In October we went to Santa Cruz for a quick vacation. About a week previous to our trip Alpha had fallen hitting her head on the corner of her desk. She had been having severe headaches and going to the doctor almost daily in an effort to find some relief. Alpha had a bruise on the side of her head which extended to her face and even a partial black eye. We were all worried about her but because she had seen the doctor so often that week we had relaxed a bit and trusted her doctor was taking control of the situation.
Before we loaded into the car the phone rang. Alpha wanted us to stop by their house. She had something she wanted to give to Heidi. When we pulled into their driveway Alpha and Del both came out to the car. After the usual loves and kisses to Heidi, Alpha gave Larry a little coin purse. She said the purse was for Heidi. She could use what was in it on her vacation. We asked again how her head was feeling. Again, she said it hurt but assured us her doctor was taking car of it.
As we backed out of the driveway Heidi squealed, “Bye-bye grandma Alsa” over and over as we sped down the road. Larry peeked inside the purse. It was packed with quarters for the rides.
When we arrived in Santa Cruz we put our belongings in our hotel which was on the opposite side of the river from the boardwalk. We packed our stuff for the day including Heidi’s stroller and made our way across the train bridge to the boardwalk. Heidi loved the rides, especially the little airplanes. We spent most of the morning on the boardwalk and a couple of hours playing on the beach before we headed back to our room.
Later that evening the three of us took the car for a short ride up the coast and back ending at our favorite restaurant on the pier for dinner. After dinner we walked to the end of the pier. Walking by the fish market area nearly made me lose my dinner. I was five months pregnant with Robin and the raw fishy smell was almost more that I could take. There were seals on the boards below.
Larry took Heidi to the bait shop at the end of the pier to buy anchovies for the seals with the quarters Alpha had sent. Larry taught Heidi to bark like a seal. When she made her “seal sound” she’d wait for the seals to reply. Of course, the seals were just making a lot of noise and not talking to Heidi but there is no way we’d tell her that. She squealed and barked at those seals for half an hour before she lost interest.
I can’t remember if we were awake or not the next morning when our phone rang. I could tell by the look on Larry’s face he was getting terrible news. When he hung up the phone he was pale. He told me to pack and get the car loaded right away. The phone call had been a family friend, Dixie Falkenberry, telling Larry his mother was in the hospital in critical condition. The second part of her message was she thought we’d better come home right away. The news hit us both very hard. We barely spoke and did not make eye contact while we gathered our belongings and started towards home.
When we got to our usual half way rest stop, Casa De Fruita, Larry pulled in to park. He said, “I don’t think it matters if we hurry or not.” His face was pale, as was mine. We let Heidi play on a couple little rocking horses for a few minutes, bought some dried fruit, and headed for home again. It was almost as if instead of being in a hurry to get home we didn’t want to get home. That was before cell phones so we weren’t getting any updates. We knew something horrible was about to invade our happiness. We couldn’t imagine what or how horrible it was to be.
Our next stop was my parent’s house. Larry made a phone call and we were off to Doctors Hospital in Modesto. Mom kept Heidi with her. We thought she would enjoy a day with grandma more than a day in the hospital.
When we arrived at the hospital Del met us with grim news. He had taken Alpha to Emanuel Hospital in Turlock where doctors worked with her through the night and finally sent her to the Modesto hospital. A few minutes after we arrived at the hospital a doctor came to gather Alpha’s family into a conference room.
We were told Alphas brain had swelled to the point irreversible damage had been done and we were going to lose her. She could no longer live. The doctor said she would survive only for a few hours.
Larry immediately took me to Hughson to stay with my folks while he went back to the hospital to sit with his mom for the last time. I was five months pregnant with Robin. We were afraid the stress of the next few hours or days could take a toll on me causing me to lose our baby so I was removed from the worst of the coming anxiety. The afternoon was horrible for Larry and Del and Barbara. I was scared and worried too, but I didn’t have to see the others so upset.
Larry called letting me know Alpha had died and he was on his way to get me. Again silence filled our car as the three of us drove home. We were all exhausted. Del called asking Larry to come to his house. When he came home again he had several treasures that had been his mothers.
Alpha’s death was huge to us. Of course it was devastating to Larry, she was his mother. It was also extremely hard for me. Alpha had become my very good friend, my confidant, my helper with Heidi. She adored Heidi and Heidi adored her. It was the most horrific event of Heidi’s life up to that time. Heidi kept asking to see grandma “Alsa.”
The next day we were in the car on our way to leave Heidi with my mom and help with funeral arrangements. Heidi was in her car seat in the back seat. When we told Heidi we were going to grandma’s house she immediately thought we meant grandma Alpha’s house because she saw her every day. When we tried to get her to understand it was Grandma Louise’s house she got a puzzled look on her face because she only saw Grandma Louise once in a while.
Larry and I explained the best way we could that grandma was gone. She couldn’t see grandma “Alsa” again. When we got to my mom’s house Heidi told her, “Grandma Alsa all gone.” She turned her little hands palm side up as she made her statement. It was exactly the same gesture we had seen Alpha make a thousand times. Heidi is a grown woman now and I still see her make that gesture. When I see Heidi I often see Alpha.