21-San Diego-Heart and Family

Activities in San Diego over the next few years could only be described as frenetic.  The  all consuming  pace  of the San Diego / Mexico events has caused most everything to run together in the sands of my memory and so I have divided this section into separate subjects because I find it impossible to keep a precise timeline.  Also,  I know very little of what happened in  the other areas; Grants Pass, Vancouver / Portland, Denver, etc. during this era so I focus my observations  strictly on the San Diego /Mexico events.

I lived in San Diego this time until February 1985, but was removed from the ABC in January 1984 by my father. I still lived and worked in San Diego but had very little contact with the ABC during that final year. I then left San Diego again and moved back to the Puget Sound region.


Not long after returning to San Diego; in February of 1980; my grandmother on my fathers side passed away. It was not unexpected as she had pancreatic cancer; but it was still still difficult for me.  I dearly loved her and, knowing she was so ill,  had made an out of the way trip to her place on the move back to San Diego. I knew this would be the last time I would ever see her and it was heartbreaking to leave. It has been twenty-eight years at the time of this writing and it still feels like a great loss. Her death was quite a blow to my father as well. Having been an only child he had always been quite close to his mother. We visited often as I was growing up and spent  nearly every Thanksgiving or Christmas at her house. She was an incredible person and I still miss her very much.

About two years after my grandmother died my grandfather, on my father's side, died as well but his death created a great deal of tension in the family because of "things". My dad, worried that other members off the family would swoop in and grab stuff from his apartment, had me accompany him on a mad dash to Kennewick to empty out the contents and drive it all back to San Diego in a U-Haul truck. I did not know, at the time, that what we were doing was technically illegal since probate had not yet completed. It was rumored later, by my oldest brother,  that we had taken things from the apartment that were actually pledged to him by my grandmother in her will. That may have been; I really don't know;  I received nothing from my grandmother's things and it all went to fill up my dad's home in San Diego. It was also rumored an account had been established for each of us three boys payable after my grandfather's passing; and this may be true as well. My dad was executor of the estate and refused to show any of us the will. No copy was filed with the county as the estate was small.  I moved on though; it was only money and things; but the last time I spoke with my oldest brother (now my sister) he was still steaming about the way everything had happened.  I don't blame him for his upset. The allegation I had been party to this was not true as I had no personal stake whatsoever. I simply helped drive the truck at my dad’s request.

My dad was still in recovery from heart surgery during  this trip to Kennewick. It was his plan to drive my grandfather's car back to San Diego but he became too weak to finish the journey so we left him at an airport (I have forgotten which city that was in) and he flew back.  A man named Don and I then finished driving  the car and truck back to San Diego.  An interesting side note to this  journey; the truck given to us by U-Haul was very old and decrepit and literally got two miles per gallon, or less. This meant we had to stop about every fifty miles for fuel. In central California the exits are sometimes fifty miles apart so there were points in our journey we were unsure we could even make it to the next station. We did make it fine but documented the fuel guzzling with receipts and U-Haul reimbursed us for the fuel. 


During the holiday season of 1981 we went as a group to view the Christmas lights on a lane in Chula Vista. On this excursion, after walking just half a block from the van,  my dad became completely winded. He went back to the van and waited for the rest of us to return.  He insisted at the time that this was "just a cold" and said he felt like he had "asthma". He actually turned out to have a faulty heart valve and  congestive heart failure. He ignored this for a while longer but when it got worse he had no choice  but to seek  medical help. He had avoided visiting the doctor because he lacked  health insurance but once he visited a cardiologist, and was tested, he was scheduled nearly immediately for a valve replacement surgery and quadruple bypass. He was  actually near death on that outing to see the lights and his heart was in very bad shape by the time he made it to a doctor. A special offering was taken to cover the surgery costs.

I was not working at the time; since I had been injured on the job; and spent most of my days at the hospital until he was out of the woods. It was not clear whether he would actually survive the surgery; since it was so extensive; and for about five days two nurses monitored multiple IV lines that kept his heart rhythm stabilized. It was a grueling recovery and there was quite a bit of concern he would not survive.

My dad survived the surgery and, directly afterward, changed his diet drastically. He lost weight, began walking several miles each day and even joined a gym but these new habits eventually dropped off and his life returned to the hectic schedule he had kept before the surgery. The surgery saved his life and gave him an extra five or so years. He died on October 25, 1985 of a sudden heart attack in a Mexican Restaurant in San Diego. I know very little details of the incident but it is my understanding he was eating out with David North and his wife when he suddenly complained of weakness. After this, he fell from the booth and was gone. There were efforts to revive him by paramedics but they failed.  No one ever called me to let me know what happened. 

