Tag Archives: family

Last Thoughts Before Sleep

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 6.29.22 AMMy last thought before sleeping: we are all under the same roof, and when did that last happen?

When did my adult children, my husband and I last prepare for bed in synchrony: changing into bed clothes, brushing teeth, settling beneath sheets?

In the void beneath my eyelids I transport myself many miles north, to years long gone. I imagine my body spinning so that my head points south, as it did in the bed of my youth. Through grainy gray mist, my old room drifts into focus: the octagonal pillars of my great great great grandfather’s bed (how it creaked when I crawled into it); the oval mirror of my dresser on the opposite wall (the first thing I saw upon rising was myself); the lighted mirror on the dressing table (where I separated my tarantula-like lashes with a safety pin); the folding doors of my closet (always popping open, like sharp elbows); the switch plate painted olive (from my blue and green phase). My door connects to the basement recreation room, and beyond it, at the foot of the stairs, my brother’s room, where he sleeps.

Cool air touches my face — always cool, smelling subtly of loam and rain and salt. The heater announces itself with an explosive huff, indignant at being held back for so long, determined to set things right, to restore equilibrium, to defend its charges, to breathe warmth back into the chilling house. When it is satisfied, the duct tick-tick-ticks in satisfaction.

My father shifts in the bed above mine; his snoring a deep, stentorian rumbling; my mother’s, a higher pitched rant. Suddenly he is silent. He is awake, thinking, perhaps, that his children sleep under the same roof, and when had that last happened?

My children — old enough, now, to have children of their own — sleep on. My husband’s breath has relaxed into the soft, slow rhythm I know so well after almost 35 years of marriage. These three, who I love beyond measure (beyond life, beyond time) have given themselves to dreaming. This moment is my blanket, my pillow. Their rest is my rest. I am at peace. And when did that last happen?

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On Waiting

Mom as mother-of-the-bride

When I married, I knew I would never again live in Western Washington. Although I would return to visit my parents, the pleasures I took for granted would no longer be mine by right of residency. The thrill of accelerating up a steep road bracketed by thick stands of Doug Firs, glancing into the thick underbrush for signs of ripe red huckleberries on clear cut stumps or small animals making their way on padded moss floors. The contentment of walking along an isolated rocky shoreline, examining shells with a mental dichotomous key – one valve or two? – while overhead seagulls wheeled and screamed their victory cries. The rhythmic symphony of rain outside my bedroom window: the soprano tick-tick-ticking of droplets hitting the concrete sidewalk accompanied by baritone beats from the downspout and occasional bursts as pooled water slid through the slats of the upstairs deck.

When I returned to my family home in Tacoma in the early years of my marriage, I took mental inventory even before I got out of the rental car. Was it the same? Sometimes I could tell Mom had been out dead-heading the rhodies, noting a tidy pile next to the giant that reached to the gutter. Or I could see her handiwork in newly planted annuals in the front flower bed along with evidence of a futile attempt to sweep up the loose dirt that had spilled onto the concrete.

Anticipating my return, the front door would be unlocked, so I’d enter and set my suitcase down on the green slate entry floor. Did it shine, as it did when one of my chores was polishing it? Before Mom developed dementia, you could count on seeing an arrangement of fresh flowers – whatever was in season in the yard — placed on the drop leaf mahogany table in the entryway.

By then, Mom would have noticed my arrival. She would push the kitchen pocket door open, shoo the dog from underfoot and approach me. Her warm smile and twinkling eyes felt like an embrace from six feet away. What did she say? “Welcome home, honey,” I think. Did she call me honey? Or was it dear? Or just Betz? (It was rarely “Betsy.” She said she really meant to call me Betz but didn’t have the gumption to spell it that way.)

What I remember most, however, was not the visual details. It was the feeling.

I had the feeling that old 8601, my parents’ home, waited for me. Mom, Dad, the house and the dog (Meg, the Brittany Spaniel, in later years) all waited for me. The deadheading of the rhodies, the planting of the annuals, the fresh flowers in the hallway: they felt like preparations for my arrival. I don’t think I’m being egotistical here. I knew that I was important to my parents, and they waited in expectation on the afternoon when I arrived.

