Pete Gavin: Salute

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It was a habit that survived for a very long time, but even ingrained habits can change. Pete Gavin has this Perspective.

In 1966 my parents purchased eight acres just outside Mendocino. Their dream was to eventually leave Berkeley and retire on the land. In 1985 they achieved it.

There’s a creek just north of Mendocino called Jack-Peter’s Creek. A bridge on 101 crosses the creek. My father, Jack, who served in the Navy, used to salute when we hit that bridge; if I was in the car, I too saluted, acknowledging our namesake connection.

Last year my Mom died, a victim of Alzheimer’s. She was not bitter nor regretful — but rather, accepting; she had lived a long full life, and at some point, simply became tired.

Now my father lives alone on the land, in the house we built with redwood milled from our forest, with cold water flowing from our spring, with markers in the garden for the many pets who once roamed the land. It’s the place Dad knows best, and he would feel lost anywhere else.

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Today, when I cross Jack-Peter’s Creek, I still salute in deference to a tradition lasting over fifty years. A few weeks ago I was in the car with my 92 year-old father, heading to Fort Bragg. When we drove over the creek, I saluted as usual, but my dad did not. I wasn’t particularly bothered nor surprised, but quietly I wondered when he had stopped our little tradition.

Rituals are valiant human attempts to keep things constant, but as Heraclitus said, “The only constant in life is change.”

With a Perspective, I’m Pete Gavin.

Pete Gavin is a retired middle school English teacher.