25. August 2013 · Comments Off on Reflections · Categories: Domestic · Tags: , , ,

It’s been a strange week, all in all – for a number of different reasons, several of which brought me around to thinking of my father. There is a lot of Dad in the character of Vati, in the Adelsverein Trilogy – the free-thinking, scientific interests, and how he pushed all of us to excel, although not the absent-mindedness, and gnome-like appearance. Physically, Dad looked actually rather like Papa, in Daughter of Texas/Deep in the Heart – tall and fair, with broad shoulders, rather like the actor Vince Morrow in his prime. Dad passed away on the day after Christmas, 2010, a week short of his 80th birthday. Between one week and the next he was fine, and then suddenly semi-paralyzed, and in the hospital, being operated on for a subdural hematoma. Between the next week and the week after he was recovering … and then not doing so well – that he was in a comas, but only temporary. On Christmas Eve, everyone assured us Dad was fine; the problem would be sorted out soon … but on the day after Christmas, my brother called, and said there was nothing that they could do. Last Rites had been performed, although Dad always insisted that he was an agnostic. I have wondered since if the hospital staff kept Dad going in life-support just to get through Christmas Day. There was an episode of the TV show M*A*S*H with just that very plot.

The thing that sent this train of thought departing from the station was that this very week, I was notified of an offer for the three acres of unimproved howling wilderness that I bought, almost sight unseen in 1986. I had been on leave, at home at Mom and Dad’s after six years stationed overseas in Greece and Spain, and it came to me then that I ought to do as they had done; buy some land for a retirement house, keep and pay taxes on it for thirty years and eventually – by selling the residence where they lived – finance a new-built house, just for themselves. It sounded like a great plan to me, faced at the time with at least another twelve or thirteen years of active duty. Buy the land, and buy a house for myself with the aid of the GI Bill at my final duty station, work for another twenty-five years, and finally retire to a nice quiet mountain-top and a house built to my very own specifications. After a number of years of drab military housing and eccentric rental accommodations in foreign countries, this prospect had considerable of appeal.

During my leave, we went around and looked at a number of little plots of land in the North County back country, never finding the quite the right place, but after I returned to Spain, Mom and Dad did find a good and affordable plot. Three acres, of mixed pine and oak woods, interspersed with mountain laurels, rather steep and undeveloped, but on the edge of the Cleveland National Forest. I sank the savings that I had into it for the down payment, and for the next ten years I was sending a check for $250 to the former owners – a nice retired couple who had gone back to their original home in the Midwest someplace. I think I actually set foot on the place precisely once, which must have been when I returned to the States in 1991. It was at the end of a narrow, twisty unpaved road, and the woods were deep and green, and I had gotten rather carsick on the drive up.
Anyway, I kept up with the taxes, and I still had the original plan in mind, even though my final Air Force assignment took me back to Texas, which I had not expected at all. It was third on my wish-list, after Ogden, Utah, and Albuquerque, New Mexico … but even so, Texas began to grow on me. Dad came out with my daughter and I, helping me to buy the house in San Antonio that I live in now – the one with another six years until the mortgage is paid. And then I started writing, after I had retired officially from the Air Force, and working full- and part-time for a number of different enterprises. One of them was a real estate agent who specializes in ranch properties. Having a wide set of secretarial skills, I worked (and still work) in his office as a secretary, putting together the various marketing brochures for those properties he hoped to sell. About three years ago, I was putting together one of them, for a umpty-million dollar property near Leakey. A gorgeous place, with a wine cellar and a view from the main house and guest houses of hills and stands of ancient oak trees, a natural spring feeing a deep green creek lined with cypress trees …

I had already traveled pretty far into the Hill Country, in the course of researching the Adelsverein Trilogy – and to Gonzales and Beeville and other places to the south, for the same goal. I looked at those pictures, and I thought – I want some of that. I’d rather have that, than three acres of real estate which I have only seen once, which has been ravaged by pine bark beetles, had all the oak trees burned off in the massive fire which swept through in 2003, and which is a three-day drive away. Likely I will never go back to California, save for visits – and given the current economic situation there, as compared to Texas – I can’t afford to. The sale of a house in Texas wouldn’t let me build anything more than a garden shed on my land … and so, I decided to let it go. I put it on the market, and accepted the first decent offer. It went to escrow on Friday. The sale will get me back about what I paid for it, not much more – and that has me thinking about Dad again. I talked to the California realtor on Friday, about one thing and another, and mentioned how Mom and Dad had actually selected the acreage for me. He immediately said, encouragingly, “Well, they picked out a real nice piece of land.”

Yep – and now I am letting it go and moving on. Even if it was a decision made three years ago, the next part seems to be happening quite fast.

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