This weekend was a Grammy Weekend. Dave and I got to take our Grandson Gabriel to the beach for the weekend to help us shop for his great-grandmother and to have some fun. Needless-to-say, he was somewhat spoiled while shopping although when you shop at Goodwill you can get off without breaking the bank. While I finished up Great-grandma’s shopping at Fred Meyer and Gabriel was assured his Pringles were safely in the shopping cart, he and GranDave headed off to Rite Aid to see if they could replace the flip-up sunglasses Gabriel had knocked off GranDave’s face and which landed badly. They did not find just the sort of glasses that my somewhat OCD husband has to have, but although Dave has a quick temper he is also a soft touch so Gabriel returned clutching a bag with a new Halloween decoration in it, a horrible, frightening rubber head!
On Friday night Gabriel had become a little homesick and needed to talk to his dad because he had been asleep when Frank went to work and we had left for our weekend before he came home. “Do you ever miss your daddy, Grammy?” he’d asked me. “Every day.” It seemed to amaze him that a sixty-year-old could feel the same way about her daddy as a seven-year-old. Fortunately, Gabriel was able to talk to his daddy when we arrived in Ilwaco and texted him a lot on Saturday.
We returned from Astoria to Ilwaco just in time to eat some dinner and for Gabriel to transform into Harry Potter before heading to Ilwaco High School for the Halloween Carnival the high school put on for the children of the Peninsula. We took our cottage guests who have a three-year-old boy who is not very often in the company of other children and certainly never in a gymnasium full of boisterous ones and he was overwhelmed so they left. We stayed while Gabriel did everything once and some things like the haunted house and the Extreme inflated slide thing twice. We won brownies frosted with orange icing and Gabriel came away with a plastic frog that can jump. We were all surprised to discover that some of the candy he won was organic and he didn’t have to sell it to GranDave.
My favorite part of the day (or any other) was the going to bed part. After Gabriel had sung most of his Harry and the Potters album at the top of his lungs while I attempted to read, we turned off the lights and he asked for a story. I am pretty good at reading to children, but making stories up on the spot is Gabriel’s father’s forte. I’m better off sticking to the facts so since it is so close to Halloween I picked the story of my father’s voyage to Hawaii from San Diego in 1941 aboard the USS Tippecanoe. He was 18, a newly minted seaman and on his way to join his 20 year old brother on a PBY squadron based on Kaneohe. Aboard was a lifer, Chief Larzenarski, who was just about as mean as Capt. Hook. He was universally hated. Three days out of San Francisco the ship ran into a gale while towing a barge.
Papa, I told Gabriel, had barely gotten to sleep when he was awakened by the watch petty officer and told to stand watch from twelve to two on the port wing of the bridge. He donned his peacoat and watch cap because a gale was raging topside. Sometime during the first hour of his watch he saw a dim figure moving along the cat-walk. Papa couldn’t see who it was, but thought the person was wearing the hat of a CPO and he assumed it was Larzenarski making a round of the decks but he did not come up to the bridge were Papa was so he couldn’t be sure. Papa also thought he saw the shadow of another person move aft in the direction Larzenarski had gone, but in all the rain and spray he could not be sure.
At muster the next day Larzenarski did not muster and a search of the pitching, rolling ship revealed no trace of the abrasive man could be found. It was assumed that in the roil of the sea he had been pitched overboard during his round of the decks. Papa was questioned by his division officer as to what he’d seen on his watch. The eighteen-year-old told him what he thought he’d seen, but could not be sure if there were another figure on the deck besides the CPO. That was the end of it. Larzenarski was listed as missing and presumed drowned during the night. Papa, I told Gabriel, sailed into Pearl Harbor on his 19th birthday, very thankful to have completed his voyage and be reunited with Uncle Dick.
Gabriel wasn’t satisfied with one story and asked for another. My father’s life is rich with stories so I continued with Hawaii. I told him that Papa had wanted to go to Annapolis. I explained to him what that was and that Papa wanted to be a Naval Officer. While at Kaneohe he has asked to take the test for Annapolis and a date had been set for December 8th. On Sunday morning December 7th he had been asleep in the barracks, dreaming that he was asleep in his grandmother’s yard. Bees buzzed around his grandmother’s hollyhocks and around his head annoying him. He awoke to discover that the buzzing was coming from Japanese Zeros (fighter-planes, I explained) who were bombing and straffing the hangars and PBYs parked on the tarmac. Papa’s first thought was for his brother who had been on night watch so he pulled on his clothes and bolted from the barracks. Eventually he found Uncle Dick and together they mounted a machine gun in the waist hatch of a PBY that was empty of fuel and fought back with Uncle Dick shooting down a Zero. Unfortunately, the attack on Pearl Harbor and Kaneohe destroyed Papa’s dreams of Annapolis in more ways than one. He desk in which his test was locked burned in the attack and America was now at war and there wasn’t time for Papa to do anything but fight.
Gabriel sighed. “When I am grown up I will go to Annapolis so I can live his dream for him. I will write about it and put my writing where he is buried.” Now I sighed. My father had always hoped that one of my boys would want to make a career of the Navy and attend Annapolis. They never expressed even a smidgen of interest in either one, but I know he’s smiling now. I know, too, about seven-year-old promises, but the fact that in that moment in the dark, snuggled in my bed, Gabriel meant every word. In reality I am more concerned that he not sing Harry and the Potters for three solid hours on our trip home.
Postscript: As we prepared to return to Gig Harbor on Sunday, Dave discovered that his truck had been ransacked. The thieves got away with a three pack of ink for his printer, two cans of shaving cream, and half a tank of gas. It wasn’t until we returned to Gig Harbor that Dave was disappointed to discover that he could have included “severed head” on his police report. That would have been awesome in the police report in the Chinook Observer!