Prolific American writer Rita Mae Brown said Happiness is Pretty Simple, “Someone to Love, Something to Do, Something to Look Forward to.” I believe she was on to something.

I had a family to love, plenty to do maintaining the house and grounds, a book to write, and looking forward to its completion. 

Before Robert was old enough to read, I entertained him with books while in the bath and at bedtime. I fondly remember teaching him to turn over, not like walking, but impressive still. As soon as he was standing on his own, we spent lots of time outdoors, on the beach; eventually, we began exploring and hiking mountain trails.

He played T-ball at a young age, and together we practiced some baseball and basketball, especially when Robert was active in those sports in school. Like me, he was not a naturally talented athlete, but we had fun and never took sports too seriously.

Cheri and I did our best to keep video games and the computer from totally shutting down his outdoor and physical activity.

We went with Robert to zoos and some of the best art museums in the West, located in San Francisco, and to scenic and historic locations in California.  He went to Disneyland and saw me compete on world-class racetracks. He took music in Jr. High and then pretty much taught himself to play guitar, well.

Early on, I taught him weapons safety and how to shoot with firearms.* It served him well in paintball, and Cheri took him and his friends to endless competitions. He was heavily involved in Boys Scouts and earned lots of badges. Cheri is fond of saying she was “this close” to becoming an Eagle Scout. It did not go unnoticed by Robert’s teachers that he had been exposed to a variety of cultural and aesthetic experiences.

As for me, I spent time improving my partially finished basement. My 4 x 8-foot wine cellar is a proud accomplishment because I’m not talented in doing handiwork around the house. After picking up perfectly shaped pine cones on our acre spread — there were so many — I sold a few to a nearby gift shop for holiday decorations.

Clearing lots of brush, tall grass, and small trees, I created a 100-foot safe zone for fire protection around our house and pruned trees. It was a gigantic undertaking that took years to complete and a full-time job to maintain.  I also gathered, cut, and split wood for our stove to heat our cottage. Then I rested while immersing myself in reading from my thousand-volume library.

Maintaining a garden is time-consuming hard work, and enjoyable; I had gardens with flowers, fragrant plants, and a few fruit-bearing trees.

Pictures from Don’s flower garden.

Flower photos by Cheri.
Selfie by Cheri, relaxing on our deck, in one of her 271 pairs of flip-flops.
Swan stream near our cottage in Shelter Cove. (Swan photo)
Robert with Shelter Cove legend and Bataan Death march survivor, Mario Machi, circa 2000, note cat. (D. Swan)
Younger days, family in 2006 at pizzeria. (Jane Ornelas)
Wife Cheri, son Robert. (Swan archives)


*I didn’t touch a firearm, didn’t want to be anywhere near one, until about 25 years after I left Vietnam and living in an isolated area.

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