Ted Won the Bonus Round

I signed up for a four-hour, half-price whale watching excursion this morning with a Meetup group. I want to make fun of myself for getting ready, even though the fog or marine layer, whatever it is, has squatted like a too-fat-to-move toad, but I can’t find light or funny at the moment.

A dear friend, closer to ninety than to eighty-five, got a vicious flu. He’s finally out of ICU, but it left a residue in his lungs, like the foamy scum and ripped-from-its-roots kelp that wash up on shore. Going home to the life he’s always known, a vibrant mind, independence, full-schedule leading the boards of two charitable organizations, making plans to fly out to see my new place, is in jeopardy.

He’s too unstable to walk across the room. May never see his upstairs bedroom, the one he shared with his wife whose clothes still hang in their closet, though she’s been gone for four years. But don’t imagine him mired in grief. He’s got a quick mind, loves people, loves to go out to dinner, laugh, tease and enjoy life. Going home to her things must ground him somehow. He had to let go of her, but didn’t have to let everything she was and did perish. In the privacy of his bedroom, he must still feel her close.

Before the paramedics whisked him to the hospital he’d fallen three times. Hit his head. Left his balance on the bathroom floor. My mother fell three times before she got pneumonia and became too tired to fight back. She was ninety-six and until then, also an on-the-go wonder. This uncertainty of sudden shifts is everywhere, every day. Sunrise and sunset.

I realize for even the most bonded couple one may pass before the other, and someone will be left behind, so I don’t feel isolated or unlucky because I live alone. I know my friend won the bonus round, rounding the bend towards eighty-five with the love of his live, and towards ninety years healthy and active.

The fog outside is receding, melting as it spills over the unseen horizon. I can see the roofs of homes and buildings below now. I’m grateful for the reality check this morning. I hope to win the bonus round and when it’s time to move beyond the horizon that we all know will come one day, I hope to be grateful it waited so long and not fight my sons if they want me to live in a supervised, safer environment. My friend is fighting hard for his freedom. So maybe that’s the key, not seeing the possible pitfalls, not giving up or giving in. I don’t know how to comfort him without lying, saying everything will be fine, so I make jokes. He just wants to go home. Doesn’t want anyone to pack up his past or move a thing.

I already did that. Packed up the photos, keepsakes and memories of my childhood and my children’s when I moved to California and into my tiny apartment four months ago. My sons’ and grandkids’ handprints in plaster, pictures I’d chronicled through those years would have only been boxed and stored away. Instead, I distributed them, to them. I thought it would be sad, but it wasn’t. Remembering my boy’s toothless lisps when they were eight made us all laugh. It was time in my life to give them the mementos to share with their children, who pointed and laughed mercilessly, by the way, until they turned a few pages and there they were. I laughed when they went, “Ewwww!”

Today? I’m strong, healthy, can still skip, jog, spin on the dance floor, be independent, sassy, bold, happy and excited about meeting the group for the sail this morning. If the fog doesn’t lift, we’ll probably check out Sea Port Village or Old Town. We always visit and enjoy ourselves. I’ll close this, find the website, and sign up for whatever intrigues me in the coming month. Wasting precious moments is nuts.

Honest. I’m not exaggerating or looking for a cool way to end this conversation, I’m in awe of the way the ocean atmosphere works. Two paragraphs ago fog clung to the shoreline. Suddenly, as though it dissolved in an instant, I can see the horizon.

I called my friend, told him I loved him. We laughed about the antics of my girlfriend’s cat, Happy, that he takes care of when she and I travel. We both laughed yet again when we talked about Happy‘s narrow escape from the pack of raccoons that got through the cat door, trashed his litter box, ate his food, and terrorized them both. I told him I’d send a few photos of that crazy critter to his phone. He’d been telling the nurses stories and wanted to show them.

I’m off to pack my binoculars, a light lunch, and head out to sea in the sun. Grateful. Lucky. Looking forward to an awesome day. It’s like that, I think. Life washes onto and recedes from the shoreline in its own rhythm and reaction to the moon’s path, the winds and those times the earth quakes. In the meantime, let’s not miss a moment trying to figure it all out or fearing it.

That’s the key, isn’t it? Enjoying each moment along the way.


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