Getting Through Customs

February 26th, 2020


We were headed for San Francisco but first we had to clear customs at LAX. The line was long and the children were impatient and tired, yet excited to be back in the United States.  Two years can be a long time. In 1972 the system was quite simple: just rollers on long tables to move our boxes, luggage and individual small private cases containing each child’s treasures. It was our turn and the official with a stern face and a big badge looked at our assortment.


It would be a challenge to go through everything and we wondered where he would begin. We could see that the bags of the passengers in front of us in line were being closely examined even exposing their personal items. We tried to be patient as we waited for him to begin.  Chris was fidgeting and reached for my hand. Alice was serious as she watched. David, the teenager with arms folded, observed the whole process with a critical eye.  Donald put his hand on his small case as if to protect it. After a minute, which seemed like an hour, the customs official began by asking where we had been and how long we had been gone. I said, “We’ve been in Zambia for almost two years. My husband is stationed in Ndola and has six more months of duty.  It was necessary for us to return early.”


“Now, to examine your bags,” he said as he eyed everything. I wondered how I would be able to repack the boxes, which were bulging and held together with strong twine tied in tight knots. The man reached for Donald’s case and Donald reluctantly removed his hand. The catch released easily and as the lid was raised, feathers floated into the air.


An astonished look flashed on the man’s face as he quickly closed the case, engaging the catch. He smiled at Donald; then in a stern authoritative voice, “You can pass on.” He signed a paper and handed it to me.  A few feathers floated above our luggage as it rolled down the long table.


Happy the Unadjusted for Theirs is the Kingdom

December 24th, 2019

The adjusted cannot hear.
Mediocrity, passivity plug their ears.

Hollow people, not feeling
or finding themselves, let
Madison Avenue dream their dreams
decide their diets and deodorants.
Credit cards, computers chart
their course, conformity.

To adjust is to assent to what
should not be accepted.
to stand aside as forces surge
to war, not knowing or feeling
‘till brother lies mutilated.
Mankind, emasculated, cries Mercy.

Alas for the comfortable, the satisfied.
The Beatitudes condemn conformity.
The unadjusted person questions
the complacent, commonplace, corrupt.

Happy those who know who they are
and refuse to submit to uniformity.
They will belong to themselves.

Happy those who do not wear masks,
who let others see them as they are.
They will find Truth.

Happy those who cannot accept
a social order where some are feasting
while others beg for crumbs.
The new order of love is theirs.

Happy those whose lives
are disturbed by cries for mercy.
They will be shown mercy.

Happy those who weep
and do not close their hearts
to the misery of the world.
They will become human.

Happy those who work
for justice, who put their lives
on the line for social change.
They will find fulfillment.

Happy those willing to face
the mob for what is right.
They will become strong

Happy those who help
brother to love brother.
They are children of God.

You will be happy when
you leave the crowd.
ignoring gossip, insinuations.

The prophets before you
stood alone, jeered by the crowd.
They would not submit
to the world of their day.

Rejoice: persons who own themselves
receive the great reward.

meaning is not static

November 9th, 2019

meaning changes over time
like water in a brook
that becomes a raging river
or flows into a lake behind a dam
or trickles into a desert
and disappears into the sand

some things that change perhaps
are love or faith or family
what about community or neighbor
this is not a quiz and this morning
I am not asking myself these questions

actually I am thinking about my garden
full of weeds, the grass has grown so long
it will challenge the lawnmower
the overgrown shrubs, the thirsty plants
look forlornly to the sky for rain

I am looking at the piles of papers
on my desk, unfinished poems,
stories I want to write
time fleeting, what does life mean
when I waste the days
and does it really matter


Devil’s Slide

May 29th, 2019

From our house in Pedro Point, we could look across the bay, along the beach and across a fertile valley where Portuguese farmers grew artichokes. Just beyond was a hill where sheep grazed on wild grasses. Our house faced north and looked down on the two-lanehighway that connected the little coast towns to San Francisco twenty miles away. To the south, the road cut through the mountain behind us to reach Montara and Half Moon Bay. The narrow road was close to the edge of Devil’s Slide, a rocky cliff that dropped straight down to the open ocean.

