The Things I’ve Lost
On February 24, 1969 almost 6 inches of rain fell in Orange County, CA, overflowing dams and flooding parks and nearby canyons. Storm drains and flood control channels were unable to handle the extreme water flow. Rides in Cousin Jim’s big old Hudson ended that day, when he donated his car to shore up the rapidly collapsing riverbank in an attempt to save the houses built along Santiago Creek. My friend Bob Dischner took his little brother Billy rafting on the swollen Santa Ana River, just for fun. Bob Michaels took pictures for the school newspaper. Despite repeated attempts to get him back in the raft Billy was lost in the river that day.
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He never came home to live with us again. Grandma Adele lived just around the corner from Santiago Elementary school. I had lunch with her every Friday until I had to walk the opposite way to Willard Junior High.
The summer I turned fifteen I started working inside the Newport Pier café instead of selling popcorn. The dress code for popcorn sales was a bikini. The gold coin necklace Aunt Ethel gave me was lost one day while I was filling the big coke box cooler. We emptied the whole thing, but we never found it. John and I were dating that summer.
My cat was put to sleep in the spring of 1966 the same day my Great Aunt Ethel died. At the time the surprise of losing the cat felt like a tragedy. Ethel provided my mother and Uncle Charles with something resembling a stable home, ensuring that they went to church and stayed in school. She was more like my grandmother that my mother’s mother, always overly dressed in her hat and gloves. Ethel made her money running a speakeasy and brothel during prohibition. Her brothers never did work much; she took care of the whole family and many others. It wasn’t until years later that I came to appreciate what a good business women she was.
The first house John and I bought burned down in 1976 when the water heater malfunctioned. Our son, Jeff, had just started first grade. Snake, Jeff’s snake, survived, but we lost most of our furniture and clothing, and all the kid’s books and toys. Around the same time our Volvo threw a rod and while driving our old Olds we were broadsided in the Montgomery Wards parking lot. We borrowed my father’s Chevette and a truck
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backed into it. John spent so much...