Something in me waited, too. When I met my husband a couple of years after graduating from college, I said to myself, “This guy is not going to leave Sacramento. If you get serious about him, Sacramento will be where you live.”

Hot and flat. Those were my two initial impressions of the Central Valley town. From the air, the valley floor looked like a crazy quilt of browns and greens, embroidered by curving ridges that partitioned flooded rice fields. After the lush tall forests of the Northwest, the ground looked bald. Colorful but bald. During the first summer of our marriage, Sacramento experienced 45 days over 100 degrees. Or as locals like to say, temps “in the triple digits.” It left me speechless. I didn’t even have a vocabulary for that kind of extreme heat. When I climbed into my VW rabbit, with its cloth and vinyl seats, it had to be over 200 degrees.

For many years – 10? 15? – I still felt like a foster child of Sacramento’s capitol. By then, I was a mother twice over, my career was established and I had a large network of friends and colleagues. When would it really feel like home?

Something in me had waited for that moment when I would arrive at 8601 43rd Street West. I inhaled, my lungs filling with crisp air cooled by the inland sea, smelling slightly of salt, earth and vegetation. Moisture penetrated my skin, plumping it after the desiccating dryness of California. I smiled, imagining the regeneration of the webbing between my fingers and toes – a Northwesterner’s inside joke.

My parents, the house, the area — all seemed to wait for me. But a part of me had been in suspended animation, too. I had been waiting.

Sometime in the past 15 years, Sacramento (finally) started feeling like the place I belonged. Maybe it happened after the death of my mother in 1999. Or perhaps it was after my father moved to be with me in his late 80s.

I thought about all this two weeks ago, as I waited for the arrival of my son from college. He had spent a couple of weeks tooling around Washington after graduating. I sped toward Sacramento from Santa Cruz, intending to arrive before he did. I wanted to be waiting.

During the two-and-a-half hour drive, I realized what a privilege it was to wait, and to be waited for. Perhaps my parents did not put their lives in abeyance when I visited, but it felt like they did. I felt cherished.

With both of my adult children now living in Sacramento, I doubt they have this feeling. Our lives are busy, bustling here and there. I’ve got stuff to do, and they know it. My world doesn’t screech to a halt when they’re around.

I cherish them, nonetheless. I should wait more often.

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How Dad Survived

Dad holding Midge's hand 1953

Dad holding Midge’s hand 1953

I have often wondered how my father survived a dysfunctional family, the horrors of the war, the loss of his nearly four-year-old daughter to leukemia, the sudden end of his career for medical reasons, and finally the loss of his wife after 58 years of marriage. Any one of those experiences would have damaged most people.

But Dad wasn’t most people. Perhaps my vision is clouded as his youngest, his only surviving daughter and, for seven years, his caregiver. Maybe the magnetic attraction I feel to ponder his bigger-than-life story is a father-daughter thing. Whatever it is, I’ll take it. Dad has been gone for 14 months and I still learn from him every day.

I was there when Mom died, at the moment her heart finally gave out at the end of a three-and-a-half month struggle with late stage lung cancer. He was steadfast at her bedside, holding and stroking her hand, looking in to her eyes and telling her he loved her and would see her again. She died connected to him.

In the hours and days after that loss, Dad felt that severance as an open wound. He did not know how he would survive it. We all knew the survival statistics for men who suffer the loss of a life-long mate.

As he reflected out loud about their life together, he asked, “How can I live without her?” Over time, within weeks, that rhetorical question subtly changed. It became, “How can I live without her?” And then, “How will I live without her?”

In his questions are clues to Dad’s survival strategy.

With the first question, he assessed brutal reality. Can I survive this? Do I want to? Can I imagine life without Eileen?