One Sunday afternoon after a few drinks, my Dad decided it was time to teach me to drive. He told my little brothers Joe and Pete and my sister Mary to climb in the car. He opened the door on the driver’s side and told me to sit behind the wheel. In those days, there was no need for a learner’s permit. I climbed in and sat down.

I remembered a few things Dad had shown me the week before; so, I did some practice exercises, going through the five gears from neutral and low to high. With a few directions I was, able to back up and shift into low for the short distance to the corner where I stopped. We were high on the hill with a steep road down to the cross-road below. Dad said, “Go ahead. Keep it in low. You’ll be all right.”

I gripped the wheel and headed slowly down. I wanted to close my eyes but knew I had to keep them open as the road was narrow with ditches on either side.  When we reached the bottom, I stepped hard on the brake and let out a loud sigh. The kids began to laugh; they didn’t realize how close they were to disaster; Dad never should have put them in the car with me.

When we reached the main road, Dad said, “Turn right,” and I wanted to argue because that was the way to Devil’s Slide. He said it again, so I turned the car onto the highway. Suddenly cars were honking as they passed me. The kids were yelling and Dad had fallen asleep. I kept my eyes glued to the white line on the road; I didn’t want to see the steep drop-off close to the pavement on the right side.  I knew there was no place to stop and say, “I don’t want to drive.”

Finally, I reached a safe place to park. Dad was still asleep. I needed to find the courage to get back on the road and go home. The lane going north was next to the mountain and the car wouldn’t be near the deep cliff by the ocean. If I stayed in low gear and tried not to listen to the honking cars and screaming kids; if I tried to put Devil’s Slide out of my mind; I might be all right.  After all these years, I don’t remember what happened next or how we got home. Probably when Dad realized the situation and sobered up enough, he drove us home. I don’t know, but somehow, we did get home.

Patricia Hernan Grube
March 6, 2017; May 21, 2019










Family Story

April 17th, 2019


THE FOUR OF US: Patty, Mary, Joe and Pete (1929)

When this picture was taken we lived in Phoenix. A few months after I entered the first grade at the Capital School, I had the measles and the other three caught them from me. The illness caused Pete to contract double pneumonia again. The house on Willow I remember very well; I can even draw the floor plan after all these years. (It’s not the house in the picture, that one is across the street.)


Shall I talk of the present or the past and which is which. The History Detectives on PBS can take a picture, document or gun and find its story. In January, 2006, I set out to find my past and  it seems I brought those who were long dead back to life.

GazildaGazilda's house
Gazilda Gamble Hernan                                          720 North Ninth Avenue

I took a picture of Grandma Gazilda’s house at 720 North Ninth Avenue. Today it’s pink but if I print the picture in black and white it will almost look like gray stucco of 1926 where I stayed with Grandma when Mama was in the sanatorium with Tuberculosis. Aunt Martha and Aunt Florence entertained me. I think my Dad lived there too and when he came in he would scoop me up and lift me high to reach the ceiling. My baby brother John stayed with Grace, another aunt.

Later when Mama was well, she came home and we lived as a family at 826 North Ninth Avenue.  We were all together, Mama, Daddy, Me and Joe. Soon another little baby Peter. Mama and I were strangers. Looking back I think that Mama tried really hard to make contact with me, but being confused by her abandonment, I kept myself apart. Every day I waited for my Daddy to come home from work.

I took a picture of the house. A neighbor said that the shabby neighborhood will be reborn when a University builds nearby. Looking past the gravel that used to be a lawn I could see a little girl waiting on the porch for her Dad to come walking up the street in the late afternoon. In the mornings she would skip down the sidewalk one and a half blocks where her grandmother was waiting on the corner.  It was hard for her to remember to look both ways before crossing.



