncle's garden. He loves his garden. The Winter weather stayed late this year so he hasn't planted much yet but he knows where he will plant everything and what the names of all the fruit trees are and the varieties. He tells us how he grafted them many years ago and which ones are doing well... which ones are not.
Gardening, walking and friendships are the mainstay of his life now. He seems to be happy with his life. This says a lot for staying in one place.... putting down roots.... being satisfied with your choices. He seems to be a peace filled man. 
Saturday night when he was asked to say a few words, he thanked everyone and then he talked about those times when you have a dilemma or a decision to make. He said that you should always come from a place of love. You should always try to make the decision based on LOVE. What a wonderful philosophy.
It's not a simple thing.. this growing old, but we can learn from a 90 year old who knows that life is short and still treats the world with kindness.
Happy Birthday Uncle Jimmy. We love you.


  1. What a wonderful tribute to your uncle! It's nice that so many people were able to attend and share the celebration :)

  2. What a great man he is; and good advice from him about coming from a place of love.
    The cheesecake recipe sounds like a mystery to be solved by you and shared here :)

  3. This was a very beautiful tribute to your uncle. I am so glad you were able to attend and enjoy spending time with him and your other relatives and remembering all the good memories. I like the advice he gave about coming from love. The cheese cake sounds great I hope you can find the recipe for it. Have a blessed evening. Madeline

  4. What a heart warming tribute to your uncle - he sounds deserving of every word. I often think the world would be a much happier place if everyone had family connections like you and I share.

  5. sniff sniff..this was beautiful
    no one in our family has made it to 90 yet
    what a fabulous party for him
    and all the visiting
    and in a place called Susanville...
    love that name...oh I've told you that before hee hee

  6. Isn't it great to have Uncles that reach their 90's? My Uncle will be turning 92 in May. I can hardly believe it. And he still drives, is the envy of all the women in his mobile home park in Vacaville, and still loves his gin and tonics! what a guy. I hope that I can follow in his footsteps.

  7. Oh, that sounds like such a perfectly wonderful birthday celebration!
    What a lovely place your uncle has!
    (Good luck with that cheesecake pie mystery - hoping to hear more about that...)

  8. I always think of these family elders as 'gifts'. They give us such a sense of family, history and humble us in our mortality. He looks really good. Must be all of that love and gardening! Great advice, by the way, about making decisions...you're right...not an easy thing to do. Lovely tribute to Uncle Jimmy.

  9. I'll mirror everyone else and say what a beautiful tribute to an obviously wonderful man who impacted many lives. I only hope I make it to 90 and then still have a garden, enjoy people and am able to walk! He was a very handsome young man and is still a good looking older gentleman. Thanks for sharing this small part of his long well-lived life!


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