Wednesday, October 24, 2007

higher ground (a personal essay by andrew david)

some februaries my parents and i would strap the camper to our truck and head south. we'd drive down I-5, through evergreens, olive orchards, and southern california sprawl, until we made our way to the edge of some lonely desert. we'd consult a map and point definitively into an expansive blank space and say, "there. that's where grandpa and grandma are."

sure enough, somewhere in that sea of sand we'd find their rig, parked like a lone outpost in the wild. after pulling in and trying some of their prickly pear jam, we would usually head across the border and into mexico--we'd pass through tijuana or ensenada and then stay a few days in san quentin or san felipe.

i remember one such trip where we all piled into grandpa's truck and out into yet another desert. we may have packed sandwiches, mexican pastries, and water canteens, but all that i can recall are lemon drops--grandpa and grandma's truck was always well-stocked with lemon drops. after jostling about in the pick-up cab for an hour, we started to traverse a dry lake bed. the sand there was nice and flat and made for quick bump-free sailing. but as we drove, grandpa started to notice wet sand sticking to our tires. we began to slip and slide--the lake wasn't so dry after all. my mom sat white-knuckled beside me, afraid that we might get stuck there, doomed to feast on cacti and century plants.

but grandpa led us on. he kept the wheels turning and instructed us to look for higher ground, for tufts of grass that might signal a way out of this mud pit.

perhaps it was because i was an adventurous, short-sighted kid, but on that day it didn't occur to me to be afraid. i believed that grandpa would find a way out of the mess. that's just the way he was: grandpa had a resourcefulness and a quiet strength about him. it was there in his handshake, his bear hug, in the way he worked the timber and served his church, and it was there that day when he urged us to look for dry land. throughout his entire life he always pointed us up, always exhorting us to head for higher ground.


author's note
after my grandpa passed away, my grandma asked that we cousins write something to communicate what he meant to us. some of the letters were shared at his memorial and graveside service; they were all very touching. in any case, this was my contribution.
i wrote it during the two-hour car ride from oregon city to marcola. but as you can see, i've been thinking about it for awhile.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


we won our soccer game tonight, woohooo!

and i scored two goals!


(also, someone's been clicking on some ads. i made a buck today.)

Monday, October 15, 2007


it's been a busy weekend.

monday is the launch of the first issue of the other journal with me as the creative writing editor, so i spent all of saturday editing content and assisting my editor-in-chief and managing editor. monday is my second day of class (a fun yet grueling 3 hour affair), so after church, i spent sunday reading, hating the NFL, and doing homework. monday is the return of my continentally-estranged s.o.; i didn't really have to do anything to prepare for this, but it hopefully means that i'll be busy on tuesday.

yikes, i'm going to be worn out.

also, i'm probably headed to oregon this week: my grandpa passed away early saturday morning, and the memorial service will probably be this week. we sang a song in church today about christ's death and resurrection, and i had to stop singing because i was a little choked up. if you're a 17 point scale loyalist, my grandpa's the one that i've been posting interview segments from. i don't know what i think about adding more interview segments at the moment. in the meantime, here's a song that i've posted before, which somehow seems to fit how i feel right now:

my grandpa certainly never "ran whiskey" but i really like that last verse; i think it communicates what people thought of my grandpa. he was an amazing man:

granddady passed away on his birthday,
just a couple ---- of a century ----.
everybody was ---- just to help him celebrate,
and we all cried when he didn't wake up.
mama' gave me a black and white picture framed
of the man in his funeral clothes.
had to hold five or six separate services,
and everybody in the county must have showed.
john, you're gonna shine like silver.
yeah, you're gonna' hear such a beautiful grievous sound
when you're floating over them jordan river,
and we lay your earthly body down.
ah, i love that verse.

(by the way "----" means that i'm not sure what singer says, not that i think he's swearing!)

Monday, October 08, 2007

the visit (a personal essay by andrew david)

Beth’s grandfather talks quietly; his words tremble in the air and then vanish, like hot breath in the winter. There are no other chairs, so we are scattered about the room on a pair of footstools and some empty spaces of carpet.

Grandpa Cole is telling us about a devotional book that he ordered from the downtown bookstore. The book consists of a Bible verse for each day of the year, and Cole has purchased five copies of the book so that the family can read the same daily entries even when they are apart. We are visiting for the afternoon, and he wonders whether we might be willing to give him a ride to the store to pick them up: apparently the books have been waiting there for months.

Cole can’t drive himself. Earlier this summer he accidentally drove his car into Lake Washington. The incident was splashed across the local headlines—MAN RESCUED FROM CAR PLUNGE INTO LAKE—but Cole downplays the event. In his soft way, he thanked the lifeguard that pulled him from his lake-bound tomb and then defended the strange event by complaining of poor signage and confusing roadways.

Since that time, he has lived in three separate retirement homes: two independent living communities and an assisted living community. I occasionally hear bits and pieces of these housing adventures from Beth—the rooms are too small, the people are too bland, something just isn’t right. And when we first arrived, Cole recited a litany of life’s curses. Indeed, we learned a great deal about his canker sore and lack of appetite.

But a wall of sound seems to separate us from Cole. The busy buzz of healthy independent life makes it difficult for us to empathize with this frail quiet man.

When we finally wander downtown in search of the bookstore, we forget the thoughtful generosity that initiated this search and only note that Cole can’t remember its location. And when he confesses feelings of loneliness and ineptitude, we call the nurse to check his mouth. We may try to treat his words with gravity, but they strike us as awkward and strange. It is as if each phrase is as an excuse for lake-driving.