Recently I visited the town where I was born. I took pictures of the Plaza. Standing under arches, watching shadows stretch across the walk, it’s not possible that I remember this place and yet I know –it’s where I took some of my first baby steps The arches led to the station where trains arrived with business men or politicians or guests for parties in Isabella Greenway’s big house on the hill. On some days when we watched the trains we would count the cars as they went out loaded with copper ore.

One day when the train arrived, the station was draped in black. Daddy was among the mourners standing at attention as the coffin of General Greenway was carried up the long road to be buried on a knoll overlooking the giant crater of the mine. Mama held my hand as she wept. My baby brother was asleep in his carriage.

This part is not my memory but this is how I try to put together pieces of that time. As an old woman, I stood there looking at the Plaza, trying to understand why this space seemed so important to me.

Everything in this Website ©Patricia Grube

Our First Christmas Together

December 20th, 2018

We were married September 17th in 1943, in St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Bakersfield . Les had met Fr. McGrath when he came out to  Minter Field to say Mass. The ceremony was on Friday evening and Les had to report back to the base on Sunday evening. I found a job in a china shop to fill the time each week and made friends with other service wives. Because this story is to be about Christmas, I need to skip ahead to the time when the Cadets in the Flight Training Program were moved from Minter Field to Williams Field in Chandler, Arizona.

In Bakersfield, I had hooked up with two other wives to follow the troops and by December the three of us, Irma Aspinall, Loretta Bailey and I had found temporary jobs and were sharing a room in the ­­­­El Portal Hotel in Mesa. During the week, after work the three of us would take a bus and ride for an hour over a very bumpy road to Williams Field, 25 miles away. There we could visit with our husbands in the Cadet Day Room where there was no privacy. Our marital bliss could really only be expressed on weekends when the boys would get a 24 hour pass. We girls were quite comfortable in the large room with three single beds but on weekends  one couple would keep the room and the other two would rent other rooms for the night.

A week before Christmas  we bought a scraggly little tree and made some crude ornaments. Our room looked very cheerful with our sad little tree and we kept saying to each other that we were really feeling the Christmas spirit. Inside we were feeling an empty space because never before had any of us been away from our families. We were all very “in love” and thought that should fill up any void. We three gals looked forward to having our hubbies with us for 24 hours to celebrate Christmas. We drew straws to find out who would keep the room.

On Christmas Eve Les and I went to Midnight Mass at the Field and then took the bus for the long ride on the bumpy road to Mesa. It was a magical night following the moon over the desert. We thought we were to have the room but then we discovered that on this holiday, every room in the hotel was booked. What to do? Remember the movie where a blanket made a wall between Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable? That’s what we did; we hung an intricate system of blanket walls to make three rooms. Ok, that settles the visual effects, but I have to tell you that private intimacy was not preserved.

This memory is from long ago
and it is still vivid in my memory;
Patricia Grube, ©2010



April 16th, 2010

Grandma Alice

Her name was Dora Alice from her English ancestors and if you say it quickly it sounds like the Mexican pronunciation of dos reales. Grandma said that according to her name she was worth two bits (25 cents) for that was the value of dos reales in the South West. She said it laughingly and although I was only seven, I knew that her worth couldn’t be counted like that. She wasn’t just my Grandma; everybody called her “Grandma,” even old lady Sattersby who was older than anyone. One day she received a letter addressed only to “Grandma, Yava, Arizona.”

Yava was a small cluster of houses around a post office and a two-roomed school.  A creek ran through the rocky hills, the beginnings of the distant mountains that surrounded the little valley which was like an oasis after climbing out of the dessert. The post office was the center for sharing local news as well as for picking up the Phoenix paper. The postman knew everyone in the area and there were other women whose grandchildren had moved away and might be writing. The fact that a letter addressed to “Grandma” had been delivered to her by the Postal Department of the United States Government was an official confirmation of her title of “Grandma.” Although I never knew who sent the letter or what it said, I heard the story many times of how it had actually been delivered.

