OK, this will be a quick one. Last weekend was spent in San Luis Obispo visiting my wonderful friend Marion. She was down from the Seattle area to visit her mother, who lives in the Central Coast area. I love seeing this girl. She is not only a good friend, but a good human being, and she makes me feel better about life and the human condition just being around her. She would modestly disagree, but I can say for certain that I've never been as nice as her on my best day. And it's not every day that you get to hang out with a friend that your husband is equally comfortable hanging out with. She is a treasure.
She is struggling with what many of us struggle with at our age - aging parents, and the accompanying worry. Her mother has developed some cognitive losses, and hasn't been herself for about 6 months. She is hoping that it's all due to a medication change, but should find out soon if that's the case. Her mother has never been one to sit around - she has been a painter, a supporter of the arts, an avid reader, and joiner of social groups. It's been hard to see her decline to the point where she just watches daytime TV, so Marion's mission for the next couple of weeks is to get to the bottom of it. If all else fails, she will pack her mother up and take her up to Washington with her for the next year until she retires. At which point she will move back down to San Luis Obispo. Closer to me - yay!
I could see that all of this was a daunting task, yet she was handling it all with such grace, and with sense of humor intact. Note to self: take a lesson. I'm lucky - my parents are in relatively good health (haha - well, other than my dad's cancer and dance with chemotherapy over the past year). They are of sound mind, and able to do for themselves. I give them a little help, and I'm ashamed to say that even that little bit is sometimes... not what I'm in the mood for, and I get disappointed in myself. My aunt is more needy, and sometimes her needs make me very tired. I'll see improvement, and then she'll take two steps backwards. It's gratifying to be able to offer help, but so disheartening on the backwards slide. I'm trying to make a difference - and I think I am - but I'm beginning to think the reward is in the effort, and not in a final result that I have no real control over.
But life is given to us in order that we might learn and grow. And my service muscle is not my strongest one, so I'm having experience after experience, between my aunt, my parents, my friends, where I have the chance to flex that muscle and make it stronger. Until I love the exercise. I don't always love it (yet), but I'm appreciating the opportunities more.
So L, Marion, and I strolled the streets of San Luis Obispo on a balmy Saturday night. We went into the shops that were open. We had a wonderful Italian dinner al fresco, while tiny white lights twinkled around the patio, and the creek babbled by below us. Marion bought her mother some licorice in a candy store (she apparently has quite a sweet tooth) and then we all sat and enjoyed some frozen yogurt before calling it a night.
The next morning, I was up and getting ready to meet Marion for breakfast. L had (wisely) opted to stay back at the hotel, to give us some time to catch up. He's not a fan of breakfast anyway. I'd never ever been to the famous Madonna Inn (the place every honeymoon was made of back in the 60s and 70s) and so that's where we went. As we walked in, we were visually assaulted by frothy pink and golden gilt. Everywhere. On everything. It was, as Marion aptly put it, a pink bordello. But pink bordellos are great fun at 9:30am, and so we explored every nook and cranny of the place while waiting 30 minutes for our table. I still haven't seen the world famous rooms (some complete with grottos and waterfalls), and because L wasn't with us, I missed the chance to see the men's restoom, where the urinals are a rock wall fountain that starts flowing when anyone walks in. Awesome. No surprise that the family who founded and built it came from Las Vegas.
Our visit was too soon over, and it was back to reality. For Marion, that meant back to her mom. For us, it meant a 4 hour drive home. It was actually more as we encountered a hillside fire sparked by a car fire just moments before we'd reached it. DRAMA. TRAFFIC.
And then yesterday I received a text message from another old friend I haven't seen in over 20 years. Apparently, August is Reunion Month! She and another friend are driving from Utah to California, where we'll have a reunion of sorts with a lot of OTHER old friends on Thursday night. That sounded fun enough, but then she said if I could meet them in Vegas, we could have a couple of nights at her condo there before driving the rest of the way to California. Now, if you know me well, you would know that I am almost never spontaneous like that. I like my safe routines, and don't much like straying from my comfort zone. But over the years I've missed some fun opportunities and memory making experiences because I was afraid to stretch a bit. Yes, afraid. Of what, I don't know, but I'm tired of it. So I remembered a Jet Blue voucher I hadn't used yet, and Sunday night I'm on my way to Las Vegas to spend two nights with 2 of the craziest friends I've ever known. Does it paint a picture to say that one of them was always known as Nasty Nancy? She's nuts. Oh, the evenings we used to spend at her home in Diamond Bar sitting in the spa after dinner on our badly needed girls nights out. I won't even get started on the New Years Eve parties...
We've all had our ups and downs, our tragedies and triumphs, and life slapping us around. It will be so great to catch up. I expect there will be a lot of laughter, and probably as many tears. That's the great thing about old friends. They've known you since before you ever thought to put any kind of positive spin on yourself, and they know where the bodies are buried. They've seen me pregnant and hormonally crazy, and they've made me laugh through anything and everything. They were the ones who coined the phrase "BooHoo Sunday" (for all my Mormon friends out there - that's the 1st Sunday of the month. Think about it...) Now, I DO have a couple of newer friends who have helped me deal with some hard issues or who have related to being menopause-crazed, but those friends are also a rare breed of cat.
I guess my point is that good friends are always a treasure. Whether you see them often, or only once in a while, the friendships are golden. And if you get the chance to reconnect after 20 years, even better. I almost let the Vegas visit slip by, thinking I'd just take it easy and see everyone next Thursday. The visit there will almost certainly involve eating too much junk, and sleeping too little. These are not girls who use the words "healthy choices" very often. But I have my own will, and can do the best I can. I'm proud of myself that I seized the day, instead of opting for merely comfort. And I will come back with 20 years of stories and laughs, and yes - some tears. I just hope I can put it all into words.