Tag Archives: Ashley

more on goals

My follow up session with Linda was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon so I’ve been trying to focus on the idea of ‘goals’ again. All in all I feel pretty good about how the summer went: Jeremy’s move and the Germany trip. The last two weeks I’ve worked a standard 8-5 M-F schedule which is draining in a way but I felt I handled it pretty well.

Now that I’m back, it’s the turn of the other two principals at Davies to get holidays. Arno is leaving Tuesday for his usual driving trip to the Midwest. He’ll be gone five weeks. Jim, after shocking us all last year by cutting his schedule down to a ‘normal’ 40 hour week, announced he’ll be taking the month of October off completely. There are others who can and will step up to help with the shift coverage, but at the moment, it looks like the bulk of it will fall to me.

So I decided my ‘price’ will be a couple of weeks off in November. I will always want to visit Jeremy and Ashley and Rosalie but I also have an unfulfilled promise to visit Peter and Nanci in Spokane. And I like to stop in on my cousins Dan and Nettie also in Spokane.

Is this a goal worthy of discussion? Honestly, I don’t know how Linda would respond to this. I emailed her the other day that I was cancelling the session since I had been scheduled for work at that time. She hasn’t responded. The bereavement group that seemed so promising a few months ago doesn’t hold appeal.

Since I’ve been back I’ve had one day where I had a lot of time to do things and I didn’t and I felt bad about it. All the old thoughts about how I should use my time better and what those uses should be came and went. Then the next day I went to work.

I feel good that I’ve been posting pretty regularly since I got back. I feel good about being in the Skyline band again. (At the request of Zack I’m playing bass this semester.) I feel good that I have a handle on how much work I have in the weeks ahead. It’s more than I would like but if the payoff is two weeks off in November I’ll take it. Jeremy tried unsuccessfully to call me this week two times when I said I was available so I felt bad about that. Then we had a nice Skype session Friday night so I felt better. He’s having a tough time getting a decent job. Ashley is very happy with her new teaching setup but that cuts both ways with Jeremy. I don’t have a magic wand to make it all great. That would cut both ways too, I guess.

the second week

Jeremy and Ashley had rented a nice house in North Bend months ago as a place to land in Washington. It was there for them when they flew out on June 20th and they were still there on Thursday afternoon the 29th when I pulled that ungainly rig up in front of it. Jane had flown up earlier in the week and Joe and the boys had driven up. They were all there. Before long, Rosalie had me out across the street to the little park there. Actually, it wasn’t so little. It had a group picnic area and two play areas next to a rather large pond surrounded by trees. Here’s Rosalie beseeching the ducks to come back and play:

Here’s the merry-go-round:

Jane and her family left Friday for points south and home. We got in the car and headed north to Duvall, where we met with the landlord at the new house. They signed a two year lease. The neighborhood was very nice. The houses were newish, about 1980’s vintage, but many of the (presumably) original trees had been saved so there were tall firs and cedars all around. All the houses were well kept up.

Saturday was moving day. Jeremy took the truck, I took the Forester, still loaded with things from Georgia, and Ashley followed in the Murano after doing last minute clean up at the rental house in North Bend.

We got the truck situated in front of the house with the trailer off by around 10:30. Most of the unloading was done by 1:30 and the truck was off the lawn by 2:30. Rosalie had had a chance the day before to select which bedroom would be hers. It didn’t take long on Saturday for her to establish herself there.

Her new bed came not long after I took this picture. It went where the yellow bear is sitting.

Here are some earlier and later pictures of the inside of the truck:

That evening we went out to dinner in Carnation, which is the next town south of Duvall.

The next day, Sunday, I had volunteered to take the truck back to Yakima. Jeremy had done this as it was about $1,000 cheaper than dropping it somewhere closer in the Seattle area. That was another 145 miles in the truck and the same in the Forester coming home. 7:15 am to 2 pm.

Here’s a last look at the combo at the rest stop outside of Yakima. Mt Rainier is in the background. I thought I had Mt. Adams too but I couldn’t see the phone viewfinder very well in the bright sun light. It’s either just out of the frame or behind the sign, honest!

