Last Tuesday, my 39-year-old daughter Melissa and I, along with my son Stevie’s current girlfriend and past girlfriend, past girlfriend’s two-year-old son and the father of the son, along with Stevie and Liezl’s dog, Purdy, finally made it to the Yaquina Head Lighthouse just outside Newport, Oregon. It was a cloudy, cool, rainy day, which is typical for the Oregon coast. When we pulled into Lincoln City and I showed them the beach I visited every day while I lived there, the rain stopped, and the sun attempted to show up.
Same with the lighthouse. I hadn’t been there in ages, and Melissa hadn’t been to the lighthouse since she was 16 years old, she said. When she was 14, we scattered her grandmother’s ashes into the ocean near the lighthouse. Melissa remembered the lighthouse and the tide pools and was excited to see them again. The wind whipped through our hair as we looked down at the rocks, the cliff, and the waves. I could feel the spray of saltwater on my face as I remembered how much my mother loved this place.
As I looked at my daughter, the ocean and the waves crashing dramatically against the rocks and the cliffs, I suddenly remembered.
It’s 1986 in Newport, Oregon, and my kids are five, three, and two, my little ducklings. I had left West Germany months earlier with three kids, $200, and seven suitcases, fleeing from an abusive marriage. We landed in Newport, Oregon because my mother had moved there from San San Francisco years earlier.
It was a particularly, stormy, blustery day when Mom’s hippie friend Bill showed up with an older yellow truck. I didn’t have a car or a phone, and Mom said now would be a good time to check out the lighthouse because we hadn’t been there yet. Somehow, we all managed to pile into Bill’s giant truck. No car seats or seat belts for the kids.
The rain splattered against the windshield as I held on to Jeremy and Melissa. Stevie squished next to me. The kids loved the bumpy truck ride and so did my mom. I wasn’t so sure. Then Bill turned left and the road became even bumpier with wind and rain coming at us from all sides. Back then, the road to the Yaquina Head Lighthouse was kind of rustic and dangerous with cliffs on both sides of part of the old road. Now it’s all streamlined and it’s considered a federal park.
The lighthouse, so tall and majestic, appeared. It looked like a beacon in the storm, just as a lighthouse should.
I looked with awe as Stevie said, “Wow!”
Bill stopped the truck and Mom jumped out. I could see her long hair blowing wildly in the wind as we all gazed at the lighthouse. We could hear the waves crashing against the rocks below even in the truck.
Suddenly, Mom opened the truck door and grabbed Melissa who was small for her three years.
“Mom! What are you doing?” I yelled, as she stood at the edge of a cliff near the lighthouse, with wind and rain blowing all over the place.
Oh my gosh, Melissa was so tiny. She could blow away. Both Melissa and my mom looked happy. They laughed as they watched the waves while we sat in the truck. They looked so connected, two old souls.
I remembered how my mom would sometimes say that Melisa was the only one in my family who made sense. I’ll never forget seeing them together in the storm, so happy. They didn’t care about getting wet. And yes, Melissa was soaked, even with a jacket on when Mom finally returned her to the truck, her smile so big.
“You’re not getting me out there Grandma!” said Stevie.
We all laughed, though I was still a little freaked out about the whole thing.
I wonder if Melissa still remembered that day. I forgot to ask her.