I’m blogging from the Sandpiper Lodge in Santa Barbara, a place I’ve stayed quite a few times on previous visits to this, the town of my birth. This afternoon, I rented a large Ford E350 van from the Avis franchise in Pasadena, drove to LAX, and picked up my brother, sister-in-law, and their three children who had just flown in from England. We loaded all their gear into the gas-guzzling monstrosity that is the E350, and drove up here to Santa Barbara. My brother’s family is staying at my stepmother’s. I considered driving back down to Pasadena tonight (it’s 92 miles, door to door), but I’m beat from a hard week of traveling and teaching. The Sandpiper has free wireless and decent coffee in the morning, so this works for me. I’ll drive back down to the ‘Dena tomorrow morning, and my wife and I will be back up on Sunday for a more extended family visit.
I have a lot of serious things I want to blog about, mostly in the usual categories. (And you may notice, I’m rapidly adding more categories on the sidebar, trying for greater precision). Tonight, I’m too tired for anything serious. Tonight, I’m by myself in a cheerful two-star motel in the city where I was born, and where I watched my father die, and I’m feeling both deeply exhausted and deeply content. I’m wearing polka-dot boxers, a half-buttoned dress shirt, a wedding ring and not a damn thing more; I’ve been here less than an hour and somehow have already managed to make a mess. (I’ll leave the room tidy in the morning — I am very good about not making more work for the maids.)
A moment ago, I stood in the harsh fluorescent light of the bathroom, struck by how old my face looks — and how much like my Dad I am becoming. Both in my ageing and in my growing resemblance to my father, I feel blessed. A month shy of 41, I am living out what Donald Justice wrote in the second part of his most perfect and famous poem:
…And deep in mirrors
The face of the boy as he practices tying
His fatherâ€™s tie there in secret,
And the face of that father,
Still warm with the mystery of lather.
They are more fathers than sons themselves now.
Something is filling them, something
That is like the twilight sound
Of the crickets, immense,
Filling the woods at the foot of the slope
Behind their mortgaged houses.
Something is filling me, deep and enormous and ancient and good. And there is still so much more to come.