By Arlyne Draper
For the past few weeks, I have been thinking of getting my butt in gear and start taking care of my husband Bob’s blog. I am lucky, as his twin brother Rich, a longtime sportswriter, has offered to help.
As you probably know, we married on Nov. 22, 1967 in Puntarenas, Costa Rica, my hometown right on the Pacific Ocean. Everyone had to see “the tall gringo.” My father was translating during the Catholic ceremony, but after a while he turned to Bob and said: “I will tell you all this later.” End of translation.
Bob was a field engineer with a company in Northern California and was assigned to Eglin AFB in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. We lived on the “island” for 1-1/2 years and our son David was born there. Then we moved to Las Vegas to another assignment at Nellis AFB. During this stint, we had so many visitors that it made it fun and family oriented. Everyone wanted to come to Vegas, see a show and enjoy the new addition to the family, our daughter Alexandra Teresa Draper. We did not win a lot of money, but we were careful gamblers — we had a budget and were good at knowing when it was time to quit. Bob liked dice and I liked the machines.
We moved to the San Francisco Bay area — where we lived for years — and purchased a house right against heavily-trafficked Lawrence Expressway. We got fed up with the noise and decided to take matters into our own hands. With Bob’s help, we collected signatures from our neighbors, researched traffic noise and its impact on “humans.” We wrote letters to the city and our representatives, never expecting a positive reply, but at least we tried.
Some months later, we received a letter stating construction of a sound wall along this expressway was approved. Could not believe it, but it happened. If you go to Santa Clara and drive along this part of the expressway you will notice the brick wall. Our dream — or best said, my dream — was to move closer to my parents, who had moved from Costa Rica to San Diego. We finally made the move in 1990 when Bob was hired by Cubic Corp, where he worked for 26 years. He loved his job and got to travel the world as the “expert, senior and best engineer” (my words) for the marketing department. I should have kept a “memory book” but I did not. Our first home was in Scripps Ranch.
Bob was very close to his father Lou who lived in Mesa, Ariz. He also loved the state and its heat. We used to go see Lou frequently and every time we crossed the border into Arizona Bob had a ritual. Stop the car, get out and put his arms up in the air and say: “I love the Arizona heat. Welcome home, Bob.” I am Latin, my interest in family is prime, but due to distances and work, we did not get to visit as much as we should have. I made sure that my kids had a close relationship with their grandparents though, and we visited Lou and Arizona as much as Bob’s work permitted it.
Today, July 20, 2019, is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 space shuttle to the moon. Everyone says that as you get older, you remember the past better than the present. I can attest to this. The past is so clear to me nowadays, and when something triggers a long-ago event I can remember it like it was yesterday. Like today, celebrating Neil Armstrong’s feat. We lived in Sunnyvale then, and our son David was almost 2-1/2, dressed with a light blue jump suit and a very cute undershirt. We headed to the house of our Redwood City friends Ronald and Tere to watch the launch and have dinner. When the shuffle lifted Bob also lifted David and said: “Don’t you ever forget this day, David. Your dad worked on this shuttle program. The guy next to my desk was your mom’s boyfriend, he introduced me to her. It was meant to be.”
I will continue my life with Bob later on, but now I want to move forward. Nine months ago, after 52 years of marriage, Bob passed away. It took a while for his medical team to find out what type of cancerous tumor he had. We were in Texas, and even though our first choice was to go to City of Hope, we realized that Bob was too weak to make the trip from Texas to California. We settled on MD Anderson in Houston, one of the world’s best cancer treatment centers. Bob was diagnosed with spindle cell sarcoma of the pelvis, but it was impossible remove it surgically and radiation was not an option.
We were there for three months, but chemo didn’t work and his oncologist suggested we go home and we did. Our daughter and her husband came to drive our motorhome back to Lakeway which is only 25 minutes away from downtown Austin. This was Sept. 2, 2018. Our son David arrived later as did Rich. Our daughter had made arrangements for us to stay with her during Bob’s hospice care, and he died Oct. 11, 2018.
We had a celebration of life Jan. 11, 2019, at my brother Rod and his wife Carmen’s house in San Diego. More than 120 people came, some from as far away as New Mexico, as well as former coworkers from Cubic and Antekna along with friends and relatives from Northern California and Oregon. Bunco friends from Hemet and farther way, came also. It was a marvelous afternoon for all. I am sure Bob would have been very happy to see people that shared our lives over a span of 52 years and much more. I now spend time with family and friends in San Diego. I am very fortunate to have my family close by and wonderful and caring friends, like Richard and Karen who lent me their trailer to live while in this beautiful city. BUT …
It has been extremely difficult to live by myself without my husband. Everyone says “time is a great healer.” It has not been for me, but I am trying to learn how to live with his memory and at the same time without him.
We became committed bird watchers after Bob was sent to New Zealand for work. If you haven’t been there, put it on your bucket list. We did everything together since his retirement in 2005 and throughout our marriage. In 2005 we bought an 30-foot RV. In 2010, we decided to become RV full timers, and enjoyed being volunteers at nature centers, concentrating mainly in Texas, New Mexico, Washington state and San Diego. Pretty soon, we cut it down to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department venues, mainly in NM and TX. We also traveled to Colombia to visit friends and, of course, bird watch. A trip to Peru and Bob’s lifelong dream of visiting Machu Pichu was made possible by our niece Arlyne (named after me, what an honor.)
Since his parting, I had an impulse to continue birding and keep his blog alive. For the trip, I needed someone to accompany me. I shared my idea with many, and I got a hit. My cousin Vicky. She had never been to Texas and was not into bird watching. My idea was to go to South Padre Island for the spring migration, featuring birds flying across the Gulf of Mexico all the way to their summer nesting sites in the U.S. and further. I was thrilled. We planned our trip, rented a car, and I picked her up at the Austin airport on April 17 then drove for six hours to our destination. Going across the bridge connecting the “mainland” to the island is a marvelous experience and the views are phenomenal. If you like shrimp and seafood, this is the place to go. www.sopadre.com
We checked into the Best Western, right on the main street, then I got my camera and headed to the Convention Center where the birds always land after their hardship of flying more than 850 miles across the Gulf. www.al.com/news/2019/01/2-billion-birs-make-gulf-migration-scientists-show.html
This trip was a remembrance of our bird watching days with Bob through travels and our volunteering days in the U.S. It was also a trip to visit our dear friends at Santa Ana NWR, where we volunteered over the years. I also wanted my cousin Vicky to enjoy the Texas state parks. After coming to Austin on April 29, she flew back to her home in the East Coast and I headed to Lakeway, where I live for part time with our daughter Alex and her family. If you plan a birding trip to south Texas, first order the birding trail guide form the Texas State Parks webpage. http://www.tpwd.texas.gov
I have been in San Diego since May 15 visiting family and friends. My sister and brother live nearby, and I see them almost every day. I spend some weekends with our son and his family. My longtime friends keep in touch and we go out to lunch or just hang around. My cousin Lorena and her husband live in orange County and visit often. My sister Vilma lives in El Salvador and she spends time with me also. I look forward to sharing my adventures with Bob and by myself. My best to all of you and hope we meet and connect soon.
Here’s some of my favorite bird photos from South Texas: