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Take Us to Galley West

Updated: Feb 2, 2022

On the morning of mom’s birthday, as I was about to open the engraved cedar box containing her remains, I saw an image of my dad in my mind and heard him say “Take us to Galley West.”



Take Us to Galley West

By

Michelle Rossi Eddins


I awoke on my mom’s birthday with the intention of scattering a small amount of her remains at the Redondo Beach Pier, just as I had for my dad on his birthday four years earlier. My parents lived in Redondo Beach, California, when they married in 1967, and stayed there until nine months after I was born in 1971.


On more than one occasion, my parents mentioned at the end of their days, they wanted to go back to where their marriage began. The pier held special meaning for them; we returned a couple times during my childhood, and when I moved back to the area as an adult, my children and I went to the pier several times with them while they visited us.


On the morning of mom’s birthday, as I was about to open the engraved cedar box containing her remains, I saw an image of my dad in my mind and heard him say “Take us to Galley West.”


I remember my parents talking about a restaurant called Galley West where my dad was a bartender. During one of my Mom’s last visits to me, I took her to lunch at Nelson’s, a restaurant at the Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes. She told me the view looked exactly the same as Galley West; she believed it was the same location. I told her she was incorrect. The resort was built on the former Marineland property. She never was good with directions, and to be honest, I thought she was showing signs of dementia.


How was I going to take them to Galley West if it didn’t exist anymore? How was I supposed to find out where it was located? At this moment my mom’s friend Lynn came to mind. Maybe she would know, but I didn’t want to bother her. Did I still have her number? Her daughter, Paige, and I have been friends our entire lives, the kind where you can go a couple years without talking and it seemed like yesterday. If I couldn’t find the answer, I would reach out to her.


I decided to Google “Where was Galley West restaurant located in Palos Verdes?” I discovered a newspaper article from The Rollings Hills Herald on February 4, 1965, “Marineland Restaurant Undergoes Face Lifting, Named ‘Galley West.’” After the renovation, it had a separate entrance and was completed before my parents moved to Redondo Beach from Buffalo. Damn. Mom was right; the northwest side of Terranea Resort was the former location of Galley West!


Now back to the engraved cedar box. The idea of scattering remains seems simple but if you are only taking a little at a time, actually separating the ashes can be quite messy. I divided a small amount into two bags, one for the pier and one for Galley West. I then secured the box again and began washing my hands when I heard my mom’s voice.


“You are literally washing your hands of me!” she said, followed by her deep infectious laughter. She thought this was so funny and loved that I could hear her.


When I told my son about it later, he said, “Of all the days, I hope you sang happy birthday while washing your hands.”


My mom always told us when washing our hands, to sing happy birthday twice to make sure all of the germs were washed away. One of her good friends even shared that as a favorite memory of my mom at her funeral.


Researching the location for Galley West had put me behind schedule and I arrived at the pier around midday, later than anticipated, but it was the middle of the week so I hoped it wouldn’t be crowded. I parked on the north side and began walking along the newer concrete section of the pier, to my desired location on the southern, older wooden plank section –

131 Fisherman’s Wharf, where I had scattered a small amount of my dad’s ashes four years earlier. I hadn’t known exactly where he wanted to be until I heard “stop, here,” and I looked up to see 131 on the side of the pier. My birthday is January 31, so I knew it was a sign from him that I had the right location.


Now I wanted to go back to the same spot for my mom. As I was walking along the newer section of the pier, I suddenly heard my mom say, “stop, here.” The view out to the Pacific was gorgeous and seemed infinite. Sailboats were rounding the jetty and I had a clear view of where my son learned to sail, but it was not where I planned to scatter this small amount of my mom’s ashes. It had to be the same place I put my dad’s four years earlier, so I continued walking. Once I reached the desired location, I understood why my mom had tried to change my mind. Currently at 131 Fisherman’s Wharf, there were no less than eight active fisherman and two or three elderly couples sitting on benches people watching. There was no way for me to complete my covert mission. I begrudgingly walked back to the newer section of the pier where I had heard mom tell me to stop, and now there wasn’t another person in sight.


Throughout my stroll along the pier, I had been listening to a variety of mom’s favorite songs, such as Proud Mary, Can’t Help Falling in Love and Unchained Melody. Then I sat on a bench looking out to the vast Pacific and listened to P!nk’s Beam Me Up, and before it was over, I carefully bent down and opened my red silk pouch to release her remains into the sea. As I watched the flow of the tide, I noticed it was going right by another favorite hangout of my parents from their good ole days, Top of Tony’s. This turned out to be another perfect spot.


