It’s a smidgen past 9:00 am when Larry parades across our bedroom holding up three fingers. Which could only mean one thing. It took him three tries to complete today’s wordle challenge and the only reason he is gloating is that it took me four.
Retirement. What’s not to like?
I say, “I thought you were leaving to get gas at Costco?”
“I am but I saw you posted your wordle so I thought I’d give it a try.”
“You know my first word so essentially you cheated.”
“I used it as a resource.”
“That’s what Joe Niekro said about the emery board.”
I get the look.
One of the interesting things about aging is how my focus has shifted through the years. We now wordle over breakfast allowing our aches and pains to dominate the dinner conversations. Or how my bedtime keeps inching closer and closer to that of a toddler. I’m running out of font sizes I can read on my cell phone and celebrations of life are running neck and neck with weddings.
If I were to look beyond the grave, to a future devoid of myself, I can’t help but wonder how will I be remembered?
It’s late June which means we’re planning our annual 4th of July family extravaganza at the lake. I use the word ‘extravaganza’ loosely, it’s more like an orchestra where every instrument is out of tune, in exactly the same way, so you don’t really notice the chaos, writes Neal Shusterman.
Independence Day dates back to the 18th century and the American revolution. On July 2nd, 1776, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence. How this morphed into barbecues and concerts, fireworks and parades we may never know but we take our freedom seriously. As Richelle E. Goodrich notes, “Liberty, once tasted, is an incurable addiction.”
We’ll have at least ten people staying at our house, the Goudreau’s, our neighbors are also housing a large crew, not to mention all of Larry’s brothers who will be entertaining numerous family and friends in homes scattered throughout the Kono Tayee development.
It’s a soiree of sorts and a little daunting to calculate everything needed to feed, house, and entertain the participants over the long weekend. Toilet paper alone is going to be a complicated issue as the littles (aka my granddaughters) have difficulty calculating the necessary number of squares needed for proper hygiene.
Plungers will be involved.
Engaging in self-talk keeps my anxiety to a minimum but people get annoyed with me walking around muttering to myself in a low soothing voice. It is what it is.
At least the temperature is cooperating, it’s going to be hovering in the mid-’70s, instead of the 100s. Which means it will be balmy instead of humid and hotter than hell.
Another issue with aging, I can’t tolerate the heat. A degree above 80 and I’m whining as if an infant on the struggle bus.
Kelley and her sister-in-law Sam are arriving at the San Francisco International airport at 3:45, I’ll need to leave around 3:15 pm if I hope to materialize at their arrival gate, after they’ve claimed their luggage, and are ready to jump in the car.
Honestly, I’ve lived here my entire life but I’m still not comfortable with the design of SFO. I start sweating mildly fifteen miles out and profusely by the time I get to the airport exit.
I did manage to piss off an aggressive cabbie, fully my fault, but maneuvered beautifully (frantically) through a complicated labyrinth of thoroughfares leading in all sorts of monstrous directions. You have like three seconds to decide which lane leads to the arrival gate or you’ll end up in the departure area, a rental car lot, or worse the international terminal. It’s all gut-wrenching, split-second, decision-making as if I’m Tom Crusie in an F-18 Super Hornet.
By the grace of God, I find Kelley’s gate and slip nonchalantly into an open spot by the curb, where the security guard immediately waves me on. Are you kidding? If someone is not actively loading suitcases into your car you will be forced to leave.
I yell out my window, “I’m a senior citizen!”
He acts as if he can’t hear me but I know better!
As if a caterpillar, I inch away from the curb, pitifully calculating my next move, because my chances of getting back to this particular gate without being pulverized by yellow cabbies and Uber drivers are not good.
It’s not even 4:00 pm and I feel as if I need a stiff drink.
You’ll be relieved to know by some unfathomable miracle I find the gate AGAIN and simultaneously my travelers exit the terminal at that precise moment, I’m so excited I forget to glare at the security guard who is watching me as if I was on the FBI’s most-wanted list. I think that’s incredibly evolved of me.
Clearly, I’m not known for my navigational skills. I make one tiny error in judgment, and once again we are forced through the gauntlet of airport terminals, past the surly security guard, and back out into the wild blue yonder.
I say to Kelley and Sam, “I’m so sorry. The signage is confusing.”
Kelley says, “Mom, you crossed four lanes of traffic in twenty-five feet only to return to the airport.”
Me, “I thought it was the freeway ramp.”
Sam says, “Oh I’d love another tour of the airport.” I might adopt her.