Jeremy and Ashley had lots of shopping to do so I said I would stay with Rosalie after I got back until they were done. They had to go to Monroe and Redmond and some other places with big box stores. After a nap and a snack with Rosalie, I got to play tea party and dress up for about three hours. They finally got home about 7:30!

Monday we didn’t do much except work on putting the house in order. I got in touch with my friends from Bellingham, Teresa and Susan. I wasn’t willing to go that far, but Susan had a spot in Oso, only about an hour from Duvall, that she went to on weekends in the summer. It floods every winter but there’s a spot for her Airstream 100 feet or so from the Stillaguamish River. In the end, Teresa couldn’t make it so I sat with Susan by the river for a couple of hours in the afternoon and chatted while the dogs occasionally chased toys into the river. Before going to Susan’s place, I had gone up to the site of the mountain collapse and paid my respects to the lost lives. The county has purchased the land and will eventually make a memorial park there. Now there are just 43 newly planted trees in rows by the road.

When I returned, much had been done in contacting the neighbors. We got invited to a 4th of July barbeque. Rosalie had discovered that the girl next door was just a few months older than her. They weren’t instant pals but it didn’t take long before they were chasing around together.

Tuesday all Rosalie could talk about was wearing her new swimsuit to the party and going in the pool. Finally the hour arrived and we went over. It was very nice and we met lots of new neighbors. Jeremy had to leave early as he was going to Portland for a basketball referees workshop. Before he left, we went home and lit a couple of sparklers. Rosalie wasn’t sure about them at first.

That night the explosions started well before dark, around 9:30, and continued without letup – literally with out so much as 15 or 20 seconds silence – until at least 11 pm, when my sleeping pills took hold. At least two different skyrocket shows could be seen out the back window of the house that were no more than a couple of hundred yards away.

Wednesday I went into Carnation to do laundry. The washer and dryer that Ashley and Jeremy had bought on Sunday wasn’t going to be delivered until the following Sunday and I was out of clean underwear. (It did come today and Ashley was on her 4th load when I talked to them earlier tonight.) Rosalie played a lot with Emma, the girl next door.

Thursday, Ashley took me to Snoqualmie Falls, about a half hour up the valley from Duvall. It’s a pretty falls but also a hydroelectric power generating facility. We waked the trail to the bottom and checked it out from there as well.

Friday we went to McCormick Park, which is a little city park right off the main drag in Duvall and right on the river. This was maybe ten minutes from their house. There was a nice sandy beach to play on. Rosalie made mud pies (or something) and dabbled in the water looking at the little marine animals. Afterward we had lunch in a little cafe and got a library card at the library across the street. Rosalie took out three books.

Saturday morning, Ashley took me to Sea-Tac and I came home. I had originally intended to come home on Amtrak or a bus but it would have been 24 to 26 hours en route vs 2 1/2 and the cost was comparable. In the end, it was about 12 hours short of two weeks. It was great!

my trip with Jeremy

Two weeks ago today my alarm went off at 3:30 in the morning. I had a 6 am flight to Atlanta. From Seattle, Jeremy was doing something similar. He got there first and got his car out of long term parking and was waiting for me when I came out of the terminal. It was about 4 pm local time.

We stopped for a bite to eat, then went to the Home Depot where the Penske 26′ bobtail and trailer were waiting for us. The trailer was for his Subaru SUV. It took about an hour to do all the paperwork and get instruction on how to hook up and get the car onto the trailer. Jeremy had gotten a TB test in connection with one of his volunteer fireman gigs and had to get it read within a 48 to 72 hour period. Basically, now, so he headed to the clinic and I head to his house with the truck. Rather gingerly.

At his house we fell to it. The truck wouldn’t go up the driveway so everything had to be carried down the hill to the street. Early on, I asked if he had any rope to secure the load. The answer was no so I had a trip to Home Depot at 8 pm on a Sunday night. We kept plugging away and at half past midnight we were close enough to call it and go to bed. The beds were the last things remaining.

Originally, Jeremy had wanted to leave his house at 4:30 to avoid Atlanta morning traffic. I told him we had at least another hour of work to do before leaving so at midnight he consented to getting up at 4:30 with the goal of leaving by 5:30. I had suggested we push on and get out of town and stop somewhere a couple of hours past Atlanta but he wanted the rest first.