After leaving the pier I tried to make a reservation for Nelson’s at Terranea later that evening, but discovered it was closed on Wednesdays. I was upset I couldn’t fulfill dad’s request for mom’s birthday. Then another thought popped into my mind and I selfishly liked this one even better. I was feeling a little nervous about my six-month oncologist follow-up scheduled for the next day near the resort. I knew my parents were always with me in spirit at my appointments, and this time I could bring them physically as well. Then I would take them to lunch at Nelson’s, toast to their love and lives, and to me being cancer free. It would be an inexpensive lunch for the three of us; they wouldn’t partake in any food or spirits – because they were spirits!


On a day that could have brought me grief, I was now feeling joy. I listened to the messages and shifted my attitude from longing to loving. I was now emotionally ready to make a social media post for mom’s birthday. I chose a gorgeous photo of her as a first-year flight attendant with American Airlines in 1965, and wrote “My mind still talks to you. My heart still loves you. My soul still feels you.”


Within minutes of making the post I received a message from my friend, Paige, missing my mom, sending me love and letting me know her mom, Lynn, would be texting me shortly. Wow- I had been thinking of Lynn all day.


Lynn did send a message saying she was thinking of both me and my mom as she did so often and remembered her vividly the way she looked in her class picture from American Airlines (they were at the flight attendant academy together and were later roommates). I then explained how I had heard my dad say, “Take us to Galley West” earlier in the day and it made me think of her. I thought maybe she would know where it used to be, but I was able to find an old newspaper article online with the location. I told her it was now the Terranea Resort and I was going to have lunch there the next day, make a toast to my parents, and spread a small amount of their ashes off the cliff.


I could see the three dots in the text box for quite a while meaning she was thinking. She then finally said she felt a big chill. She and her husband, Graeme, had their wedding reception at Galley West and my mom was one of her bridesmaids. Paige had just given her an old Galley West postcard from 1967 for Christmas. She asked me to please toast Graeme tomorrow as well. He held a special place in my heart, of course I would.


The next day I was leaving late for my oncologist appointment, which is nothing out of the ordinary for me. At the last minute I remembered I only had mom with me! I couldn’t believe this was all dad’s idea and I almost forgot him. I ran upstairs, grabbed the box with his remains and went to the kitchen to gather a small amount. I’m usually a very calculated and organized person, but on this day without even thinking, I opened the bag I had containing mom’s remains, and started scooping some of dad’s ashes from the box poured them into that bag.


I immediately heard my dad say, “No! No! Mich! What happened to until death do us part? Now we are together for all eternity!” And then his booming laughter.


I was so shocked I just started laughing. I was preoccupied with being late and knew I couldn’t think of that; this had to be my dad talking. He always knew how to calm me down.


During my oncologist appointment I could feel the presence of both my parents. I had been having some pain and swelling in one of my breasts and my doctor ordered a diagnostic ultrasound for peace of mind. She said it was probably nothing and I believe feeling their presence kept me relaxed.


Needless to say, I was ready for a glass of wine to toast during lunch. I wasn’t familiar with any of the Chardonnays on the wine list, but one jumped out to me- Newton “Skyside.” Newton is the surname of my aunt and uncle, and my parents are living sky side now. As for the meal I knew exactly what I had to order. My parents loved prime rib. My dad and I ordered a French dip sandwich whenever possible, and there was a prime rib dip sandwich on the menu – done!


Once I ordered my meal and had my glass of wine in hand, I sent a text to Paige and Lynn with a photo of the view. Then I stepped over to the cliff for a better view for the toast and snapped the perfect shot. I sat down and looked at the photo with tears in my eyes, noticing the details of the photo that I hadn’t seen with my naked eye. When looking at the photo I realized the wildflowers were yellow daisies. My mom loved yellow flowers. But more specifically, when we moved from Redondo Beach to the San Diego area in 1971, my dad took a job as manager of a coffee shop called… Daisies.


After paying the bill it was time to say goodbye to mom and dad. As I was sprinkling their remains over the edge of the property on the cliff, I thanked them for hanging out with me during the last two days, just like old times with the teasing and laughter. I had finally heard their voices again.


I then heard my dad say, “My beautiful girl, we aren’t leaving you. We are not connected to these ashes; we are connected to you. We are forever with you in your mind, your heart and your soul.”

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