I weep at the sight of the casket. Friends and family pass by his body. Memories spoken. Words rip painfully into my chest. His bright smile, belly deep laugh, compassion for life. The glue of his family. A young life cut short by one last heroic feat. Six best friends, white gloved, gently lift the casket. I selfishly grieve as if it were my child, Admonishing myself. Another mother lost her child. Forever. Six young men buried their best friend. And then it occurs to me. My son lost a best friend. He would have been there, had he not taken a different direction.
2019 wasn’t meant to be a winning year for NaNoWriMo. I signed up this year for one purpose – distraction. I didn’t want to face the fact that my writing mentor-neighbor-friend would die before Thanksgiving. She questioned my decision to sign up for this challenge, insisting that I was avoiding the publication of my memoir, the memoir that she had finished editing a couple of months ago. “Just publish the damn thing,” she said about the 9th of November. Instead, I went home and added more than 2400 words to the NaNoWriMo project.
Things turned for the worst the next day. My friend began to fail. Suddenly bedridden, she looked out her window at the autumn leaves. “Do you remember the story ‘The Last Leaf’ by O. Henry?” She asked. When I admitted I had no recollection, she offered a brief synopsis. I followed the gaze of her eyes to see only a handful of leaves on the branch outside her window and asked if she was watching for the last leaf to fall. She smiled and closed her eyes.
The next few visits were painfully silent as that one last leaf swayed in the wind. On the 21st day of November the final leaf drifted slowly to the earth as my friend took her last breath.
My takeaway here is not about not finishing the novel. It’s about making the right choices for each moment. Time is precious and I was blessed with the time to sit at my friend’s bedside during those final days. Sad as it is, she died with peace, grace and dignity – just the way she lived her life.
Advent Day 14 – Hospitality – My friends present the perfect picture of hospitality.
The Labor Day weekend drive on Highway 80 is tedious to the point of absolute boredom. No not boredom. Frustration. These ladies do not get bored. No matter what. But opportunity strikes in the middle of one of many traffic stalls. The phone rings. I see the number pop up. (983) 147-6055. “Shhhh ladies. We are going to have some fun with this one.” I turn on the speaker phone. (warning – this gets a bit nasty)
The scammer speaks. “Hello ma’am. I’m calling from windows. There is a problem with your computer.”
“Oh no, what can I do? Can you help me?”
My passengers roll their eyes as he responds, “Yes I help you. Are you at your computer ma’am?”
“Oh yes, please what shall I do,” I ask.
“Bring up your internet browser,” he says.
“How do I do that?” I ask.
“Oh my God. Click on the little ball in the lower corner of your screen.”
“Did you say ball? I don’t see any balls.”
“There’s a little ball. It looks like an E.”
“Oh that one. Thank you so much for helping me. I did it.”
My passengers are holding back the snickers now. Our scammer comes back on the line. “See the box on top of the screen. The one where your cursor is located.”
I resisted the urge to ask him what a cursor might be. “Hmmm let me look. I don’t see it. Oh wait. There it is.”
Jeanette can’t hold in the laughter. I look at her with consternation. “Shhh.”
Scammer comes back on. “Oh my god. Just type in the bar. http://www.”
“Where’s the w?” I ask.
“OMG. under the number 2.”
“Oh I see it now. Okay w w w.” More stifled laughter in the back seat. I look in the rear view mirror, a warning look.
“Dot,” he says.
“Dot? What do you mean dot? D-O-T?” I chide back at him.
“OMG. Dot. Period. The key with the dot. One dot.”
“Okay, can we start over?” I ask. Carol and Pat are bent over in laughter.
“We will try this slowly w – w – w – dot – support…..” he begins slowly.
“Wait,” I interrupt. “S U P… how do you spell support?”
“OMG S U P P O R T. Then type slash me dot com.”
Jeanette lets out a yelping laugh. “Shhhhh.” I give her another warning look.
“Okay, I think I have it,” I say holding back the laughter.
“What do you see?” he asks.
“Nothing. The screen is black.”