Slowly, the “how” came into his inner dialogue. Dad the planner began to emerge. He began to focus on what lay ahead even if it was as simple as assembling the groceries for the four meals he said he knew how to make. He was a realist, and not an escapist. He began to imagine making it, in a world without Mom, day by day. His image of himself was eminently practical: a guy who would rise around seven, make coffee, feed the dog, read the paper, prepare some oatmeal, do some chores, go for a walk, have lunch, take a nap, read a book, make dinner and retire at ten after a few TV shows. Thrown in there somewhere was the endless maintenance of his collection of hunting guns, and perhaps a few calls to line up skeet shooting or fishing junkets with one of his sons or his friend, Bob.

After the massive heart attack that forced his retirement from the Marine Corps, I imagine that Dad’s view of his future self changed radically. He was in his mid-40s, a guy being watched for higher command, a Colonel with all the right prior postings. That guiding occupational dream drove him.

After finding himself out on the curb, his motivation changed. Everything, everything in him aimed at the seemingly insurmountable task of recreating a professional career that could support his wife and four children, none of whom had yet completed college.

“Be clear about your objective” was more than a military tenet. To Dad, it was a commandment. After keeping a roof over our heads and food on the table, his number one goal to secure our education.

Pursuing his objective left little time for leisure. What time he had went to connecting with the outdoors, a source of succor throughout his life. Wading the banks of a promising trout stream or crunching through the stubble of a shorn, frozen wheat field in search of pheasants was his idea of a vacation. Whenever possible, he would share that transporting experience with his children.

Although his dream had been sacrificed, Dad never expressed bitterness. Mom wasn’t above assuming a little high dudgeon about what would have happened if Dad had been able to continue his career, but her comments were never a complaint or rebuke. Dad could easily have looked at his abrupt departure from the Marines as a failure, but I never sensed such a deflation in his self-esteem. A door closed, another had to open. Had to, to educate his children. His sense of self worth was tied up in taking care of us, not stroking his own ego.

A recent Scientific American Mind article described the work of psychologist Shalom H. Schwartz of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which sought to identify universal values that might guide one’s life. Constructing them as a compass:

At the north is a universalistic orientation, which includes tolerance… and self-directed thought. To the east are hedonism… and personal achievement in the eyes of others…..Moving southeast, one can find dominance…. To the south is a believe in the importance of security and safety…., and to the west are humility and caring….  

A related study by Ravenna M. Helson, Ph.D., of UC Berkeley divided women into four groups over the course of their lives: seekers, conservers, achievers and “depleteds.” “Conservers valued tradition, family, security and hard work (the south of the compass). The achievers wanted both personal growth and the ability to excel at what they did (covering an area along Schwartz’s compass from the north to the east),” Scientific American Mind reported.

Those who identified as “conservers” were the most content.

Dad knew who he was, even as he worked through jarring crises. He knew what he wanted, even as his goals changed. He did not waste time longing for things outside of his practical reach. And he knew what he wanted to leave behind.

He never talked about his legacy, but if he had, it would have been for the four of us to have satisfying lives with children or people we love, acting with integrity and ready make a difference – however small – in the lives of those around us. Nothing grandiose. Nothing impractical. Just an immutable sense of self in service to others.

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A Quiet Kind of Influence

Betsy Campbell eyes 1975

When I was an adolescent, I made some very unfortunate makeup choices. One of my first signature looks was an alarmingly bright turquoise cream eyeshadow that I slathered on both eyelids. I thought it set off my blue eyes. With that metallic green-blue glowing from my lash line to my brow bone, I now understand that no one could have noticed my grey-blue irises. By high school, I had exchanged the eyeshadow for mascara.

My eyelashes, bent like hockey sticks by my eyelash curler, waved upward like hairy tarantula legs. In my mind, they said “ingenue.” To the rest of the world, they said, “mascara fetishist.”

When I sat at our dinner table facing the bay window, the bright chandelier turned the darkened view into a mirror. I was a great admirer of my reflection.

A little smile would come across my father’s face and he would say, “How is Ysteb tonight?”

