It seems as if there is no limit to the amount of grieving I can do, and it’s not for lack of wanting to stop. I listen to peppy music, I go for walks, I do everything I’ve been taught to change my mood, and yet, my mind still wanders back to the days I lost Dana, Argo, and my mother. No one ever dies conveniently, but it was a body blow to lose my mother when I was still so lost in the throes of grieving the loss of my wife and my friend, and in Dana’s case, both.
Dana was my best friend in the entire world the whole time we were together, but officially for almost four years before we admitted we were in love with each other and didn’t just love each other. The rumor mill started long before that, but when I met Dana and we first started hanging out, my heart had been marinated, grilled, and handed to me on a platter. I didn’t have room for that kind of love in my life, and a best friend fit the bill nicely. I didn’t realize until probably two years had gone by that I was stopping myself from dating because I’d rather hang out with her. There were too many things to explore, like hiking and endless amounts of Trivial Pursuit in every genus imaginable, and in various states of sobriety.
In terms of driving out The Gorge, we called it “hiking o’clock” and “beer-thirty.” McMenamin’s Edgefield was halfway between Portland and Multnomah Falls, so generally we’d stop there on the way home for a pint. Multnomah, though, was only our starting point because there was an easy parking lot. We’d start there, then end up
somewhere over Wahkeena Falls or Angel’s Rest. At Angel’s Rest, I laid down on the rock and Dana held onto my ankles as I tried to get the perfect shot, because the rock pointed downward at a steep angle… and I can’t remember how we came up with it or when, but it was repeated that day. The setup is either one of us having to call our fathers. “Steve (or David)? Dana (or Leslie) was bein’ a dumbass and got herself killed.” The colors in the photos I took that day aren’t nearly as rich as they were in person, because back in those days, camera phones took quick and dirty pictures, not semi-professional quality like they do now. Although I will say that for a two megapixel camera and 640×480 resolution, this shot isn’t terrible. You know why I don’t have a better one? That was the longest, shittiest hike I’ve been on to date, and I am reticent to do it again. First of all, from Multnomah Falls, it’s about a mile and a half to the trail head to go up to Angel’s Rest. Second of all, it’s about an 11 mile hike round trip. On the way back, it started raining cats and dogs. Soaked to the skin, we almost cried when we got back to the trail head and realized it was still another one and a half miles to the car.
But, no pain, no gain, right?
There are too many funny stories between Dana and me, but right now the ones on my mind are about taking pictures. The setup on the first is that you have to know Dana loves genealogy, and I, to put it succinctly, do not. To me, it’s kind of boring. I let my grandfathers do all the work and just listen when they’re done. Dana will do things like call up historical societies. She did so and found out that one of her ancestors was buried at Beth Israel cemetery in Portland. So I had this bright idea that we should go and take pictures of the headstones with a “light dusting of snow.”
I’m laughing so hard I can barely breathe now…
We start driving and I forget that SW Portland is at a much higher elevation than SE, and when we get there, we are fuckin’ KNEE DEEP. We pull up in front of the caretaker’s house and Dana rings the doorbell to see if he can help her locate her ancestor’s headstone. He says, “where were you four hours ago?” It’s starting to get dark and the snow is falling even harder.
Tears are starting to roll down my cheeks now.
She asks if he has a map, and he says, “not one that you can read.” Dana gets all indignant thinking he’s just being shitty to her and tells me as such when she gets back in the car. I said, “it’s probably because it’s in Hebrew.” A light dawns in her brain that we’re at BETH ISRAEL CEMETERY. We decide that it’s getting too dark to see anything, anyway, and start home. We end up having to pull off to the side of the road to CHAIN UP due to my brilliance. It was a nice idea, anyway.
Another of my brilliant ideas turned dumbass attack was in Sacramento, California. Counselor, Dana’s sister, lives there, and we’d gone to visit her and the parents. We used to have code words that meant “get me the hell out of here” when being with family became too much for either of us (introvert and ambivert that we are). I said the code words and off we went for a drive. I think we went to a liquor store because as the resident mixologist, I was usually the one that made drinks for everyone in the afternoon. On the way home, we saw this field of sunflowers, and I told Dana to stop the car. Since we were on the highway, she knew I’d found something I wanted to take a picture of…. something I did often. To Dana’s credit, she ALWAYS stopped…. and didn’t leave me there, not even once. 🙂
To get the highway out of the picture, I crawled down into the gulch and before I knew it, I was past my
ankles in mud. It didn’t bother me, because I’d learned early that if you wanted a great shot, sometimes you had to pay for it. How much did I pay, you ask? Well, once I was that deep in the mud, I couldn’t get back out. I tried everything I could to struggle upward, because I’d just gotten new running shoes fairly recently and they needed to last me for a while. After about ten minutes, I finally realized that the only way I was ever going to see Dana again was to untie them and try to get my feet out that way. I managed to successfully get my feet out, but when I reached down for my sneakers, they were stuck as if superglued. Dana saw me walking across the highway in my socks to the convenience store where she parked. I opened the door and she looked at me knowingly. “…but I got the shot,” I said. I can’t remember whether she said anything or just sighed. If she just sighed, I promise I knew exactly what she meant.