Today was the “Celebration of Life for George Wasowski.” As his beloved wife, Kathy, pointed out, he would have thought the term pretentious. “Party on!” is good. We headed out, Merced to Cupertino, prepared for bad weather during one of Merced’s worst storm in years. I thanked God we bought a Subaru Outback. (“They lived!”) I HATE driving in the rain. I am dressed not in the preferred Hawaiian attire, but in an overdress I would have killed for when we were prancing around the Haight, to which my daughter said, “Mom, I am trying to find kind words.” I thought the turmoil my stomach was in was due to the weather, later I reflected on the fact it was more likely due to the anxiety of the event, facing what was really real. George was gone.
Oh, the memories. They start to pour as we hop off 85 (built after our departure from Silicon Valley) and turn onto Stevens Creek. My nickname was Creek. Hated that. Kids will come up with anything they can. Following the road, we are back in the sixties and seventies. David said, “The damn is around the corner!” I happily agreed, and poof, there it was, more memories flood in; the place we parked to make out. The place you went to see the submarine races, the place you went to scare the daylights out of yourself after hearing the story about the albino bats that live up in the park.
We made it to the picnic site a half hour late, but no worries, no one is drunk yet. My incredible, gallant husband drops me off as close to the covered site as possible with our umbrella while he goes back for the food, returning drenched to the bone. There is Max, hard to miss. And Pai coming our way, with her goofy grin. Kathy, waiting for a hug, keeping an eye out for new comers, George's beautiful kids, John and Nicole, scurry about keeping busy. A good sized crowd where I struggled to recognize anyone else in the sea of faces. Pai points out Bryan, and there is Jeff. Safety. Hugs and familiar banter transport you back to a time, not necessarily happier, but certainly more carefree. We have made it, safely back to the family of friends of yester year. For a little while.
The road, the park, the trees, despite the lovely rain, took us back, they bring such warm, young memories. We agree we need to come back and drive these exquisite roads in the sunshine. A side note: David was here attending West Valley College while I was running around being a free and wild hippie, so many short miles and six years apart, but so near none the less. So, here we meet in Merced, say some forty years later, and fall in love, marry and laugh every time we return to our stomping grounds. So close, and so far. If that isn’t a perfect example of timing is what it is (perfect), I don’t what would be.
So, the day is perfect. Good friends, mixed with the strangers who all loved the same quiet (occasionally) loving, gentle, huge giant teddy bear, and especially kind man, son, husband and father. Our little nine person "sixties in the seventies" band manager, equipment hauler, spiritual adviser and psychiatrist died last month after a long struggle with health issues. We are most certainly all looking older, Jeff is in a wheel chair, Pai's hair is finally turning grey. Stories were told, laughter filled our little space, some tears flowed at the songs sung by friends, hugs and memories, painful smiles, sad reflections, little sighs. Paul and Mikey are mentioned and remembered, previous lost band members are included in our sorrow. One lovely lady offers us the reminder that we should look at, absorb and appreciate the surrounding forest; life continues. It always has, and always will.
Pictures are taken of the remaining remnants, the surviving elements of Olde Forest and friends, sans Jim and Ricky who unfortunately didn’t make the party. Next time. Well, if, well, no, next time. There will be a next time. And another after that.
Time to leave. Even harder than arriving. When will we see each other again? I love you. I miss you. I need to return to my life, as you do yours. But remember, I love you. I miss you. You all hold a huge part of my heart, forever, you were all a large part of my life, and I would not, for all the tea in China, or money in Fort Knox, give any of it up, not for a minute.
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