Most memoirs and many novels have at their root an author who is coming to terms with her dysfunctional upbringing. Underlying their narrative is a turbulent upbringing that haunted them into adulthood with substance abuse issues and shattered relationships.

When I write about my father, I feel as if I am beachcombing. I walk slowly along the sandy beach, crossing miles of uniform sand granules, until I stumble across a fragment. If I walked more quickly, I’d miss it – something shimmering there in its beauty. But having seen it, I pick it up, hold it in my palm, turn it over.

I think now of all of the things my father could have said to me when I was trying on my young womanhood. He could have said, “What the hell are you thinking? Go wash your face!” Or, “No daughter of mine is going out like that.” Or, “I suppose you think that looks good?”

But he didn’t. Deadpan, he would wryly invoke my name spelled backwards, “How is Ysteb tonight?” Hearing that didn’t feel like a rebuke or even a criticism. I took it as, “Come back to the table, please. You’re not the only one in the room.” It felt like an act of love, even if there was a tease thrown in for good measure. I got the message.

I remember few rules from my youth. I wasn’t harangued to make my bed, come home at a certain time, do my homework, achieve better grades or get off the phone. I wasn’t told when I could start shaving my legs, or wearing makeup or start dating.

I did want approval, my father’s approval in particular, and I knew what he admired without him ever saying a word. I was more interested in the brass ring of admiration than avoiding the sting of criticism or the pain of punishment.

Recently, I learned that one of my acquaintances on Facebook is tired of my posting about my father. She thinks it’s time to get over the grief and move on. She has missed the point entirely.

I’m not grieving, I’m appreciating. My experience of my father was subtle.

He was just there, a quiet, predictable and strong presence even when he just referred to my twin in the mirror.

Sitting at my parents’ table, I didn’t appreciate what I had. It’s taken me four decades to get to the point I can see the beauty in his love and influence. And it remains with me.

Last weekend I attended a retreat where the facilitator shared this poem. The utter reliability of my Dad led me to take him for granted. Remembering the subtle ways he expressed his love for me, my mother and my brothers is a gift that keeps on giving.

Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father got up early

and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,

then with cracked hands that ached

from labor in the weekday weather made

banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.

When the rooms were warm, he’d call,

and slowly I would rise and dress,

fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,

who had driven out the cold

and polished my good shoes as well.

What did I know, what did I know

of love’s austere and lonely offices?

– Robert Haydon

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The Beach

Santa Cruz

The ocean doesn’t factor much in my memories. If anything, it was a trickster. When I was a child in Hawaii, it would lull me with its disarmingly benign surface, warm and inviting, only to upend me with a sudden swell that turned my world upside down. I emerged gasping and chastened, salt water filling my throat and churning in my stomach. When we crossed the ocean, I looked out from our ocean liner in fear, aware that our vessel was no more than flotsam in the unending sea that stretched from one vista to the other.

This is different.

We spent New Year’s eve and morning with two families we have known since we were young invincibles. Before kids. Back then we sat in tight huddles (the women), punched each other’s shoulders (the men), sat on laps (the couples), drank too much and stayed up late. The talk was salty, silly and sometimes serious. If we talked of the past, it was about our childhoods, our relationships with our siblings, mothers and fathers. If we talked of the future, it drifted toward where we would travel, the possibility of jobs and whether our children would like one another. Through years of three-day weekends spent together, one belly after another swelled with pregnancy. We carried the future in front of us.

Three girls and three boys we had between us. For a time, when the kids were small enough to curl up in sleeping bags on the floor, we crammed into a house together. A house on the beach. We hiked through the cut in the dunes down to the blustery shore where the kids would run up and down, chased by the waves, laughing. I see us adults clustered on the shore, bathed in orange light, watching contentedly. At night, the children dropped into exhausted sleep to adult chatter punctuated with regular bursts of laughter.

Pulled by the demands of jobs and families, we reformed in occasional twos and fours — girls’ weekends, and less often, guys’ weekends. Dinner with two families. Our gatherings became more infrequent.