In the morning there were a myriad of little things, and then there was lining up the truck ball with the trailer. The trailer weighed almost 2000 pounds (without the car!) so picking it up and rolling it to the truck was not an option.

Finally, we were ready. I took a picture of the rig at 6:45 and we headed out.

The clinic had been closed the night before so Jeremy had to find another one right away. He also had his Comcast modem to return. He had looked up ahead of time and found that there was a Comcast store near the freeway in Murfreesboro Tennessee. We got there about 11 am. I had found a clinic close by to the store so that was good but they had to be talked into doing what Jeremy needed. Once I saw that it was going to be difficult, I bailed and got some lunch. Jeremy was in there at least a half hour for a test reading that took ten seconds. Paperwork. Turning in the modem was not a problem and we were off again by noon.

I had vaguely remembered seeing something the day before about the maximum speed with the trailer being 55 mph but I couldn’t find it in the cab. Eventually, I pushed it up to 65 on the Interstate and felt pretty secure. We were still passed by lots of big trucks. When Jeremy took over he got it up to 70 and passed a couple himself. After the trip was over, I was unloading the car and saw the notice on the trailer: 55 mph maximum speed. Oh well. Once I got used to it, the whole setup seemed very stable. The roads were generally good. Through Tennessee and Kentucky we mostly kept it at 70. Slower up the hills.

The weather was perfect. Sunday night loading the truck I soaked my T-shirt with sweat but it was warm enough that I didn’t worry about getting a chill. Monday was sunny and pleasantly warm with a few wispy clouds.

Google had us routed up through Paducah and thence to I-64, then west through St Louis joining I-70 there. At the rate we were going, I saw that we would go through St. Louis at rush hour. We actually used a combination of Google maps and Jeremy’s trusty 2002 Road Atlas for navigation. I found a highway, US 60, that led west out of Paducah straight over to Missouri via Cairo, IL. Looking at it now, I don’t see why we didn’t take US 62 which covers essentially the same route through Kentucky in less time.

Whatever. We crossed first the Ohio River, then about two minutes later the Mississippi River on high, two lane bridges. I think we were technically in Cairo for those two minutes but we saw nothing of the town. I took videos of the crossing complete with enthusiastic narration. Jeremy, who was driving, later told me he thought his blood pressure was at about 200 during those crossings. That was about 4 pm, now Central Time.

We eventually stopped for a real dinner in Arnold, MO, still short of St Louis, at around 7, so the issue of traffic was moot. Our goal was Kansas City and we made it around midnight. Actually, we went through KC, MO into Kansas and stayed in a motel on the west side. Here’s a map of our first day. 843 miles and 18 hours on the road. Whew!

Tuesday morning we were out getting gas (diesel) at 8:30. West on the Kansas Turnpike. Our goal this day was the home of Jeremy’s cousin, Suzanne, and her partner, Greg, in Avon, CO. Per Google maps, a mere 688 miles. We made good time across Kansas but unfortunately couldn’t avoid Denver at rush hour.

This was about 6 pm local time, now Mountain of course. Jeremy was at the wheel and pushed on up into the mountains.  We found that the Colorado I-70 grades were much steeper than the ones in Tennessee. In some cases, we could only go 35 mph with the accelerator floored. The final pass was of course much higher too. I’ve got a crappy picture of the sign: Vail Pass summit, elevation 10,662 feet!

Going down was an adventure, dropping into lower gears to slow the truck, and watching apprehensively the runaway truck ramps.

The weather was holding. We saw some rain and lightning in the distance approaching Denver but only a few drops fell on us. Every night we saw spectacular sunsets. Here’s a map of our second day. 693 miles in 13 hours.

Suzanne was on duty in Vail, so we ate a late dinner with Greg and chatted before going to bed. We had gotten to Avon at 8:30. In the morning, we headed back up to Vail – about 6 or 7 miles back up the mountain – to see Suzanne. She is an EMT and the shifts are 48 hours. Anyway, we had a brief visit with her at her station in Vail and we got back on the road about 9:30 am.

A couple of hours later, I was merrily getting settled after fueling up in Grand Junction when I saw a state patrol car along side of me with his lights on. I pulled over, expecting a lecture – or a ticket – for going too fast with that rig. Instead, the very young Trooper Pritchett (he gave me a card when we were done) wanted to tell us one of the straps had come off the car wheels. He helped us get it fixed and in ten minutes or so we were on our way again.

