August 22, 2006
What is it about August that nothing ever happens during this month? No holidays on the calendar, triple-digit heat, everyone away on vacation? Whatever the excuse, August can be counted on for its perpetual uneventfulness. Thirty-one days of waiting for something to occur, of watching the grass grow. OK, maybe it's not quite that bad, but getting close.
When preparing for this update and sifting through the photo archives from the past month, two facts emerged: One, we spent a lot of time at the Antioch Speedway; and two, we didn't take pictures of much else. So, the photo offerings aren't the usual diverse collection you've come to know and expect from us. And the things we'll spend most of our time writing about here don't have photo accompaniment, so that's the way it goes.
The major news, unfortunately, is that Glenn's grandfather Bernie Sorenson passed away Aug. 6, a few weeks after suffering a fall at his home in Hemet. He had been in the hospital since that time and never recovered. Glenn drove down for the funeral Aug. 17, the first time in our 18-plus years of married life that we have been apart for more than a day. The ceremony was beautifully done, attended by a small gathering of close family and neighborhood friends. Grandpa was interred at Riverside National Cemetery following a committal service performed by a military honor guard in recognition of his service in the Navy during World War II.
The date of the funeral 11 days following Grandpa's passing caught a few of us off guard. Usually services are performed within four or five days, so we all just assumed that when we were told the funeral would be on "Thursday" that it meant Thursday the 10th. It was only as Glenn was preparing to leave the morning of the 9th and decided to double check the funeral home's address that he made a phone call to confirm the time of the service and discovered it to be the following week. That was almost a 450-mile drive for nothing! Turns out the scheduling delay had nothing to do with the funeral home and everything to do with the cemetery. Riverside National is one of the few military cemeteries in the Southwest and as such receives burials from several states. Grandpa's funeral director said that during the peak of the World War II "die-off" during the '80s there were as many as 60-70 burials at Riverside each day. Those numbers are substantially lower nowadays, but just imagine trying to schedule even a couple dozen funerals every day and it is understandable why it would be difficult to "book a date." The cemetery currently holds 300,000 people, with capacity for 1.2 million. That's almost the entire city of San Diego. Hard to fathom.
Ben has been struggling with his own loss this month as he learned that his best friend Joey is moving to Reno, Nev., over Labor Day weekend. The two of them have been nearly inseparable for the past two years of school, and recently have spent a lot of time doing what middle school-age kids do best: talking on the telephone. They can talk for hours about video games or TV shows. Occasionally we have to check the phone to make sure it hasn't become permanently affixed to Ben's ear.
Having to bid his best friend goodbye comes at an especially tough time, for Ben has just begun seventh grade. The school year starts at the end of July here in Oakley, and Ben will be the first to tell you that it is much too soon. He only started summer vacation in the middle of June. Of course, he was bored within the first few hours of his vacation, so perhaps the early return isn't such a bad thing. It is only by chance that he didn't get an extra week of vacation. Roni and Ben were out shopping late last month to take advantage of some back to school sales at Office Depot, where they ran into one of his teachers. She asked Ben if he was looking forward to seeing her at school Monday. Monday? Why, that's July 31! We had been operating under the premise that school started Aug. 8. Oops. The school allegedly sent out some information in the mail that hadn't arrived yet, nor did it arrive by the day school started. We apparently weren't the only family who didn't receive it.
On the first day of class, Ben and Roni waited up to an hour with hundreds of other students to figure out where their classrooms were and what schedules they were on. Blame it on the post office, they were all told. Yeah, right. Once Ben did get his class assignments he wound up having them switched around a couple of days later. From drama he was transferred into art class. So now instead of learning to enunciate on stage he's learning how to shade circles. He's been putting some of his new art techniques to use by drawing a picture book about NASCAR racers with the help of his dad.
Ben's been doing more than making pictures of racers; he's been attending the races at the Antioch Speedway. On July 29 we went there with Glenn's brother Sean to check out the action. One of the promotions they do at the track is something called "Race-o," which is exactly like Bingo except that the letters they call out spell R-A-C-E-O instead of B-I-N-G-O. You get a Race-o card with every $2 program you buy. We play just about every time we go to the track, but we'd never won anything before that night. Ben was so excited when he got the last number he needed that he took the loooooong way to the announcer's booth to claim his prize. We were sitting in the top section of bleachers about five rows down from the booth, but Ben ran all the way down the stairs to the fence near the track, ran past a couple of bleacher sections, then ran all the way back up another set of stairs until he reached the booth out of breath. He needn't have hurried, because there was a line of about 10 people waiting to claim their prizes.