We planned to gather on December 22 for a long-anticipated reunion, all twelve of us, at the instigation of our young adult children. But instead of twelve, we were eleven. Debbie — Debbie the Loyal, Debbie the Connector, Debbie the Loving — Debbie was suddenly and irrevocably gone forever. A hole had been punched in our universe.

We gathered again on New Year’s Eve in Santa Cruz. Eleven, not twelve. As we walked on the beach, listened to our kids riffing on guitar, poured the wine, gathered over dinner, played a raunchy game, and finally watched 2013 turn into 2014, I kept thinking, “Debbie would have loved this.”

And this: “Where two or three are gathered in my name.” Jesus understood the power of community as a way to bring Him present.

When we gather, I do not feel a void where Debbie should be. I feel her presence. But I ache that she is just beyond my reach, beyond the thin veil that separates her world from ours, that I cannot tell her how much I love her and miss her.

It is our last full day at the beach. My children, now grown, are sleeping downstairs. The ocean laps nearby, seagulls cry and sea lions bark. Of all of us, Debbie loved the beach. I think of this as where Debbie lives now, watching the surfers stream like otters toward the horizon where the swells are biggest, grinning at the children who delight in their wet sand creations, turning to me with love. She is smiling at all of us.

I look for the words that fail me, and find this:

Something there is,
(With my lips soothing thee, adding I whisper,
I give thee the first suggestion, the problem and indirection,)
Something there is more immortal even than the stars,
(Many the burials, many the days and nights, passing away,)
Something that shall endure longer even than lustrous Jupiter
Longer than sun or any revolving satellite,
Or the radiant sisters the Pleiades.
 
From “On the Beach at Night” by Walt Whitman

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Gratuituous Grace On Thanksgiving

candle

Eighteen days ago, one of my oldest friends was suddenly ripped away from all of us who love her. Five days later, her husband asked me contact a couple of her friends, friends that dated back to our college days. He closed our phone conversation with, “I love you.”

That wasn’t something he normally would have said to me. But a terrible loss like this one is a reminder of how dear people are to us, and how quickly things can change. We are shaken by the shoulders and reminded to notice things that hover just beyond our attention, people for whom we are grateful. Now.

I’ve been re-reading Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek this week. Yesterday I recorded this quote, “Seeing is of course very much a matter of verbalization. Unless I call my attention to what passes before my eyes, I simply won’t see it.”

As Thanksgiving approaches, I look around me and see so much beauty. I see you, husband, my personal Mighty Mouse who continually saves (my) day by being so utterly reliable and unfailingly loving and who puts up with my Gemini self. I see you, daughter, not only for your talent, but your wisdom in being able to sense when people are going through difficult periods and your ability to be ready to support them even when they are not yet ready to accept help or support. I see you, son, your burgeoning talents, authenticity, sense of wonder and openness to all kinds of people.

I see you brothers, through our differences, for the loving, honorable and enduring presence that you are in my life. I see you, beloved nieces, nephews, and even great nephews, for the light in your eyes when we meet, which is nowhere near as often as I would wish. I see you, in-laws, for the umbrella of security and acceptance that you have created for my family, and for me. I see you, family who are more than family, Lynn, Louise and Mary, who always seem to reach out at just the right moment.

And I see you, friends. I’ve talked most about my female friends, who have been my pillars, but my guy friends have always been stalwart supports in my life. I see you, Howie, Bill, Pete, Jim and Mario.

And, yes, you female friends who always stand by: Ellen, Sandy, Lisa, Tammy, Cheryl, Collette, Wendi, Tracy, Sharon, Debbie O, Linda, Nancy, Judee, “Babes” (you know who you are) and probably more who I have inadvertently left off.

There is one name missing from that inventory of people I hold dear today, one who is gone from this world but smiling from the next. It is you, Deb, who is reminding me from afar to pay attention. I did not hold you close as I could have — should have — in recent years. Sure, I have decent excuses, but none of them seem good enough right now. I list you last, but not least.

