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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Well Done, Good and Faithful Friend

We bought her the day The Grommet turned 5. On her "maiden voyage" with our family, she carried 7 kids and miscellaneous kid paraphernalia to a birthday party at an indoor human hamster trail. It went like that for the next 17 years. She was a school bus, a surf wagon, a cross-country mover, a field trip excursion mobile, a tiki hauler, a PTA commuter, a camping vehicle, and everything in between. She carried us to weddings, baptisms, birthdays, funerals. She moved us from state to state and home to home. When our kids learned to drive, she was there for them. She was the perfect drive-in movie van, hockey team van, soccer team van and there are probably so many more trips that did not include Charlie and I than we probably want to know. If she could talk, I still think she would keep confidences.

She's been a good and faithful friend, and for that reason, I actually got emotional when talking to the car dealership salesman yesterday about trading her in. I actually cried and had to walk away for a bit. Its a car. But so much more than that. I've refered to her as "she" since the day we got her. Why? Because I knew from the get-go that it would take the strength of a woman to see us through the years I knew we were going to need from her. She was our first brand new vehicle. We haven't bought a brand spanking new vehicle since. Yes, we've bought used cars to accommodate the growth of our driving crew. They've all been hand-me-downs and nothing fancy. Just enough to get kids back and forth to school and work. With college tuitions and growing bills, we've tried very hard to keep the family afloat and we've always put ourselves last. That's what you do. She's been tired for a long time now and in need of relief, but she kept going and going. The vent fan has been broken forever, there's no air conditioning and there hasn't been for years. I just keep the side windows open all the time because the front windows don't go down. She sputters and moans. We've repaired and repaired and lucky for me, I have an in-house mechanic who has done miracles over the years to keep her running. Not just this van, but every car in what he calls "the fleet". But now we're putting out more in repairs and rental fees than a car payment would be and that's when you really have to draw the line .

I have joked for a few years now how I don't wash her because I believe the only thing holding her together is the dirt on her sides and the stickers on her back window. Yes, she complains a bit when I start her and she groans. But I rub her dash and caress her steering wheel and say soothing words and she responds. Again, like a woman. Just try a little tenderness. Still, we haven't been able to take long trips for fear of getting stuck in the middle of nowhere, and just the other day at the market down the street, she just did not want to start. Its time. We have gotten out of her all we can. Not wanting to add another car payment or expense to our budget, we've put off the inevitable as long as we possibly could. But we can't put it off any longer. Neither one of our vehicles is dependable, but of Charlie's and mine, my girl is probably the worst off. His is close behind. We need at least ONE car that works. Not just works, but gives us some peace of mind and a little bit of freedom.

I love this van. She's been a part of many, many joyful memories. It is very hard to say goodbye. I can say in all honesty I feel sad to lose my dear, faithful friend. As Scotty would say; "Captain, she's giving us all she's got!" She did give us all she had to give and we're grateful.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Ka Wai Ola - Living Water

I've spoken before of my deep and abiding affection for the sea. I call her "Mama". Everything about her is sacred to me. Charlie has often joked that I have saltwater running through my veins and sometimes, when I am not in the best of moods, the first thing he says to me is; "Do you need to go to the water?"

My son is definitely my son in this respect. I probably should have given him a Hawaiian name more closely connected to the ocean. He was the first of my children to have the same love and respect for the gifts of the sea, the first to soulfully connect with her, the first to want to surf with me, the first one whom I would have the most trouble getting out of the water at the end of the day.

He is still that one. But lately, I have noticed, and he has been honest to mention, that he has struggled with sadness and can't seem to shake it. Completely understandable given what's been going on in his life. When he told me yesterday that it had been MONTHS since he'd surfed or even been to the water, I was truthfully shocked. I hadn't really thought about that specifically. So much had been going on and we'd all been dealing with it as best we could. I should have seen it. I should have known. I should have been the one to say to him what Charlie says to me; "Have you been to see Mama?" He said; "I haven't really done much of any of the things I love to do. I've been pre-occupied. Now that Jeff is home, I'm feeling it. I need to go. Do you want to go to the beach with me tomorrow?" There is no other way to respond to that; "Yes, Grommet. I would love to."

