When I initially proposed Tales From the End of the Bus Line to my dad, the idea was that we’d have weekly phone conversations wherein he’d relate a story that I’d then record. And then he just started writing – a lot – and so now it’ll be a bit more exciting as both our voices take turns telling his story, both alone and together. This week’s installment is “All Bill” but lightly edited by me, with one gleeful comment added.
In April of 2009, my younger daughter’s beautiful bunny, Caramel Latte, in the immortal words of Richard Adams, stopped running. We buried her between the rose bushes in the back yard, and built a heart shaped memorial cairn of stones to show our love for her. I see to it every time I do the yard work, making sure it, like the memory of her, remains defined, clean, and well tended. She lived to be nine years old, which is a long time for a little bunny. Towards the end or life she could get grouchy and growl some, but don’t we all? I would let her out to run, play, and dig around the roots of the Brazilian Pepper tree on Saturday and Sunday while I tried to keep the rose bushes alive. She could not be left alone with the predatory birds as she had no natural sense of danger or defense, instinctual or otherwise, having lived with us her whole life, well-fed, pampered, loved. We buried her the same day she died, and my daughter cried her eyes out. She was nineteen and had cared for Caramel nearly half her life. This was not surprising of course, but I also found myself sobbing as I dug out the grave, and we placed her underneath the rose bushes between which she loved to hide. I thought my tears were for the loss that Megan was experiencing, but looking back, there was another reason as well.
Our back yard is accessed through two gates, and we made it a rule to never have them both open simultaneously, so Caramel could not escape. One day, though, she managed to reach the front gate and slip though. She gazed enraptured at this new-found world and her expression said it all: “What the hell is this?” Caramel had a way with attitudinal faces. “Nobody ever told me this was out here! Here I was thinking the backyard was all there was to it, and look at all this stuff!”
I recognized that look.
It was the same look I had on my face when I stepped off a Greyhound bus in Downtown Los Angeles nearly four decades ago. Here was a place that didn’t close at dusk, where everyone for a ten-mile radius didn’t know every detail of your life, where the buildings were actually over two stories high. Where they came out to your very home and picked up your trash right from the sidewalk. Here you could invent yourself in whatever image you wanted to be, even if it was as tasteless as having mutton chop whiskers and wearing plaid. Yeah, I’ll cop to it, that’s me in that photo. It was the seventies, we did a lot of weird things. Google “Disco” – you won’t believe what your search engine finds. [Ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy this image of Bill Broughton in pink and purple bellbottoms. – MB]
Unlike Caramel, I did not get shooed back into the “safety” of where I was from. I have lived here now for thirty eight years, twice as long as where I spent my formative years and some of them have admittedly been harder than others. I have learned not to trust some people, and to withhold judgment of others. I’ve reached the point where I am comfortable in taking my own advice. I’m still working on not being a wise ass, even now. You can’t break every bad habit. And I am sometimes grouchy and growl a bit. Along the way I found another person to share a life with, and we now have two more people with whom I also joyously share a life. My father, as a child, lived in a fairly large city and as a young man moved to a very small town. I have done just the opposite. After many false starts, some trips down blind alleys, and some very enjoyable errors, I can even look back to that little spot where I grew up and realize it was a good place to be young, even as it was also a place that needed to be left behind.