(photo taken at pool, 2009 river trip)
Friday the Heller’s will make their trek to the Colorado River, as has been the annual tradition since before my birth. This year will be the first without mom. I have spent the last couple of months anesthetizing the pain of the loss in as many means as possible. This weekend will bring the feelings in a way that I will be unable to avoid. The cabin, the journey, the surroundings, just the sensation of being there will bring it all back…and it is coming on already. Such was a similar feeling to that of when we went without dad for the first time.
The smell will be different this year! So familiar to me is the smell of the spring only fifty yards from the cabin. And the smell of the air in the morning near the river is something I only connect to this trip; however, without mom there, missing will be that permeating smell of bleach! Always five steps ahead of us was mom each year carrying her gallon of Clorox. It was always her intention to rid the cabin of germs left by the previous occupants. And what a trooper she was to put up with the Heller kids and their humorous comments as she disinfected the refrigerator, tables, and counter tops. That was our mom.
Last year she had difficulty. I was not even sure she was going to make it to the river. I think everyone would have understood if she had opted out. But, then again, mom rarely opted out. And she was there. And it was wonderful. It was probably that weekend that I realized deeply how strong she was and how much I admired her. Not one time while she was sick, frankly, not one time in my entire life, did I ever hear her utter a word of complain. She was sick and there she was in the middle of nowhere with her family.
The middle of nowhere….that creates a bonding like no other. The place where we are without distraction, virtually forced to focus on one another, a re-group from the rush of the world…to play, to laugh, to connect…..to count our blessings. It is a coming together for our family. And many times we have brought family friends along to experience it with us. Each time they walk away with complete understanding of our silly, unique family. And an appreciation for the reason we continue going to the river. An understanding one can only have through the actual experience of being there.
Carry on of the tradition, I owe to my brother. I recognize its’ important to him since our dad died. He teaches me, without words, that it is important to continue. It is important to move ahead with thoughts of the past in our hearts. Making a tradition for our kids to cling to and have forever memories stir as they grow.
Off to the river we will go in two days….to make more memories and cling to those already in our hearts.
We are richly blessed.