Dillard wrote:

“Unless all ages and races of men have been deluded by the same mass hypnotist (who?), there seems to be such a thing as beauty, a grace wholly gratuitous… (B)eauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.”

I am trying to be there and notice you all, you who I love.

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Fishing for Family

Bruce, Me, DeanSince January, I’ve thought and written a lot about the inevitable shift in my family relationships. In the days immediately following Dad’s death, I told my brothers that I wanted them to include me in their fishing trips.

One of my brothers immediately noted, “But you don’t like to fish.”

I told them it wasn’t really about the fishing. I knew that they had always connected through hunting and fishing. We are three brothers and one sister… three fishermen and one non-fisher person. I figured that if there were going to be future gatherings of family, they were most likely to happen around the activity that brings them together. My request was noted.

This summer, my brother Dean called to invite me to join a trip on the Deschutes River in Central Oregon. With a lump in my throat (that’s what happens when the dog catches the bus), I joined Dean and brother Bruce on September 2, when we put in at Warm Springs, OR, for a 4 night floating-camping-fishing expedition.

Dean’s led this trip dozens of times, most often using his own 13′ raft, and Bruce has often participated. I was jumping aboard a trip with a lot of history, joining men with well-established habits.

What happened wasn’t really what I expected.

I imagined it kind of like a movie: after attending to the necessities of the day (breaking camp each morning, making camp each afternoon) and a long day of fishing and floating through dramatic volcanic canyons beneath blue skies, we’d contentedly kick back in our chairs and fall to talking about Dad, or Mom, or the burial, or our families. It would be a reverie of memories, longing and love.

I was right about the talking, but wrong about the quantity and the topic. The sporadic conversation centered on fish, insects, stars, geology and fish. Did I mention fish?

For example, did you know that Gary LaFontaine extensively studied caddis fly behavior underwater and designed the Sparkle Pupa fly to imitate rising nymphs (read more)? Or that they work so well because the sparkly antron fibers successfully imitate the gasses that build up under a real pupa’s shuck?

That makes me sound unappreciative. On the contrary. It was just one more life experience where you go looking for one thing and find something completely different, something all the more beautiful because it was unexpected.

I learned a lot. I had to confide that I’d never set up a camp, and I needed to be shown a lot. It turns out that Dean has quite specific ideas (inner smile) about how one does things. When you’ve made this trip as often as he has, you have long since figured out the optimal menu, way to organize a camp, method of packing a boat, and even how to do dishes (wash them with environmentally-friendly soap in one container, rinse in a second basin of hot water, and dip a third time in a basin with a few drops of Clorox for good measure). I also learned a lot about fishing, although the one that I hooked was by complete accident when the fish saw me pulling the line up to recast it (I’m told I got him on the rise).

I also was awed by the majesty of the canyons, river and sky of the Deschutes. How had I missed this? Within the first hour, the walls of the canyon rise up along side the river. The first few buttes stood back at a shy distance, their rising brown hillsides topped with rocky red crowns. In front of them, green water streamed serenely by. As we floated past rock gardens — shallow bars with water only inches deep — every rock gleamed in the crystal clear water. The canyon walls crept closer, and erosion revealed their geologic story of volcanic pressure, uplift, ash explosions, hot flows and cooling into a myriad of shapes, colors and textures.

The Deschutes near Warm Springs OR

Some lent themselves to flights of fancy, the way cloud formations beckon us to see images in their ever-changing shapes. Bruce thought the lone rock below looked like the head of an Argonath. I found myself remembering Dad being wheeled down the hospital hallway for an MRI reciting from Shelley: “My name is Ozymandius, king of kings:/Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

Ozymandius?

Small islands straddle the center of the river between the off-limits property of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation on one side and the many public campgrounds on the opposite shore. As we pass them, Bruce and Dean remembered their fishing luck on past trips; one island was so favorable they referred to it as “our island.” We tied up at one that could be circumnavigated on foot, revealing tree roots that waved in the water like red hair.

