How I spent my vacation this summer
OK, technically, I don't have summer vacations anymore because I not only do not go to school, but I also no longer work — which means my whole life is sort of a summer vacation.
Still, I have a tendency to think about things this way, even though I'm retired, so I spent this morning pondering the things that happened to me this summer.
Or maybe I should say the things that didn't happen. For a number of largely negative reasons — including world instability, cancer, forest fires and personal illness — we chose to put off several things that probably would have been great fun but, well, we'll just have to wait and see.
For example, we talked for a long time about taking a trip to Europe to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary, which actually happened in the middle of May. But the other person who lives at our house (who happens to be the very same person who agreed to marry me half a century ago) was too nervous about traveling across the ocean when the world is in such turmoil, and we knew we would probably have to spend all of our time explaining to foreigners how our country could have elected a president with no knowledge, understanding, personality or common sense.
So we didn't do that.
One of the highlights of our summer was the Wednesday walks we take with a few good friends. Trouble is, it was on one of these walks — at the Tualatin Wildlife Refuge earlier this summer — that my old friend Martin told a bunch of us that he has cancer of the esophagus. Boy, that was not a fun day. And of course, as the summer has gone on, Martin (who has had way more bad days this year than I have) has had to give us periodic updates on things like chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and so on.
Also early this summer, another old friend of mine, Randy Clark, died of cancer, which I did write about in this space back when it was fresher news. Randy's husband Steve (another old friend) asked me to speak at her memorial service, which was kind of hard, especially for somebody like me who doesn't relish speaking to big groups of people — but I got through it and was glad to do it. These are the things, I've been told, that build character.
My brother Bob and his wife Terri celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary and invited us, and my other brother Pat (plus his wife Drucie) and his oldest friend Earl, to come down to his place way up in the hills outside Cheshire, Ore., for a special weekend of eating, drinking and storytelling. I need to point out that even though my brothers and I are not especially close, as soon as the joke-telling and song-singing begin, we're one big happy family.
We saw a total eclipse of the sun. Like so many of our other decisions this summer, we did not throw everything in the car and head for either the coast (where we grew up) or for central Oregon (where we knew the sun was much more likely to be visible but crowds would be unbearable). Instead, we went over the hill to Northeast Portland to be with friends. They fed us like kings and even provided eclipse glasses, and the fact that we saw a 99.6-percent eclipse with almost no effort or inconvenience thrilled us to death.
Another plan to go camping to the Metolius River near Black Butte never happened because we were led to believe that forest fires in the area would have made it less than fun. We have similar concerns about plans to go to Diamond Lake later this month, after seeing photos of a fire between Mount Thielsen and Crater Lake. We know we'll be in the Medford-Ashland area toward the end of the month to see a couple of plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, so we hope the camping part of the plan works out. I also hope the smoke that has plagued those southern Oregon folks for weeks lets up a bit.
We spent the long Labor Day weekend 25 miles up the Alsea River from the beach, hoping to get some relief from the smoke that has covered the entire state for weeks now — and the heat that didn't seem to go away for more than a day or two. Between trips to the river for cooling dips, we ate chili, ribs, taco salad, shrimp, chili dogs and other great things we washed down with lemon drops, martinis, margaritas, Crown Royal and beer.
As I write this, huge sections of Texas are still trying to recover from Hurricane Harvey — while Florida is bracing for the arrival of Hurricane Irma. The other person who lives at our house and I lived in Memphis and Florida all through the late 1960s, and we don't envy those poor people one bit.
Compared to what they are going through, we've had one wonderful summer. That's our story, and we're sticking to it.
Mikel Kelly retired from the world of community newspapers almost two years ago now. He STILL watches the morning traffic reports, with their delays on the bridges, the Banfield and the Terwilliger curves, and laughs so hard that sometimes coffee shoots out his nose.