Unfortunately, our timing around big cities was again poor. We came into the Salt Lake City area around 5 pm and suffered through the slowdowns there. The Wasatch Mountains behind the city in the westering sun were beautiful, though. Around 7, Jeremy found a Mongolian ‘Bar-B-Q’ place a couple of miles off the freeway in Ogden so we stopped there for dinner. Here is where we were parked:

At dinner we discussed stopping earlier for that night so we settled on Twin Falls, ID as an objective. We figured we could get there by 10 but in reality it was more like 11 and there were no rooms available there.

We pressed on, Jeremy still driving since Ogden but determined. My efforts at securing a place to sleep kept failing. There wasn’t much between Twin Falls and Boise. I did have Internet access on my phone along the highway. I was thankful for that. Finally I made a reservation for a motel in Boise. We pulled in about 1 am and had to park a couple of blocks away. In the lobby, though, my name wasn’t on the manager’s list. I had talked to an operator for Super 8 motels and she hadn’t understood that I wanted a room for right now. It was confusing because by then it had already passed midnight. The Super 8 guy told us there were other motels nearby that likely had rooms. I called one who confirmed that and I said, ‘We’ll be right over!’

We parked in an office building lot. I figured that we were going to be gone before anyone showed up to work in the morning. We hauled our tired bodies out of bed and into the truck by 7 am. Destination: North Bend, WA, the end of the road! Belatedly, I had thought of potential problems with morning rush hour traffic in Boise but most of the slow downs were going the other way. Phew!

Here’s a map of our third day. 763 miles in 16 hours.

By now, everything was started to blur. I guess it was the country north out of Ogden that I thought was pretty: wheat fields in the evening sun. Or maybe it was the country west and north of Boise on up into Oregon. I remember crossing the Columbia River around 1 pm. I remember the Yakima River valley starting around Prosser with its beautiful vineyards and orchards.

This picture is from Oregon. It shows how our rig was almost as long as the guys towing the 53 footers.:

While eating lunch in Prosser, I convinced Jeremy that we should take the car off the trailer so he could go ahead so as not to be late for his training class. Originally, he had set 3 pm as a time to be in North Bend. His class was at 5 but he wanted time to clean up and eat. It was becoming clear that the truck wouldn’t get there until 4 at the earliest. We had the grades of Snoqualmie Pass coming up. At Ellensburg, we pulled off the highway, did that, and he went off in the car.

I got to their rental house in North Bend as predicted, about 4. Rosalie came running out to give me a big hug and Jame and her family were all there with Ashley too. Jeremy had gotten there about a half hour earlier and was ready to leave in his clean clothes.

Here’s a map of our fourth day. 475 miles in 9 1/2 hours. Actual miles driven start to finish using the truck odometer were 2,858. I’ll leave it to you to do any averaging arithmetic. It was a fast trip. Jeremy and I had some good talks. He had some Bill Simmons podcasts that he & I listened to. I tried to write in my journal but eventually gave up as it was too bouncy. I took a few pictures with my phone. Good times.

I’ll put up another post about moving into the new house and other activities in Washington.

Noah’s Dad

Jeremy posted this on FaceBook yesterday (Fathers’ Day):

Fathers Day is a good time to reflect not just on the amazing dads who’ve been a part of my life, but on a guy who rose to an extraordinary challenge — loving and raising my nephew as if Noah was his own — and has been more supportive, open and friendly in the aftermath of Zach’s horrible tragedy than anyone in our extended family had a right to expect. Hope you enjoyed your day, Daddy Dave Richer. You’re an awesome dude and Noah and Myles are blessed to have you as a dad.

As a father, I couldn’t be prouder to have raised a son who can think this way.

I want to add my own story about Dave.

In the aftermath of the tragedy Saturday night in Baton Rouge, by Tuesday the whole family was gathered down there. Wednesday we discovered the existence of Noah, and by Wednesday night Ashley had established contact with Ally. Zach’s friends and colleagues at the school arranged to have a memorial there on the Friday afternoon. As someone with graphics experience, I was called on to help with the program. I was in a daze, though.

