We keep getting married

The first time I asked her to marry me she paused and said, “When I can understand marriage as something other than a trap I will marry you”.

I had smiled and understood. I kissed her because I could see in her face a fear that she had hurt me. I wasn’t hurt. I knew where she had come from.

As we grew closer and we each came to learn that love didn’t have to cost anything…the baggage started unpacking itself.

“I do” followed shortly after the last heavy bag had been opened and all the rocks we found inside returned to the river.

The day we got married was one of the best acts of freedom and independence we’d ever committed to.

Since then we’ve become big fans of getting married. We find places we want to get remarried in and we rewrite our vows to each other every day.

Sometimes we get married doing the dishes, sometimes it’s in the midst of awe, and other times it’s holding each other in heart break.

Tonight we got another round of oysters and Kaety decided that she wanted wedding cake. I started the fire early so the coals would be just right by dinner time while Kaety and the boys made a cake.

It was a wonderful evening by the fire. The oysters were perfect. We had Grammy Robin over and talked about love and the children. We ate our cake and got married once again – this time with the kids gathered around waving their plates and demanding cake. Some of them were wearing ear muffs for some reason.

It was lovely.

Living each day as if you have forever

It’s interesting how life brings things from the past into sudden and abrupt focus in the present. I always smile at these moments – because I think of them as the universe clearing it’s throat and nodding ‘pay attention’.

Yesterday I handed off a cooler of Oysters to a friend as we passed in the parking lot. Today the cooler came back with a note, “We replaced the oysters with a bottle of something”.

I was crazy busy all day and didn’t have time to look at what was in the cooer. Kaety was in Portland at Sea Grant week and I had to gather up all the children after work. When I finally got everyone fed and settled I unzipped the cooler and found a bottle of 2012 Domaine Serene Pinot Noir inside.

I put it on the counter and got out a wine glass and sat down and looked at it. It was a thoughtful and generous gift, but it was more than that. It was a reminder.

Rewind to 2008. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was spending my last year with my business parter and closest friend, Thea. She was battling breast cancer and things had gotten scary and hard. She had gone through multiple surgeries, and had gotten a pretty poor prognoses, but was determined to beat it.

We had spent years of our business life working with various vineyards in the Dundee hills developing Palm Pilot software to support vineyard managers. The software development process meant that we spent a lot of time with our clients, which were a half a dozen wine makers throughout the red hills. Our software product was an early forerunner to a lot of commercial products that eventually came in to support a burgeoning industry. The kind of business culture Thea and I created was built on a lot of personal connection and relationship which mean we came to know all of our clients as friends. We enjoyed their wine as art, science and spirituality.

We were due to visit Domaine Serene one afternoon. On the drive up Thea and I had a long talk about the uncertainty of her health and her desire to live each day as if it were her last. I thought that sounded pretty damn amazing and was curious to see what that kind of focus would do to the quality of our daily lives.

When we arrived the winemaker gave us both a big hug, and we settled in on the brick patio overlooking the most spectacular view in the Willamette Valley. He had glasses of their barrel tastings from their 2009 vintage Pinot waiting for us. We gushed, we deconstructed, and we talked business and life. I got a few curious glances from the winemaker – I nodded confirming that what he saw was real. She was dying. We both looked away from each other, and continued on with our conversation about the vines, bio-dynamic farming, and the complex joy and ecstasy that was expressed in the scent and flavor of the wine.

Thea and I made a valiant attempt to ‘live the day as if it were the last’. It was pretty intense and a bit socially awkward. Fortunately we were spending the day with winemakers who have a lot of latitude for intense and awkward.

Our day at Domaine Serene was the last day we made a client call together. On our drive home she announced that we would no longer be living each day as if it were the last. She decided it was the most depressing thing she could imaging and it was completely exhausting. We laughed hysterically at this revelation until we cried. The tears of laughter transformed into tear of grief. I pulled over and we held each other and cried and cried in big breathless sobs.

I carried on and managed the clients during the year as she succumbed to her cancer. At first she was felt terrible guilt that she was letting me and our business endeavor down and then she moved to resentment that I was carrying the relationships forward without her. Those were hard times.

In the waning months to come we’d occasionally open a bottle from one of our favorite client’s vineyards. She was on such high doses of morphine that she could only enjoy a sip or two. I’d encourage her to drink as much as she wanted. I’d watch as she nodded off to sleep taking the glass from her hand before she dropped it. I’d stand at the kitchen sink and finished both our glasses and look out onto the arbor tinged with fall colors and wonder how I was ever going to make it through this loss.

