Left to my own devices I most probably would have killed myself long before now. Not deliberately, just by being extreme and obsessive.
My mum insists that it was god giving my dad a last good holiday before he called him back. I say nothing. What’s the point of upsetting her if it makes her happy?
They came to Los Angeles when I was teaching there, and we took them around a little in our VW microbus. We were on our way to Grand Canyon when we were stopped by a speed cop for trundling along at 70 MPH on those big old empty highways. The guy actually let us off when he discovered that we were English. Told us to take care and ‘have a nice day’.
We arrived at the Grand Canyon in a snowstorm. It was magnificent.
After a couple of days we went on to Bryce Canyon. From above it looked like fairyland. There was a coating of snow on the tops but the skies were clear and the sun shone. The red rocks of the Canyons looked like miniature red cake decorations coated with icing. The rocks glowed in the sun.
It wasn’t until we set off down into the eroded maze of canyons that the enormous scale of the place became apparent. What looked like delicate striated candy were steep walled canyons. The sides were sheer and the canyons narrow. They rose up hundreds of feet on both sides and hemmed you in. It was dark down there. Only when the sun was overhead could it penetrate to the bottom of those catacombs. Here and there were rock-falls and it was quite dangerous and claustrophobic. We didn’t go too far. I guess reality was not quite as pleasant as magic.
Dad had a great time. He had not travelled at all since the war, not even to go back to Italy. It was the money. It wasn’t until now that he could afford it. This was the first real holiday; the first of what was going to be many, but turned out not to be.
When we’d come out of the canyon we went to a diner to get something to eat. It was a lonesome place stuck out there on the highway. There was a little old lady in there sitting around, passing time. We got talking. She told us that Bryce Canyon had been used for cattle rustling. The outlaws used to steal the cattle and drive them down into Bryce Canyon where they’d remain hidden until the heat cooled down. She told us that when she was a little girl she had met Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. They had been part of a gang that had rustled in that area.
I don’t know if she was bullshitting but I guess that she was old enough for it to have been true, and she sounded pretty convincing when she told us. In any case it brought it home to you. The country was that young. We were in living memory of the wild frontier.
How quickly time changes things.
We did not always agree and had some big rows but I know Dad only wanted the best for me.