At times when relatives or neighbors would come to call they would sit in the cool of the late afternoon on the porch of Grandma’s little gray stone house. My brother, John, and I would linger nearby, whittling on sticks or playing with hollyhock dolls, to listen to the grown-ups talk of happenings in Washington, about which water hole on the range was drying up, and would we have an early winter. They relived and shared memories, recent or long past.

Many times I heard people ask Grandma if it were true that she had only weighed a pound and a quarter at birth. She would bring out the little red sunbonnet she had worn when she was a year old and tell of how her first bed had been a cotton padded cigar box. We would each measure the little hat with a fist and try to imagine such a such a small little toddler. She was considered an unusual person first of all, because of her survival; and as she was then well past sixty it seemed to be even more amazing. Now-a-days we are unimpressed by such for we have been insulated from the brutality of nature’s sorting out the fit.

Tenacity, then, set the pattern for her life which began in Illinois on January 20, 1861. The family moved to Texas, because her father thought his wife’s health would benefit from a warmer climate. Alice was seven when her mother died of tuberculosis. Grandma told me she cared for her two younger brothers and that her mother had already taught her to knit, crochet and cook. She described the little stool she stood on to reach the work table. She was always small, under five feet tall, but her vitality reached far beyond her tiny form. Her hazel-grey eyes were sharp and friendly, her hair dark and very curly, her skin soft, her face small and round with a gentle chin, but clearly sculptured with the high cheek bones of her Cherokee ancestry. She liked bright colors and wore a full-length gingham apron over her long dresses. When we went Sunday visiting, she put a crocheted lace color on her dress and wore a long double strand of jet black beads. She was deliberately a lady and she knew who she was and was proud of all she was. She had a strong will and determination to control her own life.

When they would talk of the early days it seemed to me to be full of adventure, but after living a share of life myself I sense the struggle and the storm that must have characterized some of those years. Her father had remarried when she was fourteen and she couldn’t get along with her stepmother. She went to work for a neighboring family, caring for their children and tending the garden. When she worked in the fields she wore long stocking gloves and a sun-bonnet so her skin would stay white, so she would appear delicate and fragile – the fashion for young ladies.

She and Grandpa were childhood sweethearts, both strong willed and holding two different attitudes to life: that of the herdsman and that of the cultivator. He had been working for the same family as a cowboy during vacations from school. She was sixteen when they married, and in the next few years two sons were born, Ned and Bill. The Arizona Territory was opening up and they decided to settle there. Grandpa was a cattleman and his main concern was to find range for his stock. She told of being left alone for months at a time to care for their growing family while Grandpa was off on the range.

For twenty years, the herds flourished; then after an extended drought Grandpa drove many thousand cattle and hundreds of horses to Dodge City. Grandma went with him on the drive. She and the two youngest children, Bernice and Bess (five and ten years old) rode with the wagons at the rear of the caravan. Their job was to find, pick up and care for the new calves born in the course of the trip. The youngest son, Jim, was thirteen and he rode a horse with the men. The two older boys, Ned and Bill, were cowhands. The stock was sold and they bought land near Lakon where my mother was born. For several years, Grandpa worked for meat packers, buying cattle and fattening them on his land. Heavy blizzards for two successive winters put him out of business again.

Land in Arizona had become available for homesteading, so they returned to Springerville, Arizona where they had settled before. Grandma used to tell with a tone of self-satisfaction, how she decided to go into business herself. Grandpa did not approve and went on with his plan to build a new herd of cattle. She borrowed money from a distant relative, and, being a person who loved to have people around, she established a hotel.  She wanted to live in town where there was a school; above all she wanted her children to be educated. My mother has always spoken a little wistfully of “when we had the hotel” and says it was a great success until one tragic night when it burned completely. All she saved were feather pillows, which she combined into a mattress; she slept on it all the rest of her life.