Today, I opened the bottle of Domaine Serene and cried for the loss of my friend as if it were yesterday. I remember that day on the patio and smile. Her completely sincere frustration and dismay that trying to live each day as if it were her last not being as efficient nor romantic as she had imaged still makes me laugh. She was always eventually pragmatic.

What did I learn, and what do I need to remember? That year of winding down into death taught me to live each day as if you have forever. No one moment should ever be burdened up with the weight of everything. We make mistakes, we sometimes don’t have the words, but when we can laugh and be free we have space to love naturally and openly.

As I smell the wine I am transformed into a space that is a magical mingle of nature and love. I remember looking at her and sharing that space and smiling. That moment between us lasts forever, and forever is exactly where love lives.

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Emmett, the Milkshake and the flat Nutria

We planned a little time away for the whole family on the river this weekend at Kaety’s dad’s Alsea fishing house.

Less than 2 hours into the weekend our party train was a flaming wreck laying sideways in a ditch.

We struggle with Emmett. He’s a wonderful kid that spends a lot of time in some sort of hysterical crisis state. We have therapy, medication and management supports in place for him and most days we feel like we aren’t winning.

Some perceived injustice around a milk shake tipped Emmett over. He couldn’t recover himself and had to be dragged screaming out of the Waldport Big Wheel. Body activity is usually the key for getting him back to reality so he and I left Kaety and the rest of the kids to finish their meal and we walked.

6 blocks later I was still dragging a screaming child. 13 blocks…half a mile…on we marched – and on he screamed.

I nodded and waved to people on their porches, who smiled and waved back as I drug a rail thin Gollum-like character locked to my side screaming and writhing for his precious – aka a milkshake.

The walk was good for me as well. My seething rage was calming as I marched through Waldport and I began to wonder why no one was calling the police.

Just past the half mile mark I figured he’d wind down.

He didn’t.

We left Waldport proper and headed up the Alsea. The screaming child spooked up a couple of cranes – which were pretty. We screamed past two fishermen who nodded to me. Again, I was surprised that they didn’t reach for their cell phones to dial 911 as the screaming dialog next to me included, “You aren’t my real dad, I can’t walk any more, why won’t you give me any water, I’m going to say the F word and hurt you!”

We screamed past a creepy guy sitting in a black suburban. Emmett paused in his scream-a-thon Lon enough to ask if the guy in the black suburban was the Guatemalan Drug Lord that Grammy kept talking about. Once we got our drug lord myths cleared that he resumed his psychotic fit.

We had an additional momentarily promising pause in the epic Alsea fit when we found a flattened and dedicated nutria. Unfortunately the milk shake injustice was stronger than a compelling dead thing and he resumed his screaming march up river.

The plan was that Kaety would pick us up when she and the other kids had finished their meal at the Big Wheel. Emmett and I done about 3 miles of 911 worthy screaming when I started to formulate the idea that to be a successful kidnapper you just have to adopt a demeanor of long suffering. We made it all the way to Thompson’s nursery, still screaming and carrying on when I finally saw Kaety pass us and park in a turn-out ahead.

With the truck in his eyesight, but out of hailing distance, I bent down and negotiated his reentry into society.

We agreed that he’d enter the truck without whining, screaming or crying and that he’d make no mention of the inciting milkshake. He had calmed down, and with the respite of the truck so close, he agree to my terms. The consequences for breaking any part of the agreement would be more walking.

As I opened the door to the truck to get him in he screamed, “No fair! I wanted a drink of the milkshake!!”.

I pulled him back out of the truck And said to Kaety, “Find another pull out about a mile up the road”

The next day was going to be a full of things much more complicated than milkshakes. We decided we’d call Grammy and see if she wanted to spend the day with Emmett.

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Goodbye Sydney

Our plane left Osaka at 5:30 pm and we spent the night flying back against the sun to arrive earlier that day at 3 pm. When we landed I got a series of texts and calls from Miles. Sydney, his life-long cat companion had crawled up onto his chest and taken her last breath. I stayed on the phone with him while we drove to Corvallis to be with him. He was devastated and grieving deeply. It was the first time death had really been a real part of his life, and he’d experienced it up close and in detail.

Diane got the news shortly after we did and made her way home as well. We all converged on a terribly sad boy laying next to his dead kitty.

