Long Beach visit

Grammy and Grandpa, Louise and Bill Hutchinson

Grammy and Grandpa Hutchinson.  That’s how I address letters to my dear grandparents who live in Long Beach, California.  They’ve lived in the same house, near Long Beach Sate University, since right after they got married, 60 years ago.  Their house is like my second home; I spent so much time there in my young years.

I was born in Long Beach, and my family (Mom- Nancie, Dad- Jerry, Brothers- Jeff and Jay) lived there until I was 10 years old, then relocating up to Ukiah, California, which is about 12 hours north of LB.

Grammy, Louise, is 82 and was born in Illinois.  I remember doing a big report on Illinois when I was in 5th grade, so proud that it was my Grammy’s birth state.  Did you know that the state bird is a cardinal?  I drew one on the cover of my report.

Familiar Breakfast Room hangout

Grandpa, Bill Hutchinson, or “Billy” as Grammy sometimes calls him, is 86.  He worked for IBM after serving in the military and was gone to New York for IBM training when their first child Nancie, my mother, was born.  Shortly after that, they purchased their Long Beach home (with a monthly mortgage of $50!), added a second child – Rob – a couple years later, and they all lived in a cute little house with a cropped lawn and an avocado tree in the back (the best avocados I have EVER eaten…miss those!!!) until the kids moved out, went to college, got married, and started families of their own.  Grammy and Grandpa did a lot of travelling – visited all 50 states and a handful of other countries as well.  When we were young, they would take us on special RV trips – sometimes all of us, sometimes each of us by ourselves for special one-on-Grandparents time.   Grandpa did his first and only marathon at the age of 65, still rides his bike about 10 miles several times a week, can fix just about anything, saw firsthand the evolution of  the computer, is practical AND incredibly generous, and gives a great hug.  Grammy is skilled at all things domestic, is somewhat of a perfectionist (which makes her a talented shopper – always finding EXACTLY what you asked for, an immaculate baker, and we always joked she has “iron hands” with the way she can smooth sheets and fold laundry like it has been dry-cleaned), knows the archaic art of shorthand, is a talented game-player of all kinds, and can make you feel like the most special, loved person in all the world.  These few things I mention barely start to paint a small picture of who these dear people are to me.  I’ve had their love and support since before I was born, as have my brothers and cousin. They’ve been so good to us.

The last time I spent time with them was last year at Thanksgiving.  Not that it’s rocket science, but my job at Frasier Meadows Retirement Community reminds me daily about how time passes and no one gets younger.  I miss Grammy and Grandpa all the time, but I started to think I had better get out to So Cal and pay them a visit for a weekend.

I flew in on a Friday afternoon, and my Uncle Rob, Aunt Teresa, and cousin Kiley (13 yrs old) picked me up from the John Wayne Airport in Orange Country, where they live.  Of course I packed my bike because I had to get a big training ride in on Saturday (IM Wisconsin was only a month away at the time!), so I hauled all my stuff into their car and we headed to Long Beach to one of my favorite houses in the world.  I did what I always do when I first arrive at G&G’s house – walk through all the rooms, taking in the familiar smell of the house, remembering every corner and letting memories rise up in me, and of course checking all the regular spots Grammy keeps full candy dishes!  We all hung out together, chatting, laughing, catching up, and eating dinner.  It felt so good to be there.

Saturday I slept in, Grammy and Grandpa and I had breakfast together at their comfortable little breakfast table, chatting and laughing and reminiscing.  Grandparents may have their times of forgetfulness, but they have incredible memories of things their children and grandchildren used to do – silly things someone said, detailed stories, and an amazing ability to remember dates.  I don’t think younger generations pay so much attention to years, timelines, and dates that mark specific events.  We all have computerized calendars and alarms on our iPhones, we don’t really need to remember numbers as much it seems.  Kind of  shame, really.

Thanks Jax Bikes!

Grandpa took me to a local bike shop, Jax Bikes, near their house, on Saturday late morning, because I needed several small things and also a big thing which was advice on a 5-hour bike route that wouldn’t be too hard to follow (read: Whitney gets lost easily).  They were so helpful.  I wish I remembered all the guys’ names who fixed up the things I needed for my bike, filled my tires (I hadn’t brought a floor pump), and looked up a great route for me on Googlemaps.  I do want to say THANK YOU to Jax Bicycle Center in Long Beach.  They were totally friendly and helpful to an out-of-town triathlete who needed a few things to get her training ride in.

My “great route” was honestly not that exciting, but it was exactly what I needed.  It was mostly flat, but I got to climb a canyon before the turn-around point, it was all on bike path which can be not that great but this one was — not too crowded, kept me away from the So Cal traffic, and didn’t give me the opportunity to get lost.  The path is called the San Gabriel Bikeway.  I rode it north about 40miles, then it stopped but I continued on about 10 miles up the San Gabriel Canyon, just past a 2000 feet Elevation marker, and then headed back to Long Beach – all the way into an ocean breeze…which sounds pleasant, but just is a nice way of saying “headwind”.  Ugh.

A not-so-scenic part of my Sat bike route

I was happy to get back to Grammy and Grandpa.  I showered, snacked, and then we went to an early dinner at Pancho’s, started in the mid-60s and is the best little hole-in-the-wall Mexican food place that I grew up loving.  It looks exactly the same as it did when I was 8 years old.  There is even one waitress who has been there all these years.   The food is authentic and delicious.

I got to see my bro Jeff that night, picking him up from the LA airport as he was coming home from a trip he ‘d taken for school.  We stayed up till the early hours of Sunday morning, talking and catching up.  He’s a good friend, besides a great brother.

Jeff and Whit, pre-run Sunday

Sunday he and I went for a run – he’s a great athlete himself – and then we all went to my aunt and uncle’s (Rob and Teresa’s) for a late afternoon BBQ before I had to head back to the airport and fly home to Colorado.  The weekend went quickly, as they always do, but the time there was sweet.  There’s nothing like time with family.  Especially when you truly like them!


One Response to “Long Beach visit”

  1. Jerry Garcia says:

    Hey, this is Papa Jer. It certainly is easy to write and visit when you love someone. When’s my turn? Soon I know. Ypu’re right the bike route is not fantastic but it is safe and provides a lot of thought time not having to watch for traffic. I usually head toward Seal Beach (shorter)into a headwind then it blows me home on my return route. We’ll have to ride it together. I bet I can get to the beach before you get to the mountains!

    Love you Sister,