Sometime Friday – I think – Jeremy told me we were all getting on an airplane Saturday morning to fly to Michigan for another celebration. I had no cold weather gear; I hadn’t spoken to anyone on that side of the family since our divorce four years earlier. I didn’t want to go, but I couldn’t say no. They all loved Zach too.

So we flew to Detroit, where it was snowing. Everyone there was welcoming and sympathetic to me but I was still in shock. At the celebration on Sunday, I couldn’t speak. As soon as I could I went to a corner and sat mostly by myself. Eventually I noticed that people were starting to leave and I remembered something Sarah had said to me. She had said Ally was bringing Noah to the celebration with her husband Dave. They were driving up from Cincinnati in the snow!

Sarah was walking by so I called to her, ‘Didn’t you tell me Ally and Dave were coming up with Noah?’

She didn’t say anything. She just grabbed me and pulled me to go with her outside. It was still snowing and all I had on was a sweater! She pulled me anyway. Noah was outside playing in the snow. She introduced me to Ally. I don’t even remember what i said to her but I remember what I said to Dave, ‘You must be the step father.’

Dave shook his head. ‘No, I’m the Dad.’

procrastination

Yeah, wanting to write but not being able to bring myself to it. It happens every so often. I’d guess about half the time there’s a gap of more than 2 or 3 days that’s the reason. (The other times I’m busy with work . . .)

For a moment yesterday I thought I’d gotten myself into working every night this week. Then we (Arno and I) looked again at the schedule and figured out that he could still work tonight and Wednesday nights. I’m covering him on Friday and I’m still going to try to get out of Saturday night.

My flight to Atlanta is leaving at 6 am Sunday. Jeremy will be arriving from Seattle about the same time as me. We will proceed to his house and start loading the truck for the big move. Actually the big move starts for them tomorrow with their flight west.

They have a house rental lined up, Ashley has a job, but Jeremy does not. He’s set himself up as a volunteer with the local fire district and – weirdly, to me – he’s getting some training from them starting Thursday the 29th. That means we’re going to be leaving Georgia Monday morning (probably) and trying to get to the Seattle environs by noon on Thursday. It’s do-able but just barely, especially with only two drivers driving a 26′ bobtail towing an SUV.

We’ll see a lot of Interstate Highway but not much else, I’m afraid. Jeremy tried to apologize to me a couple of weeks ago when this training thing came up. I said, no way. I’m just happy to be part of the party. I never had any plans to sightsee on this trip anyway.

I hope to do some, at least, updates from the road next week.

deaths of children

I spend my Internet time on FaceBook, like everyone else. Just kidding. After I spent about three months last year avoiding it entirely, I came around to its usefulness. I had to prune mercilessly, though. Many people who I liked in person ended up being ‘unfollowed’ after too many food pictures, cat videos and/or political rants. Ashley and her pictures and posts of Rosalie were the most important factor in resuming. Thank you, Ashley! So I have ended up checking it almost every day but the family-to-post ratio is much higher and I can usually get through new posts in fifteen minutes.

That was all later in the year, though. The first three months after Zach’s death it was invaluable. I took great comfort in the many comments of support at the time.

I like to play guitar, so a guitar site is important. I’ve spent time on TalkBass (oddly, not about guitar at all, but bass) and recently on JazzGuitar, but my favorite is still TDPRI, the Telecaster forum. The Telecaster is a type of guitar, for those who don’t know, but the best discussions take place in the catch-all sub forum called The Bad Dog Cafe.

My other regular stop, especially now during the baseball season, is McCovey Chronicles, where Grant Brisbee is the best baseball writer of his generation. I believe Jeremy, who reads a much more varied diet of baseball writing, will agree with me. The crowd of regular commenters are mostly far younger than me and I have fun watching them tease each other and talk about things I don’t understand. When I started hanging around McCovey Chronicles in 2009, there was a commenter named Alex_Lewis who had a certain style and fostered a good repartee with other regulars.

One day there was a post by another regular that went in a completely different direction. Gallo del Cielo was another username that I had also become familiar with. It turned out – follow the link for the details – that he was Alex Lewis’ father and that Alex had died the night before in a sudden, tragic and senseless accident. Alex was 27.

