By Covid Free Jim Dickens
Well it’s been a long while since I posted but that doesn’t mean its been eventless, quite the opposite. It has been constant planning and doing for the past few months. Luckily, in the crappy environment of 2020, some of my favorite activities are available. Hence, I have had a summer of the three F’s, Family, Friends and Fishing. For this post, I’ll share the family aspect.
Family has increasing complexity as you age until around 50. When you are born there are only parents and siblings. Then you get grand parents, then cousins, aunts and uncles. There is a sea change when you add a spouse and a crew of in laws. Along with that, you add your own children and their cousins. It becomes a huge matrix of holidays and birthday events. Throw in births, weddings, illnesses and funerals and your social card fills up crowding out hobbies and friends. Unfortunately you lose grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles as you approach and pass 50 so the complexity levels off and I suppose starts to decline at some point.
For me family is foundational and as you plan your calendar family events become anchors that others work around. So we had five family gatherings over the summer, all outdoors and within pandemic guidelines. Three in the Philadelphia area, one near Santa Cruz and one in central Washington on Lake Chelan.
Given travel restrictions we didn’t break out until June18 and flew to San Francisco where we rented a car and headed to our Airbnb on the beach. My two son’s and their girlfriends joined us. The marine layer was thick and we had poor cool weather. Luckily the area is beautiful and after being apart for months it was great to be together.
We cooked out and enjoyed our deck on the beach every time the sun threatened to break through. Our son’s and their girlfriends are interesting, humorous and low maintenance. It made the trip for us. I went for a morning jog on the misty beach and suddenly ran into a giant male sea lion, big and bear like up close and less scared of us. We stopped at the Moss Landing slough and saw the playful harbor seals and social sea otter congregations called rafts. We hiked the Garrapata State Park costal mountain trails south of Monterey. Steep paths made for a good work out and some nice periods of sun made for spectacular ocean views.
The following weekend 6/26, Lori and I went to Philadelphia to see my brother, his family and my mom and dad. My brother is a 1%er when it comes to golf and we played. It was his first round in 2020 and despite my many days of 2020 practice, his talent overcame my preparation. Playing golf with him is in my top five. We also had a nice cook out with my brother’s family and my mom and dad. Absent was my nephew, his wife and brand new baby who needed to stay safe in crappy 2020. Frequent short concise visits before we wear out our welcome are the ticket.
A couple of weeks later July 15th-21st, Lori and I congregated with Lori’s family on Lake Chelan, Washington for an outdoor reunion. There were 17 of us from small children to a grand parent. My niece’s fiancé’s family has a large family home with 6 bedrooms and we rented another 4 bedroom house nearby. The lake is a mile across, 55 miles long and over 1000 feet deep however there are no myths of ancient large monsters in it. It was a fantastic pandemic friendly place to commune.
The Chelan reunion showed off family complexity. With two houses and people of all ages and interests, the logistics, preparation, and meals were hard work. Luckily my niece and her fiancé are meticulous planners, hard workers and good cooks. The deck had 3 different grills including a griddle and a smoker. The garage had a kegerator of craft beer. The lake was crystal clear with a dock for swimming and a ski boat. Nearby we had quality wineries where my niece and her fiancé plan to get married next July. The weather was bright sunshine and 90 dry degrees. It was an awesome environment.
My personal highlights were champagne on the wedding winery patio with the adults. Hanging with the children in the lake at the dock and swimming 500 yards each morning. Playing drunken chanting giant Jenga after a fine meal on the deck. Being out fished by my daughter on the dock. My nephew and I went on an over night adventure to the end of the lake on the edge of the Cascade Mountains and I was almost out fished on the Stahekin river. My son and I golfed with the fiance’ and a nephew amidst beautiful mountain vistas. I rented a 38 foot pontoon boat and we got all 17 on board with drinks, snacks and swimming towels. My sister in law and a 9 year old were the best captains.
In August, I returned sans Lori to celebrate 6 family birthdays, my parents, my sister Iaw, two nieces and one nephew. Again my brother hosted a delicious outdoor cook out on his patio. I got to meet my nephew’s brand new baby. A niece, aka Copernicus, got out her telescope and showed me the 4 moons of Jupiter. More amazingly she showed me Saturn and I saw its rings for the first time. My parents, 91 and 89, still live independently. It’s a great blessing to still have quality time with them. Even though the visits are quick they are highly valued.
The Philly Dickens Frequently Visited
At the beginning of October, Lori and I returned again to Philadelphia. Seeing my brother and his family is always great. Lori and my brother have a bad habit of picking on me but I like the attention. Knowing the number of times we can see my parents in good nick is limited, motivates us to return frequently. My niece showed Lori the rings of Saturn and Lori was as amazed as I was. Outdoor space heaters saved the evening.
In between all those family visits, I squeezed in the second F, friends.