Grandma was not to be defeated and began another venture, a restaurant, which she built on the same spot. It was during those years that my mother was growing up. She was helping in the restaurant when my father arrived from Boston thinking that the Arizona climate would heal his lungs; they had been damaged by mustard gas. After my mother and father were married and settled in Phoenix, Grandma and Grandpa moved to Yava. Perhaps it was to find a milder climate or perhaps it was to be near her youngest daughter.

They were already in their late sixties when my brother Joe, and I went to stay with them for a while. The little stone house was cool in summer and warm in winter and near it was a huge old tree. Several trees had grown together and there was a hollow place in the middle. The shadow of its branches covered an area with a radius of twenty feet and a bench was built under it making a cool work center for hot summer days. There, Grandpa would repair or sharpen his tools and there, Grandma would set her tubs of soapy water on washing day.

I would climb up the center of the tree where there was a stump of a sawed off branch. It was like a throne from which I could watch everything beneath the tree or in the far fields and no one would know I was there. When my cousins visited we all played a game of “pretend” in which we were black birds, each one having a special place to perch. Our chirping and giggling would become very quiet when Grandma would come to get milk out of the cooler, which was nearby in the shade or to gather her clothes and fold them on the bench.

“I wonder where the children are?” she would say. “I always know they are all right when they’re noisy. It’s when they’re quiet that I worry about them.” We would be so quiet that we would almost burst, until finally my cousin, Gwendolyn would let out a thin airy giggle, and then we would all begin to roar. “My goodness those blackbirds are making a clatter in the tree today, they probably have their eyes on my radishes. I’ll have Dad get out the shot gun when he comes home tonight.” At that we would become fearful and confess right away that it was just us.

I think that Grandma and that tree both represented security to me; remembering one brings up a picture of the other. She was always busy but never hurried; I think of her as a center of peace which she seemed able to give to others. People often dropped by to seek her advice or help. Strangers, even, traveling through, would stop, explaining that her flower garden had been such a welcome sight after miles of dry barren desert and god-forsaken rocky hills that they just couldn’t pass by without stopping. Water, freshly pumped by the windmill, was cool; and Grandma’s friendly welcoming chatter was refreshing. I would listen from my hiding place in the tree and wonder where they were going and where they had come from. Sometimes candidates for public office would stop, as they wanted her endorsement. Then for several days the issues of the coming election would be the topic of conversation whenever neighbors stopped to visit.

In the evening, we would sit at the round table in the kitchen and read or do our homework. The lamplight was a warm yellow color and made a flickering circle we all could share. Grandma was always willing to help us because she set a high value on education. It was through her efforts that there was a school in the little settlement. As a girl, geography was her favorite subject. She would trace her fingers on the shape of a country on the map and dream that she was traveling there. Such traveling was an unfulfilled fantasy but when she talked about it I thought that some time it would really happen.

There was little time for fantasy. Her life was ordered by nature and her day began with as much regularity as if she had to punch a time clock. There were animals to be fed, crops to be planted or tended or harvested. In the early dawn, Grandpa went to milk the cows while she fed the hens and fixed a hearty breakfast. He then left for the hills on his horse. Her daily activities were decided by the seasons. Rich fertile ground was wealth to her.  She explained to me the mistake that the cities like Phoenix were making by spreading across the fertile river valleys. If they woul build in the surrounding hills, there would be room for people and for crops. She tended her garden but was concerned about the broader issues.

Grandma, Dora Alice Wilkerson Reagan, lived to be ninety-four. She was living with her youngest daughter, Winnie, my mother. Wherever she was, she made new friends and continued her interest in world affairs. New inventions were exciting to her. When television was introduced she could listen to all the political speeches and see the candidates. She thought that television would make it possible for everyone to know the issues and vote wisely. She eagerly watched the travelogues of the lands she had never visited. She loved to watch wrestling; Gorgeous George was her favorite. Each day she was busy sewing for her grandchildren and great grandchildren. She asked me to bring her my mending to keep her fingers busy. She was occupied thus, working for others, the day before she died.


Website created and maintained by Paul Hughes