Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dinosaur Bones Come In All Sizes

Most days I can barely remember what I wore to work the day before, or if I’ve turned off my closet light.  I do sometimes wonder if I’m wearing the same outfit three days in a row to work, but I don’t worry about the closet light because Dean always reminds me if I’ve left it on.  That’s okay though, because I watch out for him too.  I just don’t always remind him when he’s left the stove burner on, or forgotten to close the garage door at night or left the radio on when Shadow wasn’t even home or … gosh, there are so many things.  

I admit it, every now and then I do forget insignificant details, but I almost always remember “what I was doing when … ”  I’m sure I’m not the only person who regularly says “last week at this time I was …”, “last month at this time I was …”, “last year at this time I was...”   I don’t know why, but I love remembering what I was doing this time last whenever.  It almost always makes me feel happy and excited.  And it’s even more fun to remind my family and friends what I was doing this time last whenever.  Although I suspect there’s a chance that, on very rare occasions, it may annoy them.  “Hey, guess where I was last year at this time?  Manta!  For your wedding!!  Remember?!” 

Lots of people do this.  Don’t they?  I’m not the only one … am I?  

Saturday morning when I woke up and saw the hall thermostat reading 59 degrees, and a mountain that had changed from a green/gold mix to white, I thought to myself, “last year at this time I was on my way to the Amazon.  Where it was hot.”  I walked into the kitchen to see Dean sitting at the table wrapped in a blanket, fleece hat on his head, reading the morning paper and looking pitiful.  I did not ask him if HE remembered where he was a year ago although maybe if I would have, the memory of the heat and sweat might have “warmed” him up and I could have put off turning the heat a while longer.  

I’m not sure why I regularly remember and think back to a year ago or a month ago or a week ago.  Maybe sometimes it’s because what I was doing in that past moment was so much fun that I want to relive it.  Maybe it’s because I know I may never get the chance to experience whatever it is I am remembering again and I don’t want to forget it.  Or maybe I’m just getting old and sappy. 

I was remembering one of those moments in time a couple of weekends ago when we went to see some long-time friends.  They will be moving to Arizona soon and that will put an end to anymore weekend visits.  The opportunity for a last-minute “will you be home this weekend for some company?” will not be possible.  An opportunity I realize now we did not take advantage of nearly enough.  So before they moved, we went to see them to have a last weekend together in the town where we met; the place we were surrogate parents to each others children and our children became “siblings.”  In the more than 20 years we have known each other we’ve shared dinners and conversation and friendship and laughter.  We've camped and canoed and hiked and celebrated the accomplishments of each other as well as our children.  And when the cruelties of life intruded, we’ve leaned upon each other for support through heartrending times.   So before they left, we we hiked a trail we had hiked together 11 years ago, one more time.

The day we hiked wasn’t exactly the same time of year but close enough that I thought to myself, “about this time 11 years ago I was hiking this same trail.”   I had a lot of time to think and remember as we hiked single file through a canyon  ...

... or as I lagged behind to snap photos of the beauty. 

I remembered the color of the rocks but I’m pretty sure my knees weren’t trembling 11 years ago like they were when I scrambled over them this time.  I don’t remember any shaking limbs anyway.  And I didn’t remember having to slide down steep inclines on my butt all those years ago because I was worried about my brittle and aging bones.  On this hike my creaky old body was much more fearful than the fearless body it had been 11 years ago.

 If I ever hike this trail again I’ll have added a new memory of soggy feet to because my fearful body said, “Give up, Cathy.   Stop trying to step onto those slippery rocks just so you can get across the water without getting your feet wet or eventually you’re going to slip and end up a soaking wet, whimpering old lady with a broken arm or ankle.  Just slosh through it, old woman.”  Which I did. 

As I was hiking this same trail I had hiked “about this same time 11 years ago” with my friends, I remembered the first time we had been on this trail.  The rocks and the vegetation and the streams were the same – but different.  The trail was the same – but different.  We were the same – but different.  Life had intervened.  And as much as I wished I could make this new hike just like my memory of the first one that was impossible.  Eleven years ago there was another amazing friend hiking this trail with us.  She and her family were part of the “surrogate family” of six adults and seven children.  But she was not hiking with us this time because about year and a half after that first hike she died unexpectedly.

I thought about her as I climbed over boulders.  As we ate lunch at the river.

As we took photos of each other.   I miss her.  I miss her advice.  I miss her level-headedness.  I wish I could talk to her in person, not just in my dreams.  But she was “with” me in my heart and my memories as I hiked. I know I wasn’t the only one who was thinking about her as we laughed and joked and groaned about our 11-year older bodies.  So this hike was the same – but different.

And now I have new memories ...

... to add to the old.

We will visit our friends in their new home in Arizona.  And we’ll hike together and share conversation and dinner and swap stories.  And who knows, maybe six months or a year from now I’ll be remembering that “this time last year I got to take a ride in an ambulance because apparently I don’t hike well in 120 degree Arizona heat.”  I’m pretty sure that’s a memory I won’t want to try to recreate.



Abby said...

I miss my surrogate family.

Leslie said...

Me too, I miss Theresa telling me what to do because she always said it was all of your jobs to mother us all... and you made me cry!

Melissa said...

Thank you for sharing such beautiful memories. I miss my surrogate family as well and I think if you all often, especially now that we are back to this part of the country. Maybe it's time for a family reunion...