So this morning, he went about the business of getting his gear together. It was beautiful and warm this morning, much to our surprise. Still, he gathered two rashies (rashguards); one long sleeve, one short sleeve, his full winter wetsuit, and two boards. He asked me to drive the van so that he could bring both boards. It had been a long time since we'd loaded my old van up with a quiver of boards. It made me smile. It was a familar comfort. A few towels, a gallon jug full of fresh water, and a change of clothes for after session, and we were on our way.

The beach was packed because shockingly, especially for this area of beach (known to locals as "Blackie's"), there were actually some nice waves forming. Bryson was a bit taken aback by how busy it was. "Crap. With that lineup, I probably won't have a chance of catching anything." "Well," I said. "Do I feed the parking meter, or not?" He jumps out of the van and says; "Yep. Feed it. I'm going." I nod. I wouldn't have let him not go. I would have kicked him out and told him to get his cute okole out there. I'm happy he decided on his own. I dig in the ashtray for quarters which are always there, and hop out to drop them into the meter. We're set for an hour. I grab my camera while Bry does the wetsuit wiggle behind the van, and I start walking down to the water.

This is where "Old Guys Rule". The locals call this area Blackie's because it's just in front of a landmark divey little bar of the same name. You could say that you were surfing at Newport Pier and people would know. But the old guys (including me) always call it Blackie's. You'd hear; "Hey, I'm going to Dawn Patrol at Blackie's. Wanna go?"

By the time we got there, most of those old guys were already done surfing, had changed into their sweatshirts and Uggs and were sitting on the breakwall drinking coffee and watching the younger guys go out. It was still cranking. Photographers with their telephoto lenses were standing on the wall, trying to get good wave shots. I was only interested in one subject. He was slowly making his way down to the water. He stopped about 25 feet from the shoreline, sat down, and just watched for a bit. Then, with great purpose, he picked up his trusty, beat up favorite fish. A surfboard that he lovingly calls "Troop", because it's been through "epic" adventures with him, and it's falling apart. The fiberglass on the fishtail end is basically non-existent and he's pretty much surfing on unglassed foam. Yet he has countless stories hooked to that board and he could care less if it's falling apart. He says he will use Troop until Troop is just a lump of foam. So, he and Troop work their way into the lineup. I watched and waited and felt the presence of peace.

He might have walked into the water a bit down. But I know I have to give credit to his hopeful spirit. Because sure enough, the young man that came out of the water an hour later was renewed. His face carried a smile so big that I could see every pearly tooth. "How was it?"

"Well," he said; "It was so packed out that I could only catch two rides the whole time I was out. But, it was awesome. The water was warm and nice. I ran into friends and we just sat out there and talked. It was awesome. I'm good. Thanks for coming."

"No Grommie. Thanks for asking me."

Then he said; "Let's go see Jeff. I wanna tell him about it. Maybe by Friday, he'll be strong enough to leave the house and I think it will do him some good to get to the beach. I'll drive him there."

I nodded. I can't think of a better way to finish off this perfect morning. I took a quick look back at Mama and quietly thanked her from my heart. That living water does its magic again. Sometimes nothing is better than going to the place that you know renews your soul.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Joyful, Joyful

The first thing I want to say is THANK YOU. Heartfelt thanks to everyone who has been "with us" throughout this long ordeal and have sent good thoughts, vibes, wishes, and prayers for our sweet Jeff. We have a long way to go, so please keep them coming!

Secondly, I'm overjoyed to report that Jeff was released from the hospital and is now home. His dad told me this morning that though he is still weak and extremely skinny, he is so happy to be home. It goes without saying that we are all thrilled beyond belief and personally, I can't wait to be on the "culinary team" that is going to help to fatten him up. That made his dad laugh, which again, was music to my ears. Of course, it will be another week or so before I can make the "island grinds" he's wanting to eat. He's still on liquids and very soft foods. But I'm ready when he gives the word.

I can't believe that just two weeks ago we were hearing news that none of us wanted to hear, nor could we process. We know the realities and we're not naive. It's something we've all known for over two years now. But as I've mentioned before, it doesn't mean any of us, especially Jeff, was going to accept the dire news lying down. We, all of us, will fight. The struggle continues, and we will continue to fight. Your good thoughts and wishes hold us up and keep us going. All I know is that I'm grateful, and every single minute is more and more precious as we move forward.