We descend on Julie, Nic, and the grandbabies for a loud and joyful reunion before heading to Luna’s for dinner. It’s a beautiful evening, but we make it an early one, as we’re all leaving for the lake at the crack of dawn the next morning.
It’s a total cattle call when Larry and I arrive at Nana and Nono’s at approximately 6:50 am, we load the parentals into the truck, along with their bins, coolers, walkers, wine, sand toys, and suitcases. This time we’re expecting the profusion of paraphernalia and have both the patience and space to accommodate.
Larry and I invite the first wave of lake arrivals over for dinner tonight. A small group by comparison but a great way to kick off the holiday weekend.
Dinner is a long and superfluous affair, after which, sipping wine on the patio goes late into the evening. This is lake life and thanks be to God you can sleep in without too much grief.
Larry is usually the first to rise, he likes to read his paper on the patio in silence, before the house starts buzzing.
The grandkids wake up next, a little after 6:00 am, and have been secretly trained to go straight to my room and climb in bed with Grammy.
Truth be told, it’s actually my favorite time of day as the four of us snuggle, giggle, and lounge together while the rest of the house slumbers. At some point, Larry brings me a blessed cup of coffee. I grin as if a Cheshire cat, because life is so decadent, and so often I fail to notice.
We’re celebrating our independence this week. Richelle E. Goodrich says this means to think for yourself. To choose for yourself. To speak for yourself. To act for yourself. To be yourself. And damn, if these human rights aren’t worth defending, what is?
Allowing the people I love to make their own decisions is my definition of independence. It’s not only my lake motto but my motto for life. For example, my son-in-law Nic likes to watch sports and enjoys cooking over just about anything else. I totally get it. I like to sit in my doublewide chair below the air conditioner with a cup of coffee and write. Larry enjoys reading on the patio in between small projects, he keeps a screwdriver handy at all times. Dante is the tech guy who prefers gaming with a cold beer on any given day. Julie, Kelley, and Sam like to hang out down at the beach, under umbrellas, shooting the shit with the neighbors, sipping White Claws, and watching the kids jump off the dock.
The point being, we’re happiest when we’re doing what we love, with the people we love. And this only happens when the two come together.
Parking is an issue at the lake, the road is narrow so street parking is limited, and there’s room for about two and a half cars in our driveway. This week we are trying to accommodate five. It looks like a used car lot out front and as if Audrey did all the parking. As Evan Esar says, “Family: a social unit where the father is concerned with parking space, the children with outer space, and the mother with closet space.” And I might add, Grammy with unoccupied space…keeping it real.
Our meals are planned weeks in advance. We trade off kitchen duties but Nic is our Kitchen Boss. Kelley requested a seafood boil and damn if Nic didn’t deliver! He has this enormous burner and pot that we set up on the beach, which he fills with broth, sausage, clams, muscles, shrimp, crab, corn, mushrooms, and various seasonings. After boiling for the better part of an hour he pours the concoction onto our covered picnic tables and we eat with our hands sopping up the juices with garlic bread.
It’s hard to describe the satisfaction of sitting on the beach, in the early evening, with a cool breeze blowing through the air, cracking crabs, and licking our fingers.
The nice thing about the lake is if I need to gather the family I just turn off the wi-fi and wait in the living room. The alarm is comical. I clap my hands, “I have some important announcements; please do not eat peanuts in the house, put your dishes in the dishwasher, not in the sink, and for the love of God use your bath towel more than once. Oh, and we are out of beer, batteries, and bread. That’s all.”
I love how Jim Butcher describes family, “There’s nothing that makes you more insane than family. Or more happy. Or more exasperated. Or more—secure.” The truth is we have a few introverts and lots of extroverts. I believe the introverts are feeling underrepresented and are preparing to dump 342 ounces of wine in the lake (Boston Tea Party Style). Oh, the revolutions we lose to win, and win to lose.
For as long as I can remember, on the morning of the 4th of July, the community comes together for the annual neighborhood parade. Decorated golf carts, bicycles, scooters, and wagons are welcome to participate as long as they’re decked out in red, white, and blue. Residents line the sidewalks to cheer on the paraders. My sister-in-law, Rachel, passes out mimosas, while the kids run amuck waving flags and showing off their patriotic outfits. It’s absolutely the corniest thing you’ve ever seen, and we love it, especially this year when we were surprised by a light rain (this is California and that is just short of a miracle).
Due to severe drought, our beach is enormous this year, and it tends to be a popular location for all to gather. Cornhole is set up in the shade of the Mulberry tree, there’s a tether ball, and rows of beach chairs, umbrellas, canoes, coolers, paddle boards, and sand toys. People come in waves, some by land, and some by water. Did you see what I did there?