Gallo still posts regularly on MCC with an inimitable style. Tonight he quietly noted that this day, June 5, was the date, and the day of the week even, that Alex had died 5 years ago. While I hadn’t forgotten Alex’s death, the details had receded in my memory. Surely not for Gallo.

Zach was not a contributor to MCC, nor was he a regular reader but occasionally I would send him a link to a particularly funny or trenchant post. He was of course a Giants fan. We had many good conversations started by MCC.

I mention TDPRI in this context because I have posted there a fair amount, sometimes referring to Zach’s death. In those conversations I have now ‘met’ three other men who have lost children as I have. Tomorrow night I will be going to my monthly meeting of The Compassionate Friends, which is devoted to parents who have had children die before them. We’re in an exclusive group, me and Gallo and Toto’s Dad and the others. One that all of us, I’m sure, would give anything to not be members of.

As a coda, I offer this tribute to Alex by Grant Brisbee: In Memory of Alex Lewis. The comments that follow it are filled with further tributes to the kind of man he was. They remind me of some of the things that were said about Zach that Friday in Baton Rouge and that Sunday in Jackson and that Saturday in San Francisco. Oh, my Z.

return to Eagle Creek Falls

It wasn’t as transcendent as I’d hope it would be. I left Pacifica last night around 7 so I missed the bulk of the traffic. Still, it was a nearly 4 hour slog to the Lake. I had reserved a room at a funky motel just south of the Y.

I wanted to get up for the dawn so I didn’t take a sleeping pill. I finally got to sleep sometime after midnight. The second time I woke up it was almost 4:30 so I went ahead and got up, slugged down a caffeine pill and ate a Clif bar. I was almost out of gas, so I took care of that first, then headed out to Eagle Creek Falls.

As I drove out Highway 89 from the Y, past Camp Richardson, I remembered last July, going through that same stretch of road and seeing the sun lighting up the peaks above me. This time the sky was light but the sun was still below the peaks’ horizon.

At the falls, there were no hooligans, just 4 or 5 photographers with their cameras preset on tripods, waiting for dawn. As I expected, the creek was a mighty torrent. I went to the spot where I had been unable to get all of Zach’s tiny rocks to go over the edge. The water was churning and deep. There was no way to see below the surface. I feel sure that the water has scoured every bit of Zach over the edge and towards the lake.

As the moment of dawn approached, I watched the bright spot across the lake carefully. I had gotten a picture last year of the moment of first light. Today I did the same but the way the sun seemed to leap up from the mountain peaks seemed different. From the moment of the first edge showing to the full fiery ball in the sky seemed only seconds.

After a few minutes there, I headed across the road and up the trail. The falls up there where the bridge is has a post calling is ‘Eagle Falls’. I don’t know what that makes the falls below the road. Anyway, it was above the falls, at a spot labeled ‘Vista’ that I was most interested in. Ashley and Jeremy had brought saplings last year and planted them up there and I wanted to see if they survived.

Sadly, they did not. Or if they did, they are in a completely different spot. I took a lot of pictures of the area and will ask them if they remember exactly where they planted the saplings.

At first it made me sad that there were no special trees for Zach but after a while I remembered what I had said many times last spring. The whole of Lake Tahoe is where we will remember Zach’s final resting place. It was incredibly beautiful again this morning. Here’s the top of the falls a bit later in the morning.

Rosalie

A couple of quick stories about Rosalie.

Last weekend, I was at Camp Greenville, flailing away at tree rounds with a ten pound (estimated) maul. About one swing in twenty resulted in a satisfying separation of the round into fireplace-ready pieces. The rest of the time, the maul either stuck in the wood, requiring enormous effort to remove it, or bouncd crazily away. Luckily, no one was harmed although later in the day I started discovering muscles I had forgotten about.

Well, anyway, at one point while I was flailing, Rosalie came over to watch. Her comment: ‘Try harder, Grandpa!’

Then yesterday, Ashley posted this gem on Facebook. I’ve already shared it amongst my co-workers at Davies.

Rosalie’s Answers (Almost 4.5 years old)
1. What is your happiest memory?
You!
2. Why do you like being a kid?
Because I just like being a kid. I DON’T like being a kid, actually.
3. One word to describe you would be?
Nothing. I’m not going to tell you anymore words.
4. What advice would you give your parents?
What did I say I was not going to do?

