I liked Doc, or maybe it was that I just liked his lack of intensity. The dad with the empty eyes carried a sense of foreboding, and I felt as if I were walking in a perpetual minefield every time I was in his presence. Doc’s demeanor was calm and laid-back, and he patiently explained things like how to put up a tent or how his rock tools were used to cut and shape.
Often, my mother, brothers, and I went with Doc on camping trips near the ocean. He had an old camper and a big tent. We dug for clams and oysters, and set traps for lobsters. I would get upset when they boiled the lobsters in hot water; I felt sorry for them. Doc would try to force me to eat some, but I always threw it up. I still react that way today if I try to eat lobster. But other than that, Doc did nice things with us kids, which must have been a relief to our mother after separating from Howard’s abuse.
Perhaps it was this feeling of trust with Doc that allowed my mother to send me on a ten-day vacation with him to New Mexico. I was excited to go anywhere in those days of innocence; I had already become quite the vagabond.
I overheard Doc and my mother talking about how anxious he was to get to New Mexico. He was aching to hear more detailed stories about UFOs. He was also excited about the gem and mineral show where we would camp. Early one summer morning, at the crack of dawn, Doc and I set off from San Diego pulling the old camper. I recall the endless ride across the hot, dusty desert. Wearing only my panties, I hung over the front seat while incessantly chattering at Doc with all of my seven-year-old enthusiasm. As events would progress, it would be last time that I relaxed enough around anyone to allow them to see me in my underwear.
Even with a cigarette dangling from his lips, Doc could still drive and hold a beer in his right hand. He steered with his left hand, while his left arm rested on the open door frame. For some reason, the cigarette smoke was comforting. I suppose it reminded me of my grandmother, who was rarely without a lit cigarette.
Photo: Pavement markings on Old Route 66
Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons
Ragdoll Redeemed: Growing up in the Shadow of Marilyn Monroe at www.Amazon.com