When Ben got to the head of the line he turned in his Race-o card and was rewarded with a Michael Waltrip NAPA auto parts racing cap. He was a bit disappointed that it was last year's design, as Waltrip has changed teams since then, but the point was that we'd finally won something.
The real prize for Ben, however, is a chance to cruise the pits seeking autographs and other freebies at the end of the night. This being his third time at the track this season, he knew just what to do. He bought a couple of photo buttons from the souvenir booth and eagerly sought out the drivers pictured on them so he could have them autograph the buttons. One racer was handing out Hotwheels cars to all the kids who stopped by. Many others had color postcards (known also as "hero cards") to give away as souvenirs. Ben is assembling quite a collection of these on the bulletin board in his bedroom. He also got to sit inside several of the race cars. We kid him that eventually he'll be the one signing autographs and handing out souvenirs, but he tells us it ain't never gonna happen. Check back in five years or so...
It has been a lot of years since we were into festival hopping, going to several events every weekend between spring and fall. But there is one show we still attend faithfully each year, and that is the Delta Pear Fair up in Courtland. This year's festival took place July 30, the last Sunday in July as it always does, and was one of the most heavily attended we have ever been to. Among the highlights is watching the parade, which never garners more than about a dozen entries or lasts more than 20 minutes. We arrived at the parking area at noon just as the parade was getting underway, so we missed about half of it before finding a curbside to stand on.
Afterward, we wandered the festival grounds to check out craft booths and pick up our freebie souvenir festival pins. The yellow pins are about an inch in diameter and feature a green pear tree with the date of the festival printed on the bottom. They are the same every year (except for the date) and have been distributed for every one of the 37 Pear Fairs. We've only been attending since 1988, so our collection is rather incomplete, although a few of the locals show up to the fair boasting entire collections.
Another tradition for us at the Pear Fair is picking up a pear pie to take home. Ten bucks will get you a homebaked confection in a pink cardboard box that is all sugary goodness. We were a bit worried that with all the folks in attendance there wouldn't be enough pies to go around, and our fears were well founded. By the time we got to the head of the line at the pie booth they were almost out. A man in front of us plunked down a C-note for 10 of them. Yeow! Fortunately there was one left for us, and we were thankful we hadn't waited any longer. We had an easier time scoring a tray of caramel dipped pears from another concession, a bottle of pear juice, and pear freeze drinks. It wasn't blistering hot like the weather usually is when we go to Courtland, but the cold drinks went down good on our drive back home.
There isn't much news to report on the gardening front this month, seeing as it's either been been too hot or we've been too unmotivated to do yard work. The sprinkler system is in dire need of attention. We recently replaced several malfunctioning heads and returned the drip line to its proper location after having moved it during the fence repair project, but the timer doesn't always work properly because some of the wiring is in disrepair. It's going to take a lot more time than Glenn wants to give right now, so we think we're looking to next spring for a complete overhaul, at which point we want to do some other things in the back yard.
The plants seem to be fending fairly well on their own. Our wisteria vine on the gazebo continues to put out new blooms well into August and has taken over the part of the gazebo we didn't tear down last month. And the best news we've had is the discovery that our favorite red flame grape we though we'd lost to the gopher has found new life. We pruned it back heavily and left it for dead this spring, but now that it is getting regular water it has put out new vines that currently are about 10 feet long and growing. Maybe next year we'll have grapes again. The only grape that has been producing well the past couple of years is our chenin blanc, which is happily taking over its space in the yard. There are several dozen bunches of grapes ripening in the summer sun. Problem is that they contain seeds, so they aren't much good for eating. They would make dandy wine if we could catch them before they turn to raisins. Haven't figured out how to do that yet.
Well, we've just about exhausted the batch of topics for this month. It's time to prepare for football season and a couple of end-of-summer bashes before we slide on into autumn. Hope to have better photos and new tales to tell next month.
Glenn, Roni and Ben