Monday, June 05, 2006

A Toast to Friendship

For twelve years now, since 1994 (with a trip in 1991 that we call “The Pilot”), my college girlfriends and I have been spending Memorial Day Weekend together. The first few years were all on the Oregon coast (we went to Lewis and Clark), and included many people—both boys and girls—besides the core group. The first year we brought—and finished—a keg, and we had to (had to!) buy more beer. Since then, the amount of alcohol intake has gone steadily down (although we still drink more beer than during, say, an average three-day period), and the quality (and quantity I daresay) of food intake has gone exponentially up—including not just chips and salsa and a large pan of lasagna and Tootsie Pops, but gourmet made-from-scratch mac and cheese with greens, grilled salmon and veggies and chicken, breakfast casserole and fruit salad, homemade split pea soup and black bean-rice salad, homemade apple pies and lemon pound cake . . . and the list goes on.

A few years after college, most of us had left Portland and scattered ourselves around the US, so we started scattering our Memorial Day Weekend trips too, and reduced participants to the current seven. We went to New York City a couple times, Las Vegas (no one lives there, but you gotta do it once), Arizona (a mountainy part), Lake Michigan, Point Reyes, Seattle. We have one main rule, namely, everyone has to be able to come. About five years back this meant that we actually celebrated over a weekend in June, but celebrate we did. It just wouldn’t be the same without the seven.

This year we returned to Lincoln City for the first time since 1997, which meant that Laura and I didn’t have to fly anywhere—which, for reasons I’ve gone into before, made me very, very happy. Still, it meant that after six hours of driving from Jerome Creek to Seattle and one hour at home, I had another six hours mostly in the car (traffic traffic) until we reached the Portland airport and met everyone/collected arriving out-of-towners, and it was midnight before I was bedded down on my couch. By the next afternoon when we’d driven another few hours and arrived safely at our beachside rental, I was exhausted.

Part of my exhaustion was, of course, simply the fact of 15 hours of alert travel the day before, but that wasn’t all.

In the past when I’ve taken care of Jerome Creek, it’s been almost exclusively idyllic—in fact, the spare peppering of “incidents”—i.e. a corral rail that needs a nail, a tumble off the side of a horse into soft bushes—make the trip all the more perfect because I’ve been given a few minor ways to practice my problem solving. I’m also usually alone much of the time, so I have plenty of space to recharge my social batteries and putter around writing.

This time, I had only three days alone out of 15; many, many “incidents” cropped up day after day; and I started my country idyll already drained—dear friends have been going through a separation, and it’s been very, very difficult for everyone involved, which of course is not just the couple in question.

So by the time we arrived at our beach house and unpacked the cars, all I could imagine doing was lying down and taking a nap. I don’t sleep easily, however, and I couldn’t sleep then. I lay on my back in the blue and white room, listening to the crash of the waves, tears leaking out of my eyes, thinking over and over about attacked horses, dog fights, divorce, and the end of cancer treatments, trying to calm my mind, trying to get some rest. Finally, I gave up. I can promise to be a safe driver, I thought to myself, but I don’t have the energy to be anything more this year. I got up and wiped my face, went downstairs and curled up in the corner of the couch at the other end from Lee, across from Laura on the other couch.

“How are you, Ducky?” said Lee.

“Okay,” I responded, hugging my knees into my chest. It was all I could say.

“Did you sleep?” asked Laura.

“No, not at all.”

Lee looked at me carefully. “Would you like a backrub?” she asked.

“Oh, yes,” I said, starting to tear up.

“Can I get you a beer?” Laura asked, standing up.

“That would be great.”

And there you have it, folks. I was at the end of my rope, and they saw that, and they didn’t just pull me back in; they came out to get me. I didn’t have to say that I only had the strength left to not commit vehicular homicide; that I couldn’t be counted on to counsel anyone through their current challenges, that I didn’t have the wherewithal to cook a meal, or really even to clean up after one. They knew because they love me.

I didn’t have to say anything at all.

1 comment:

Allyson Q said...

I got all weeping reading this! We're all so lucky to have each other. :)