A year ago, I was consumed by the role of primary decision-maker for my ailing mother, with regard to her health care and finances. It was something of a lost year in that it required a lot of travel to the Bay Area and countless conversations and consultations with health care providers, relatives and neighbors of my mom. So much so that it seemed some things and some people simply got ignored.
Well, in the year just completed, I’m happy to say life got back on track. And part of that was the momentum created by a spring visit to my dad and stepmother in New Mexico.
The loss of a parent is something you don’t easily gloss over. Lori’s parents have been gone for several years now; with Mom’s death last year, that means my 88-year-old father is the only one of our parents still alive. Little wonder that this year’s visit, after a three-year lapse, seemed to mean more than the previous ones.
We visited in early April and mostly stuck close to home. Dad has slowed down a bit (eyesight and hearing are in decline), but his sense of humor and love of the peace and quiet that comes in a rural community are still very much evident. I don’t know that we’ll be able to make a return trip in 2015. If we can’t, we’ll definitely plan on it in 2016.
As for the rest of the year, there was plenty to look back upon with pride and joy.
At the top of the list, the magical island wedding of daughter Simone and her fabulous partner Kyndall. Even four months removed from the August 9 wedding date, memories of the event are as fresh and vibrant as ever. Quite simply, it was a party. The ladies planned every bit of it — from the welcoming venue to the vows and ceremony to the farm-to-table menu to the late-night pizza to the table centerpieces made of succulents-and-driftwood — and it all came off spectacularly well.
It felt like we were guests as much as parents in that we simply melted into the dancing, smiling mass of people who came from all over the United States to celebrate with Simone and Kyndall. Family and friends from the West Coast were thrown together with people who knew the girls from the East Coast, and for many from both regions it was their first time experiencing the beauty of Orcas Island.
Lori and I had anticipated that day for a long time and it was wonderful in every aspect.
Other highlights? Let me hopscotch across the calendar:
Guy time on Orcas was a delight. Spent three days at our cabin in March with my boys, Nathan and Jordan, doing nothing but relaxing.
Reconnected with my longtime Texas buddy, Mike Granberry, in September. Made a trip to Big D (that’s Dallas, people) that was heavy on the sightseeing (football stadiums, museums, Kennedy assassination landmarks) and all-good on the vibes. Got to meet his wife and three of his four boys.
A month earlier, I attended a golden wedding anniversary party in Salinas, California, for a favorite aunt and uncle, Minnie and Julian Flores. He was my mother’s youngest brother and together with his wife they’ve raised four adult daughters.
In October, it was back to California, this time for the wedding of my best friend’s daughter. Nicole Lee-Rodriguez looked radiant as she married Andrew Acosta in an outdoor ceremony in the hills above Santa Barbara. My compadre Al rocked it in his father-of-the-bride speech.
In the world of arts and literature…
I had the pleasure of curating the fourth annual Voices of August guest blogging project, followed by a meetup in early October that brought together several familiar faces and a few new ones. It’s wonderful seeing people connect in person after revealing aspects of themselves in their guest blog posts and in the comments as they react to each other’s writing. It was especially nice seeing one VOA regular, Jennifer Brennock, make it down for the first time from Orcas Island.
I read some great books during the year, none as pleasurable as “Beautiful Ruins” by Jess Walter. Just a lovely novel about imagined, intersecting lives in Italy and Hollywood. Also noteworthy: “Behind the Beautiful Forevers,” by Katherine Boo; “The Free” by Willy Vlautin; “The Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown; “Zeitoun” by Dave Eggers.
I made it to just four music concerts this year, and each one was great: Amos Lee, Mayer Hawthorne, the Wailin’ Jennys and Steve Winwood. Fell in love with a new British band, London Grammar, and snapped up some tickets to see them in November. They’ve been touring a lot this year, though, and moved their Portland concert to next February. Can’t wait.
On a “mystery date” in January, I surprised Lori by taking her to see Jerry Seinfeld at the Schnitz. What a masterful performer. Lori and I literally were crying with laughter during his set.
Finally, two transitions of note…
In November, I described two years of head-spinning changes in my work as a journalist. The industry has changed dramatically from ink-on-paper to digital presentation, with more and more readers opting to read on the go from their mobile electronic devices. I’ve survived the newsroom downsizing by being adaptable and keeping up with the new tools of the trade.
I ended the year moving from our suburban offices in Hillsboro and Beaverton to the main office in Portland and switching from editorial writing to straight news reporting on the workplace beat. Been at it for just two months, but I’m loving it.
Also in November, we added to our family. We adopted Charlotte — an 11-pound package of high energy, playful personality and spunky attitude. She’s a jet-black terrier mix we got from The Pixie Project, ostensibly as a foster dog, though it took only a few days for us to know she was a keeper.
She’s become best buddies with Otto, our 10-year-old Jack Russell terrier, and a delightful new member of the household. I’ll admit it was challenging at first to deal with her nightly routine, where she’d bark until we let her out of her kennel for a post-midnight walk. But she’s sleeping through the night now, thanks to a soft-cloth kennel and a more comfortable location — near the foot of our bed. For that, we are both grateful.
All in all, 2014 was packed with a lot of milestones. If next year is anything like this one, I’ll be a happy man.
Wedding photographs: Brandon Witzel