Monday night, around 8:30 PM, we arrived in Auburn. We chose Round Table pizza for dinner that night because it had been a few years since any of us had enjoyed it. The one nearest our location is Idaho. They don’t deliver to Washington DC. The whiners.
We stayed in the Super 8 Motel, right next to the “Foo Motel” (the bright letters that would have the sign spell “foothill” were missing); not the best part of Auburn. The swimming pool was recently closed because it didn’t pass a health inspection. Alex and I shared one room, while Judi and Daniel shared another.
These are the facts. The reasons were because on Tuesday, we were going to visit my Grandmother. She turned 86 this year.
For those of you who don’t know, I was born Brian Farmer. My first 6 years were spent in the Arden district of Sacramento, living within walking distance of my grandparents, and across town from five of my great-grandparents, and one great-great grandmother. Of course, dozens of uncles, aunts, and cousins lived nearby. Family was everything. My parents divorced in the early 1970s, and when I was six years old, we moved to Oregon and I was adopted by my stepfather. My sister’s and my name changed at that time.
Over the years I’ve kept in close contact with my birth family, visiting them at least once a year until I moved to Washington DC. In the late 1970s the Farmers moved to Greenwood, in the mountains between Auburn and Placerville. We spent summertime there, enjoying my grandmother’s enormous table spreads, being lazy, listening to the rumble of the waterfall, dancing to polka records, reading comic books, playing Scrabble and pinochle, and most importantly, laughing. The family on Farmer’s Mountain always had jokes or amusing anecdotes, and my grandmother would always relay them with a merry sparkle in her eye. For years, she was the basis of any sense of humor I had–I thought of her as my own personal Lucille Ball. I watched and listened, helped with the dishes after each meal, watched her crochet, watered plants, helped my grandpa in the garden, and laughed some more.
Grandpa was a fireman in Sacramento and upon retirement, he built houses. He built his own, and three or four others on the Mountain nearby. He loved gardening, splitting wood, and clearing brush (I think this was a manic fireman’s habit, brush-clearing). He was up around 5 every morning, and would start working around his place at seven. He’d break for coffee at ten, relax for a half hour, and then work until noon. By then, his work for the day was complete. Whatever he had started could wait until the next day. I remember him spending hours in his sawdust-filled shop, hammering and building planter boxes, Adirondack chairs, tables, boxes. Every moment of his day, he derived enjoyment.
Aunt Janet and Uncle Greg lived on the other side of the waterfall, and Aunt Karen and Uncle Chris (and my two cousins) lived just down the hill, under a pine forest. It’s amazing how little, yet how much, has changed in 30 years. Grandpa passed away a couple years ago; his mind went before he did. Aunt Karen has moved to Florida. Farmer’s Mountain is overgrown with trees that weren’t there a20 years ago. Grandma had a fall last winter, but is still healthy. She has a hard time moving without her walker, and no longer can see like she used to.
I love my family. We spent a half day with them, visited grandpa’s grave (pulled a few weeds around his site), and a two-hour lunch at Sizzlers before we went on our way. It was necessary. I couldn’t visit California without seeing Farmer’s Mountain. Life is just too short.