Road Trip, chapter 5: Sweet and Bittersweet

We awoke to a clear, sunny day showcasing the mountains along the northern perimeter of the LA basin. As a loyal Northwester it’s hard to admit that – that – that – parts of the Los Angeles area are beautiful. I also remember friends telling me years ago that they lived near Pasadena for a year without knowing that Mt. Wilson was practically in their back yard.

The sweet part of our day began when we made it to the church on time for the 11:00 wedding. Susan and I have witnessed or participated in many, many weddings over the years, and almost every one brings back some of the same magic that we felt when we tied the knot a couple of decades ago. We looked forward to this one because we have known and loved the bride all her life; we’re just beginning to get to know and love her hubby. Both the wedding and the reception spoke clearly of the couple’s love and faith, helping us gain a better sense of them as a couple and how right they are for each other. ‘Twas a pleasure to see the bride and groom so evidently relaxed and comfortable and enjoying each other’s company. A wonderful slide presentation made it even more apparent that this marriage bears the stamp of “whom God has joined together…”

A FASHION NOTE: Of course those of you who know me realize that I’m a slave to fashion, so let me offer a brief word about what the bride and groom wore. She was a vision in a lovely long white spaghetti-strap dress. Here’s the best part: she found it in the “dollar barrel” at a thrift shop. She has a great eye for vintage styles and a commitment to making the most of simple things, so her dress was perfect. In the same spirit, he was dashing in (I think) a black tux, preferring an open collar to a tie. You’ve got to love a guy like that.

After the reception we went to visit two extraordinary friends (“He” and “She”) who used to live in Seattle. He was on staff at our church before returning to school for a doctorate, and she is a medical professional who advocates with insurance providers on behalf of patients. Together they opened their home and their hearts to many, and their departure from Seattle was a very great loss.

In the fall of 2006 He was diagnosed with cancer for the third time. His doctors consider this a terminal case, and He has undergone a grueling regimen of tests and treatments. When we called, She said that He was just coming home from an 11-day stay in the hospital. Then this probably wouldn’t be a very good time, we thought. Oh no, She insisted, this would be a wonderful surprise for him, so by all means come over.

He and She – and his Mom – are profiles in courage. We can only imagine facing each day in the delicate balance between illness and well-being, meds and reactions to meds, sadness and joy. We were happy and grateful to see these dear friends even for a very short visit; it was painful to see the difficulties with which they are now living; it was impossible to understand the intensity of their suffering. How striking that He (owner of an exceptional sense of humor) laughed and joked with us, and that She welcomed us in only minutes after bringing him home from the hospital. What a privilege to have such friends. This was the bittersweet part of our day.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The West Coast Hospitality Center (Susan’s sister’s home) had rolled out the red carpet for visitors again. We joined the others who were relaxing, eating, and – as often happens in Susan’s family – planning the next day’s activities. Lauren and Zack were particularly glad to hang out with their two Extremely Cool Guy Cousins who live in LA. (These guys are like magnets for our kids. L & Z had hitched rides from the church with them, and except for eating together, we caught only occasional glimpses of them across the room – with their cousins – at the wedding reception.) For some of us who didn’t really know our cousins when we were kids, it’s heartwarming to see how much fun these guys (oldest cousin is 25, youngest is 11) have together.

Based on the family planning committee’s recommendations, several of the ladies decided to do some shopping on Sunday while Zack, his cousin from Seattle (1 year older) and I opted to hit a water park. The boys had a sleepover in our room so we could get a reasonable start in the morning. A temporary lapse in my map reading skills, however, ate up our early bird advantage. I drove east on a freeway for about 20 minutes before realizing we needed to go west. Dang! We rolled into Raging Waters at about the crack of noon, and found out why it has so many parking lots.

Tip: Don’t go to a big water park on a sunny and hot Sunday afternoon. It was a ten-minute shuttle ride from parking lot C to Raging Waters’ main gate. Gee – just $35 a head to get in. But what’s this?? A sign proclaimed some good news: “55 and better: $22.99.” My first ever senior discount! I whipped out my ID and saved $12. The vitality of youth (my second childhood?) began to surge through my body. Who cares if the lines are long?

This place was a blast, even with the crowds. There was something for everyone, and the boys paired with each other when they didn’t want to join me. Slides are rated from relaxing to aggressive; I’m proud to have gone on three of the aggressive ones. (To see one of them, go down to the little picture of Dropout and click on it. ) After several hours we’d had as much sun and water as we could take in a day. And I had never seen so many boobs and tattoos in my life. Fortunately we didn’t witness it, but we heard of women arriving at the bottom of some slides before their swimsuit tops did.

We met up with Susan and Lauren back at the Hospitality Center. Revitalized by a shower and yet another meal, we said our thank yous and goodbyes and fired up our chariot. We left LA with hearts full – what a wonderful weekend. Next stop: San Diego.

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