Here she is last Saturday explaining to an adult what Noah is doing down in his hole.

work weekend

Well, we had it last weekend. The work weekend, where we picked up the slack for Zach. Quite a few people came: family members, LSU people, Greenville YMCA people. All in all there were over 25 people involved.

I took the red-eye out of SFO Thursday night, arriving in Atlanta around 7 in the morning having slept only a couple of hours at most. Sarah had come in the night before, so she was there. A group from Baton Rouge led by Micah and Julie came about noon. Ashley got home from work about 3:30 and by 4 we were on the road to South Carolina.

Despite promises being made, no one was at the camp when we arrived. The cabins were open and the lights worked but otherwise it was deserted. There was no cell service up on the mountain so reaching people was tough.

Jeremy persevered, though, and after about an hour he got through to someone who told us the director had a family emergency and had to leave. We got the info on where to sleep so we got settled before dark. Ally arrived about 9 with Noah, having done all the driving from Cincinnati. He came into the kids cabin just in time to interrupt Rosalie from getting to sleep. They were glad to see each other.

After that, Jeremy got a campfire started and more people I didn’t know started showing up in the darkness. Soon, stories of Zach were being told. I had the foresight of bringing my little hand held recorder and I let it run for a solid 45 minutes while stories were told around the campfire.I gave up around midnight. There were a few hardy souls still there.

The next morning after breakfast, everyone headed out to ‘Zeke’s Place’ to see what we were up against. Here’s what we found:

Before we started work, Jeremy got everyone in a circle and we all spoke briefly of our relationship to Zach. Ashley used her lovely phrase, ‘Brother-in-love,’ to refer to Zach. One of the Greenville people – I don’t remember who, but male – said they had a crush on Zach. That was after one of the women said the same thing, to knowing nods all around.

Then, to work. Noah jumped in and helped as much as he could.

We broke for lunch and returned to an afternoon of rain showers but the work continued steadily. We weren’t quite done when it was time to go to dinner, but some elves left quickly after dinner and went back to finish the roof before the light faded.

The next morning, almost everyone reconvened at the site for a celebratory picture. I never heard who Zeke was but heretofore, it will be known as ‘Zach and Zeke’s Place.’

Before that, on Saturday, there was an important other celebration to have. It was Noah’s birthday! Ashley had made a cake and someone – I never found out who – went into Brevard for Dolly’s ice cream. Gifts were given and songs were sung; cake and ice cream was eaten.

YMCA Camp Greenville has a chapel called ‘Pretty Place’. It’s where Jeremy and Ashley had gotten married nearly ten years ago. I never felt that ‘pretty’ was the best word for the spot. It’s much better than pretty. Anyway, Jeremy had encouraged everyone to come out to Pretty Place for the sunrise Sunday. I had heard 6:45 but when I got there about that time, the sun was already up and many people were already there. After the rain the day before, Sunday had dawned clear and warm, but pockets of fog were in the valleys below.

After snapping a couple of pictures, I sat down next to Sarah and took in the fabulous view and thought of the wonderful people that were there with me, giving some extra for Zach. I completely broke down.

Franz

I looked at my birthday calendar this morning and I noticed that it’s been a year since my cousin Franz died. It was actually the anniversary last week but I didn’t note it then.

I’ve been better (if you want to call it that) about anniversaries lately. I’ve made it through quite a few 14th’s of the month now without getting all knotted up about Zach. The sorrow comes at odd places and times now. Odd in the sense that they are not predictable. Sunday I was in my car on the way down to Santa Clara when I just started weeping. There was no obvious trigger; I was just missing Zach.

Today Jeremy sent me a detailed itinerary of his and Ashley’s move in June. Seeing in glorious detail their plans for finding a place to live and jobs while also being concerned about places my sister Jane’s family can take Rosalie for fun brought on the waterworks again. It’s the kind of gutsy move you don’t see often. I am so full of admiration for them.

My thinking about Franz recently has mostly been about looking forward to visiting Germany this summer. I will be paying my respects to his mother – turning 100 in August! – his brother and sister, and his grave. Two men gone too soon.