I am convinced part of him was lost during this heart surgery. I have read up on this extensively and am also acquainted with a doctor who specializes in the treatment of heart disease. This doctor helped move me beyond some major health problems of my own a few years ago; not heart related;  and I now follow his plan for my heart and health to the letter.  This doctor stated it is well known in the medical community; although not widely publicized; that small brain injuries occur during most heart surgeries. This is due to the plaques and fat globules that break free during surgery and strike the brain.  These injuries, when they occur, can alter mood and temperament if the damage occurs in the frontal lobe. There were specific instances after my dad's surgery I believe indicate this happened. My dad became much stronger physically, for a while, but there were things about him mentally that changed dramatically.  He had become much more emotional but not everyone noticed this. I did. One of the last times we spent together; at a restaurant in Alpine California; he broke down sobbing right in the middle of the restaurant. This was quite unlike him.  He felt he was no longer able to keep up with the pace of the thing he had created (the ABC) but felt it was an obligation "from the people" to keep going.  Then he began talking about his death--as if it were imminent. This was a good indicator he had become very depressed but I didn't understand that at the time. The next time I saw him, after this incident, he was right back to the mad dash that defined his life. He began to have frequent middle of the night sessions of extreme anxiety and would sometimes not sleep and pace the floor for hours. I discovered this when I spent a few nights at his house after my divorce.  It was also very soon after our restaurant encounter that I would find myself disowned.  I do not contribute the disowning itself to the changes after the surgery; it had happened too many times to others over the years; but I do however blame the vicious manner in which it was accomplished on these changes brought about by the surgery. At least I hope so. 


When I arrived in San Diego the bus had been  permanently parked at the San Ysidro RV park and a park model trailer had been purchased and moved in next to it which gave my dad and Yvonne plenty of  extra space to live.  This also  allowed my step-siblings; who were now teenagers;  more room and privacy. Both bus and trailer were parked just ten feet from the Interstate 5 freeway though and the roar of traffic, even at night, was deafening. This was an unacceptable place for someone with serious heart disease to live so my dad's doctor ordered a move away from the freeway...right away!  

The first move would be to a small apartment nearby in Chula Vista. This move to the apartment would be the first time, since 1973, that my dad and Yvonne had lived in regular housing. After this  move  David North took over use of the the bus and trailer and my dad never returned again to living in them.
The apartment, a small two bedroom, got my dad into a quiet environment and it was here that he returned from his heart surgery. I picked him up at the hospital to bring him home and, for some reason, he wanted to get his haircut before he went home. This we did. It was a rather unusual request because my dad had very little hair left but the barber made a couple of small snips and he was done. I think it probably made him feel as though he could get back to normal life and was actually a good moment between us; one of very few. He was still quite weak and needed help walking so this was one of those very rare moments we ever had to just talk and be friends. It was odd for me because my dad was never one that needed much help.

I don't recall exactly how long my dad lived in the apartment but the move changed his outlook. He seemed to  no longer desire life as an itinerant minister. He just wanted to settle down and this was quite a change for him.  I remember one time; when I was thirteen and we had first moved to San Juan Island; we had gone together looking at an old small ferry.  His plan was to move a mobile home onto the car deck for instant living space then convert the passenger deck into a  floating church. He wanted to then travel from island to island preaching.  The ferry, as it turned out, had no engine, was sitting next to the Puget Sound on dry ground, and it would have cost a great deal to bring it back to usable shape. Then there was also the little problem of needing an engine crew to actually run it.  It was a fun idea at the time but was one he quickly abandoned as impossible.

Once my dad recovered from the surgery he decided the apartment was too small. He also felt it was senseless to pay rent on an apartment as well as two RV spaces. For the same cost he could purchase one large  home. I was not involved in the search for this home but he eventually found a very large home in a rather nice neighborhood of Chula Vista. It was soon labeled "The Casa Grande" due to it's enormous size. It had, as I recall, four bedrooms, a huge den / family room as well as a very large living / dining room. A large kitchen sat in the middle of it all and in back was a huge patio with nicely landscaped yard. This house was sold years later and another even larger home with an in ground pool was purchased. I was not in the ABC at the time but saw it when I returned for the funeral.

Not long after the move to Casa Grande, David North and his wife also moved into the Casa Grande as well. The trailer was towed to the Alpine RV park in the mountains and the bus, I believe, was moved into a storage lot. It was never used again by the ABC and I assume it was eventually sold.

In my next post I will detail the development of the Mexican Ministry and in the following post will cover a few of the anomalies it spawned.


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