My son Dante has set up an elaborate sound system on the deck with speakers facing the beach so we are entertained from sun up to sun down with a variety of musical genres. On occasion, someone takes the mic and charms us with a little karaoke.
Sometimes I just have to breathe it all in. You know what I mean? I’m talking about the rarity of a moment that is captured only when we take the time to notice. Standing on the deck I observe no less than a dozen cousins and friends floating on rafts, playing games, or taking a spin on the jet ski. Nic is carrying a tray of Kielbasa sliders down to the beach where at least twenty people are lounging in low-slung chairs dangling their feet in the cool water. Larry looks like a deranged waiter with his hair in a headband passing out slushies in styrofoam cups to the adults. The grandchildren seem to be in perpetual motion as Luke Bryan is blasting from the speakers, my heart goes Boom Boom… No words could be truer.
Around 5:00 pm, just as our upper deck is shrouded in shade, Jim and Sue walk over with a tray of espresso martinis and a decadent pizza appetizer. Our evenings are similar to the day, we migrate from patio to patio, resting in the familiar company of each other.
Almost every night there are firework shows hosted by various communities around the lake. You can boat over, anchor, and watch the shows from the water. It’s a fun event for all, although this year the rice flies were bothersome, and the water was unusually rough. But we preserved and continued the tradition.
My daughter’s husband Tim works for ESPN and he has a lot on his plate with drafts, broadcasts, and whatnot. He tells Kelley it’s not possible to get away this year and she’ll have to fly to California on her own for the 4th of July family celebration. So she invited her sister-in-law, Samatha, to join us. We have collectively decided Sam is an absolute delight, smart, witty, and a joy to be around.
And she sticks up for me, I don’t care if it’s spurious, I’m inviting her back every damn year.
Julie decides we need to hit up the Richmond Grill to enjoy some libations and onion rings on their generous deck. After an hour or so Larry announces it’s time for a swim. We pack our crew back in the boat, anchor off of Buckingham, and float in the cool water. When our toes and fingers are completely waterlogged we head back to the house to prep for dinner. As we’re pulling up to the dock we almost capsize, as everyone in the boat is on their feet, and cheering as if groupies. Standing on the beach, live and in-person, is Tim Bontemps! Kelley is beside herself.
It’s pretty cool that he was able to book a last-minute flight, Sam is his younger sister, and they haven’t seen each other for quite some time. But better than that, Kelley and Tim officially closed on their first home this week, and it is fitting they’re together for that monumental announcement.
Families are composed of not only children, but men, women, animals, and the common cold says, George Burns. Of course, I picked up a nasty one on the last day of our vacation. It’s my first cold in several years and it is pure agony. I’m currently under the influence of Vicks and Aleve and I give myself permission to do absolutely nothing. All damn day.
Slowly, our numbers start to dwindle. Dante is the first to leave as he has to report to work on the 5th. Julie and Nic pack up the kids the following day and head home, followed by Tim, then Kelley, and Sam.
The house is inordinately quiet.
I saunter past my husband lounging on the deck holding up five fingers saying, “six isn’t so bad, nice effort Larry.” I’m referring to today’s wordle of course and couldn’t resist the mockery.
Larry says, “it’s my vocabulary, it’s just so large, trips me up every time.”
I say, “it’s your burden to bear honey, mine is a superior humility, oh, and I did not cheat.”
“That’s what Clinton said about Monica.”
“But she had the dress to prove him wrong.”
I get the look.
As I’m preparing the house for our absence, cleaning out the refrigerator, wiping down the bathrooms, and running a vacuum, I play with the memories of family and friends who have gathered this 4th of July to not only celebrate our independence, but our love for each other, and our most cherished traditions. No doubt the stories will be exaggerated over time, but they will also live on in the memories of our children, and grandchildren.
I have always felt lucky to live in the United States of America, the land of the free, the home of the brave. Today, in the 21st century, we find ourselves living in revolutionary times. Yes, the things I worry about have changed as I age, but now I’ll be adding concern over the future of our great country, the slow cessation of our freedoms, fraught with our incurable addiction to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
What do we have to do to preserve the same freedoms we as adults have enjoyed, prospered from, and taken for granted?
Your guess is as good as mine but I believe our notion of liberty lodged in our collective memory will prevail.
So here’s to our Lady, our beacon of hope, our legacy of freedom for the huddled masses just yearning to breathe.
I’m Living in the Gap, guessing wordle, what’s new with you?