Half Address

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I’ve always believed Uncle Bob grew up at a half-address, although I can’t prove this is so. The one time I visited his childhood home, when I was 8 and he was 41, the smallness and secret feel of the tiny bungalow in Inglewood had that half-address mystery. His yard as I recall it was really a back yard of shaggy grass and the non-descript, half-shrub-half-trees of the untended and unplanned southern California lot – corkscrewing peppers, spindly New Zealand Christmas trees, Brazilian flame bush, hibiscus and oleanders crowding up to the wooden walls, and an unkempt hydrangea’s blooms the blue shade of pool table chalk leaching to white at its lowest tier, shading secret ground – all had that half-address hush of a place behind a place, the sort of spot as an apartment dweller I felt I knew well. Besides being my treasured uncle, Bob was one of the first grown men I ever saw shed tears, just before our visit to his house in fact, coming out of the convalescent hospital in Inglewood where his mother was dying and, blue sky behind his sleek head, lowering himself into the car with my parents and his wife Nancy, not able to speak and brushing the water at his eyes. Later, not the same day but around this time, he and I were at his house because, as he explained, there were some things there he’d enjoyed as a boy that he thought I might like.

(from Chapter 8, “‘The Folks Who Live on the Hill'”)

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