Deke's Note: Finally, my Friday night! Well, it's early morning to many of you, but 2:25am is early evening to this night owl. Comforted, slightly lubricated, it's time to describe life as Deke finds it now.
Ever heard of The Fifth Dimension? A quintet of highly-talented vocalists, this was the first group I ever saw in concert. The year was 1971, I was a spunky 10-year-old, and I loved their music. Sure, the Jackson Five was hot along with many other groups, but I was enchanted with the vocal harmonies these masterful singers put out. Up Up and Away was the first tune up tonight, and it made me sigh. How I would love to sail up in a beautiful balloon and find only sunshine and fresh air! It is not to be, but the music takes me back to a simpler time, my childhood. And that, folks was half a century ago.
Enough dreamy bullshit though. Things here in Oregon are, well without more adequate adjectives, terrible. Nightmarish. Is Mother Nature, God and the Cosmos combining to punish humanity? In the midst of fighting a killer pandemic, Oregon experienced a freak windstorm combined with single-digit humidity and near-100-degree temps early last week, sparking a horrific firestorm never before seen. In the span of a few days, entire communities were engulfed in Satan's living room. A 12-year-old and his grandmother were taken by the flames, and many poor souls.
We were lucky. Just two weeks ago today, we moved from an apartment situated just across the highway from a Level 3 (GO NOW!) evacuation zone. It is surrounded by old-growth timber, which after a normally-super-dry summer, is drier than my father-in-law. Of course, we had no idea whatsoever this would happen. Had we stayed there, the smoke has been so thick none of us could have endured sleeping there. Our former neighbors must be living a mortal hell right now, not to mention those just a mile down the road or just a bit further, in the sleepy burghs of Molalla, Silverton and all the farms dotting the beautiful Oregon countryside just south and southeast of the Portland Metropolitan area. My heart is sick watching the devastation of century-old farms, homesteads and all the memories this hellfire took with it.
Our new home is just across the Clackamas River from Oregon City. It sits near the confluence of that river and the Willamette, a mighty northward-flowing tributary which originates just south of Eugene, where the several mountain-fed rivers feed into it. Gladstone is a sleepy little hamlet in the southeast corner of the Portland metro area, where we raised our sons and made lifelong friends of our next-door neighbors. I was sad to leave it; this neighborhood is where the book JUST DRIVE - Life in the Bus Lane took shape, where this blog was born. Now, our new home sits directly across the street from that lovely little house where we shared so much love together. I'm constantly reminded there is a guiding hand in our lives, and how my wishes the past four years have been granted more gratuitously than I could have ever dreamed.
Now, I feel guilty. What have I done to deserve such a fortunate turn of events? I hated living in an apartment again. That alone was my privilege shouting from within. At least I have always found a way to keep a decent roof over our heads, given my lack of a college degree. My working career looks like a chapter out of a Dickens novel, with a bit of Michener mixed in. Whenever our situation appeared bleak, Deke reached up and grabbed on for dear life and hey, I'm better off now than so many others. Why was I so depressed before? I've always wanted more. If I would only feel happy that I'm not one of the millions in this world who have so much less, perhaps I'd be a more-graceful human being.
My constant need for more must stem from being born with a brain injury and feeling like I have to prove my parents' dedication wasn't for naught. I'm dealing with this. My Beloved has always calmed and soothed me, reminding me to be grateful for what we do have, rather than always wanting more. Even during this week when we might have been reaching just to keep out of the flame's grasp, she has remained stoic, composed and steady. It has been me one step ahead of panic, frightened we would lose every humble "thing" we have accumulated over our 27 years together, and a lifetime I had before Beloved stepped in to my darkened life. Those "things" mean nothing compared to the lives of her, our sons and my daughter, grandson and brothers, or our friends, my brothers and sisters, and those with whom we have shared this city for almost two decades now.
Life is fleeting, so it is said. It is true. As I approach my 60th birthday, I'm slowly coming around to what it's all about. And Alfie, it's love. That's all that matters, especially in the end. We don't take earthly possessions with us, so no matter how I love my great aunt's desk I've lived with for 36 years, or my great grandfather's clock given him as a wedding gift in 1890. It could go up in flames and I would still be surrounded by family and friends who put my humble belongings to shame. If I died today, it would come about knowing that I have made true friends with many incredible folks. My last expression would be a smile, although a single tear might trickle down knowing I couldn't spend more time with any of you.
Thank you all for standing by me all these seven years. You have given me strength in your support. I have grown as a human, not just as a writer. I needed to become a better soul before these alphabetical pecks could evolve into something more coherent and lasting. With your help, and the guiding hand which brought us into Alice's House in the Clarendon Neighborhood, along with Beloved's loving presence, will steer me where I have always needed to be: home.