Sydney had adopted us as a stray when Miles was about four years old. He had bonded up to her almost immediately and of course we kept her. Her first few months with us were spent outside, but she slowly worked her way into our home and into our hearts. She had been my first real pet, and a rare miracle of an animal that I hadn’t been allergic to. She had been fiercely protective of the yard and over the top hostile to any dog that braved coming into her territory. She had been a sweet and talkative and very sensitive to any upset in her boy. When he cried she’d lay on his chest and pat his face with her paw.

She had been with him for 16 years, and worked into every nook and cranny of his heart. She found her way into all our hearts. I think animals are god’s Seal Team 6 of love. When we put up every defense against love finding a way into our lives, our animals find all the holes in our parameters and can scale the highest walls of protection and set up camp in our hearts. I think it’s why it hurts so much when we lose them – we have no defense against that kind of love.

See you across the rainbow bridge Sydney – I fear for the dogs that pass by your sunny place in the grass.

Convenience stores and pagodas

Tom and his girls came to grab us the morning we had to leave and took us on a tour of a convenience store where the girls showed us some of their favorite crap foods. We got a selection of samples of course!

With ice cream, gummy products and tea in our bellies we headed off to visit a temple and pagoda. Amazing!

Tom took us over to an open field filled with daisies and told us that the field was more of a spectacle for the Japanese than the temple behind us. Anywhere you can take off your shoes, picnic and run through the grass is a valued experience.

We ate lunch at an Udon noodle place and he helped us buy all the Shinkansen tickets we needed to get to the airport…for which we were very grateful.

As he and his girls waved goodby to us and then watched as we feed all the tickets into the gate wrong, tripped over our ridiculous collection of suitcases I could see the doubt on his face that we’d ever make it to the airport. 🙂

Thanks for everything Tom!

 

Where is the mattress?

When I booked the ryokan and noted the futon bed I was pretty jazzed. I love futons – plump and firm and oh so easy to just roll out of bed.

During our first night when the grandmas came to “bed making” and politely insisted that we “go walk”. When we returned we were delighted by an elegant futon bed all made up on the tatami mat floor. Flashbacks of Shogun ran through my media infused brain. The good parts.

Kaety got into bed first and was fumbling around with the layers when I came in from the bathroom. “I think they forgot something?”, she said as she took an inventory of what made up the bed. “Is this another blanket? Where is the mattress?”

I got down on the floor and crawled into the investigation, “I think this ‘other blanket’ is the futon mattress”

She got up and started rifling through the bedding closet, “I’m too bony, I’ll never survive the night’”

She remade the bed with layers of blankets, sheets and seat cushions. When she was done the bed looked less like a scene from Shogun and more like a 5-year olds slumber party.

In the morning after breakfast the grandmas gave us a look.

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The Ryokan grandmas

We taken to calling them ‘the ryokan grandmas’ – they’ve brought us our food, fixed up the futon at night and cleaned our room during our stay. They basically run the place and we’ve noticed that when we do something wrong we get a look. If Kaety doesn’t finished all her food there is a look. When we order plum wine with dinner we get a look and a lot of talk that we don’t understand…but we do. We got a look when we didn’t get the hell out of the room when they came to make the bed. One of them was following after me to make sure my slippers fit. When she discovered that they didn’t she wasn’t happy with the state of affairs. When we returned after a day out, they serve tea and a small semi-sweet in our room. When it was evident we had no clue what to do with the food she pointed, “You open, you cut, you eat!”. And that’s was the end of it.

Tonight we were served the most amazing thing ever. The grandmas came to the room with a giant plate of food, a portable burner and a kettle of broth. She whipped up a bowl of raw egg and place it in front of each of us. She fired up the stove and melted a ball of fat and then poured in a mixture of beef broth and soy sauce. She started feeding in pieces of beef and vegetable and cooking it. At some point she gestured to the meat in the pot. I looked at where she pointed and then back at her. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to pulled the food directly out of the pot or what? She sighed, gave me a look, and grabbed my bowl of raw egg and started putting food in it.

I pulled a piece of beef dripping with raw egg out of my bowl and ate it. It was one of the best things I’d ever eaten. I exclaimed, “oh my god!” and involuntarily moaned. At that the ryokan grandma gave me a look I hadn’t gotten out of her – she smiled, nodded and said “Hai God!”. We ate and ate and she cooked and cooked. At some point there was still cooked food on the big plate, and she looked at both of us, “More?” She asked. “No more” we replied. She looked at Kaety up and down and asked again, “More?”. She had decided that Kaety needed some fattening up, “No more” we replied with a smile. She gave us a look.

Best meal ever!