The Final Hours

holly Street
The view from the porch – January 1968

January 4, 1968

The front steps at the Laguna cottage faced south and were bathed in early morning sunshine.  Although it was cold outside I loved the relaxing space, the sound of the surf, the smell of the garden, the “chip-chip” twittering’s of the hummingbirds and the distant sounds from downtown traffic.  There was nothing left to do but try to relax.  Gus (our Siamese cat) joined me on the red brick steps and swished me with his tail; he liked Laguna too.  I told him to stop running off and stay with Jenny (he never followed orders).

Our plan was to just hang out together and have an afternoon dinner at La Paz.  My laundry was done and packed into my carry-on bag; the only civilian clothes I would bring were the ones I was wearing.

Louis, the waiter, was happy to see us and didn’t bother with the menus; he knew our order and brought us to our table with Toataditas and Salsa.  He always wore a white waistcoat over a starched long-sleeved shirt with a black bow tie and tuxedo style slacks (only a Marine would notice his spit shined shoes).  There was soft background music of traditional Mariachi music and kitchen chatter that made everything seem authentic.

We enjoyed our dinner and drove back to the cottage.  Sitting in the darkness of the living room, we enjoyed a warm fire in the fireplace.  At 9:00 pm we started the drive to Camp Pendleton.  As a last-minute thought I stopped at a liquor store on PCH and purchased a quart of Bacardi rum and buried it in my military handbag.

Our base parking permit had expired with the New Year, and we had to get a visitor pass at the main gate in Oceanside.  I explained to the Provost Marshal, Jenny was dropping me off at staging battalion, and he approved the pass.

At Las Pulgas we got out of the VW and had a tight embrace.  It was the long good-bye and the reality of what we’d been dreading for months . . . a cloudburst of emotions and a very tough moment in our lives.

Next Edition:  The Flight

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