“Wait a minute. Now what do you see? I need you to click on …”
I can’t understand what he is saying but traffic has now begun to move and I must end this distraction. “My screen. It is black. You killed my computer. It’s dead.”
“Oh. My. God. Wait a minute.” We listen to some foreign whispers as he consults his fellow scammers. “The screen. Is it really black?” He sounds worried. I expect him to say he can fix it.
“Yes, I yell back. You killed it.” We can’t hold it in anymore. We all burst out in laughter.
“You f***ed with me. Go shove it up your P****.” He hangs up.
A few minutes later at lunch we are roaring in laughter. The phone rings again. It’s him. “Hey you already told me to shove my computer. It didn’t fit.” (Okay… I really didn’t say that. Didn’t think of it in time.)
When JJ heard that grandma was going to Kauai again there was a tense moment of rebellion. “Why can’t I ever go with you?” he asked. Funny, children never remember when they have accompanied you on trips. I gently reminded him of our trip across country to Virginia to see Uncle Don and Aunt Bonnie. I pointed to the scrapbook from our Alaskan cruise. “But I’ve always wanted to go to Hawaii,” he says, arms crossed. I assured him that his day would come.
Plans changed a bit. One of our friends couldn’t go and our hostess offered JJ the spot. Who could say no? We bought the tickets. And plans changed again. This time our friend said she worked it out and could now come on the trip. A bit of trepidation ensued when JJ found out he’d now be traveling with three grandmas. Eight days is a lot of time for a thirteen-year-old to hang with three old ladies.
We managed to pull it off. JJ got his own room high up in the loft. We got the run of downstairs. We wore him out each day – shopping, snorkeling, shopping, eating, shopping, snorkeling, traveling around the island, shopping, snorkeling, eating. We’d end the day with an hour in the swimming pool. JJ escaped to the loft for refuge and slept nearly ten hours each night. We are tough old ladies.
The biggest challenge was catering to his dietary whims – for the most part. He had a brief change of heart about diet once we sent him 1/2 mile up the street to Taco Bell for breakfast on a hot, humid morning and he returned with two cheeseburgers from Burger King because Taco Bell doesn’t open until 11am. Our explanation of Hawaiian time fell on deaf ears. Bubba Burger was 1/2 mile the other direction and that became the favorite fast food of choice. Next time he may eat what we eat. For the month of July he has agreed to thirty-one days of no fast food. We shall see.
Snorkeling was the highlight. With rented gear JJ had a quick snorkeling lesson in the pool and we were off to the beaches. First up was Lydgate Beach Park, an area with two enclosed ponds, perfect for beginners. For a kid who only had one two week swim lesson session in his entire life, JJ surprised us with his ability to outswim any of us. Snorkeling is now his favorite sport.
We moved on to Poipu where we returned three times. It was the best – except for one day – the day we crossed the sandbar to the adventurous side of the beach. Maybe a little too exhausted and heading back to shore, a huge wave plunged us over to the rocky area. A little banged up, JJ missing one fin and the snorkel gear, we bumped and scooted our way to shore, a big lesson to be learned. An expensive lesson.
Moala’a Bay was the favorite beach. I promised my friend I wouldn’t advertise this one. It’s mostly private, not so easy to get to, but the most beautiful beach we visited. While it was lovely to bask in the sun there, on this particular day, it was too risky to snorkel. We tried to follow the channel out to the reefs but wind and waves warned us not to proceed. Don’t go there 🙂
Did I mention we went shopping? I tried my best to fill up that extra thirteen pounds of space in my suitcase but bottom line, I added only five pounds to the suitcase, five pounds to my body and a weighted fistful of charge slips. Of course we absolutely needed everything we purchased. JJ caught on to the math quickly – one gift for grandpa – two gifts for us – one gift for daddy – two gifts for us – one gift for mommy – two gifts for us.
While it was the adventure of a lifetime for JJ, I think he is happy to be home cuddled up with his nameless cat. JJ survived eight days of three grandmas and questions their ability to agree on anything. We three old ladies survived the teenager the only way we knew how: