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IT'S GOOD TO REMEMBER--EVEN THE SAD STUFF
20 April 2006
I woke up Tuesday morning to the local news broadcasting coverage of the commemoration taking place in San Francisco on the 100th anniversary of the 1906 Earthquake and fire.
There are earthquake commemorations every year (Walt has been to a couple--but I don't feel like standing in a crowd at 5:12 a.m.). Mike and Char were there at Lotta's Fountain this morning, among a crowd that I heard estimated as anywhere from 25,000 to 50,000 people, while they observed a moment of silence at 5:12 a.m. and then rang the sirens and fire bells and brought horse-drawn fire engines down the street.
People around the country think of the earthquake as having destroyed San Francisco, but what really leveled part of the city was the fire that burned for days afterwards, with not enough water to fight it.
Then, of course, this being San Francisco, in the afternoon there was a parade down Market Street. Even the sad events need to be commemorated.
I feel a special affinity for the '06 earthquake. Both my paternal grandparents lived through it. My grandfather never spoke of it and my grandmother rarely spoke of it. I don't know what his family did or how they were affected, but my grandmother's family lived in one of the tent cities in a nearby park and for all the rest of her life, she was absolutely terrified of any jolt whatsoever.
My mother and I were talking about the anniversary and realized what a shame it was that we never asked my grandparents about their earthquake memories. I know my mother has a brass lamp that my great grandmother's husband found in the ruins of one of the big Nob Hill mansions. It was a vase and my grandmother turned it into a lamp.
The evening of Earthquake Day, we had an absolutely delightful time. A guy whose daughter went to school with Jeri found out by reading my journal that I grew up in San Francisco, which he did too. He mentioned that he knew several old time San Franciscans and thought we should get together and compare notes.
So we met at the home of this guy and his wife and met several other folks, all about the same age (tho Walt and I were the oldest), and over a cioppino dinner (very San Francisco) we got to know each other. It was such fun playing "do you remember...?" and "did you know....?" Some folks had brought their yearbooks and I even found my sister's picture in one--this woman had graduated from high school the year my sister was a freshman.
We also compared notes on the 1957 earthquake and where we were and what we remembered.
When the evening ended, we decided we'd had so much fun that we are going to do it again, sometime in the future.
Between the earthquake festivities and the dinner, I spoke with Liam about his father, whose systems were rapidly failing, as was to be expected. They increased the morphine to keep him comfortable and the waiting game continued.
Liam mentioned the people who had stopped by that day, ostensibly to say goodbye. We laughed and commented that Bill was hosting his last party--Bill and Jeri have always had the "party house," and have hosted most of the social gatherings for the group.
I joked that all they need is clam dip, which has been a staple in all our social gatherings for a long time. As it turns out, a friend who was flying in from Colorado missed her flight and was instead flying in the following day. I offered to pick her up and take her to the hospital. Liam said "bring clam dip."
Somehow it just seemed the right thing to do. At that point it
was something to do, when there was little else to do other than to just be
there. I went out and bought clams and cream cheese and potato chips and crackers.
But it was too late for clam dip. Liam called at 4 a.m. to let us know his
father had died just after midnight.
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