Tree roots in the Deschutes River

We did not go unnoticed as we floated down the river. Wild horses on the reservation stopped their slow stroll as they came down to the water to drink, the stallion keeping us under observation to make sure we posed no threat. Great blue herons heard our approach, crouched and flared out their five foot wide wings to beat slowly upstream ahead of us. Mergansers dove, kingfishers cried their piercing call and ospreys whistled and chirped, circling high above the river. We counted 43 osprey during the course of our trip. At one point, a young buck cautiously approached the river’s edge while Dean cast just 30 feet away.

After the sky flamed from orange to fuschia to grey, the nights were even more magical. With only the background noise of the breeze, the Milky Way made such a perfect, broad arc over us that I could imagine a circle of spray paint continuing past the horizon both north and south, cinching the earth beneath us like a belt. Thousands of stars blinked into view revealing constellations, many of which I’d heard of, but never identified. Each night, I watched shooting stars through the netting of my tent and listened to the chorus of crickets and the thumping of bugs trying to penetrate the thin layer of nylon between them and me. I started to bargain with God: “I’ll go to sleep if you show me just one more shooting star.” And each morning, I awakened to an orchestra of birds calling as the sun poured down the brown hillsides behind us, often punctuated by the cry of a frustrated osprey as it flew reconnaissance over the river.

As entranced as I was by the natural beauty of the area, I really noticed things about my brothers.

I watched Dean walk upstream to fish. I love to watch my brother walk, as weird as that sounds. He conveys preparedness in every fiber. It’s visible in the set of his face, the tension in his arms, and the way he plants his legs as he moves purposefully forward. He has such a sense of purpose, a guy who know’s where he’s going and what he’s going to do there. When he sits, which isn’t for long, he’s usually (as my Dad would say) “working the problem.” When we were en route to Maupin to pick up a rented boat from Deschutes River Adventures, his face reflected concern about making it on the river in time to set up our first camp before dark. Even more serious was his expression when approaching White Horse Rapids. His intensity of expression reflected the responsibility he felt as organizer and river guide. Once he met the challenges of the day, he was finally at ease. Dean is such a rock, and I love that about him.

Dean

Bruce’s demeanor is and always has been more relaxed, even graceful. There is a gentleness to him, in his stance and in his voice. His walk is loose and his movements, fluid. He stood up and demonstrated casting back and forth, side to side, until he popped the fly right in front of a big trout. It was almost like watching a dance as his weight shifted from side to side. Of course, I teased him and said, “Can you do that again?” (He obliged.) Bruce loves to share his passion for things, and his passion for fish may be unsurpassed. Although he had plenty of time to fish on his own, he seemed to really want to guide my progress as I attempted to lob or roll cast. As bad as I was, he never seemed frustrated or irritated, using the same, calm voice to direct me.

That voice brought me right back to being five or six years old, when he patiently illustrated a poem about an elf sitting under a mushroom cap umbrella. I still have the drawing.

I watched as he caught the biggest fish of the trip. “Are you getting this?” he asked, knowing that I had my camera in hand. After the fish was released, he showed me how his hand literally shook in excitement. Bruce is such a geek, and I love that about him.

Big trout on the Deschutes

On our last night in camp, after being chased off the river by a dramatic thunderstorm (complete with hail, 40+ knot winds and horizontal rain), I summarized my experience for my brothers, telling them that the trip was different than I had expected. Dean asked, “What did you expect?” I shared my little fantasy about deep talks under the stars.

“Oh no, we don’t talk about relationships,” Dean said, “This is a guy’s trip. We do stuff.”

One brother was missing, and that made me sad. His absence made me wonder aloud on the first night, “How are we going to stay connected as a family?”

The next night, Bruce replied, “I’ve thought about what you said. We’ve learned some things. We’re better off together than we are separately.”

We as a family are moving forward, perhaps in fits and starts, but making progress.

Hole in the Wall campground

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