The Band of Gypsies were together once again. This time we were at home in a timeshare condo in Vail, Colorado. My family is noisy and opinionated. They talk all at once, arguing and interrupting each other. I find their constant chatter exhausting at times.
On our second day we drove to Glenwood Canyon. The girls argued in the back seat, catching up in their unique way, my younger daughter’s boyfriend sitting between the two girls. He’s a really nice guy, I hoped he would survive the ride. My husband kept interrupting, a strong Blanchette trait. I am a Blanchette by marriage only. I am lacking some of the genes these three share. “Girls, look at that red cliff. Hey guys, check out those kayakers. Stop talking and look.” He was fighting a losing battle.
They got off on the subject of cars. For some reason, they started talking about my car, fondly nicknamed Dent. The day my younger daughter got her license, I let her take my car to an ice cream shop by the beach. The parking lot is tight and crowded. It was July, the place was jammed. She pulled into a tight spot. An old man in the car next to her rolled his window down and shouted, “I can’t open my door.” She was rattled and felt obligated to move. She backed up as cars came in and out of the tiny parking lot. It was a difficult maneuver for anyone, never mind a first time driver. Slamming into the old man’s rear bumper, she took part of his fender with her and dented my front right side.
His wife yelled at him, then made him apologize. Our insurance covered the damage to his vehicle but I never got my car fixed. I don’t know about you, but I always have trouble with insurance companies. You buy the insurance, don’t use it for years then have an incident where you need to use the product you’ve been paying for and they jack up your rates. Apparently, we are supposed to send them money for a service we are never supposed to use. Thus the nickname Dent.
I tried to get in on the conversation. It’s similar to jumping onto the boxcar of a fast-moving train. I wanted to tell the story of Ed McGee. I never did get a word in edgewise, so I’ll share the story with you. This may be why I write, no one interrupts when I’m writing.
I bought my first car when I was 24, a blue Corolla from McGee Pontiac/Toyota. I registered it in Rhode Island, I no longer remember why. I was living in Boston. My license plate was ED 927. Ed McGee. And like that other famous McGee, Bobby, Ed and I traveled many miles together. We drove cross-country twice. He spent a winter in Vail, Colorado with me and one snowy day we did a 180 on Route 70, the very road I was traveling on now, and survived to tell the tale. He also got me over Vail Pass during a blizzard. A crazy, scary ride but Ed never failed me. “Through all kinds of weather, through everything we done.” I have a picture of Ed and I at Daytona, back when you could drive your car right onto the beach.
We finally arrived at the trailhead to Hanging Lake. My older daughter was nagging me to get her sister to wear sunscreen. I asked, “Why? No one ever listens to me.” She replied, “Yeah, you’re right.”
The park service sign informed us the trail was a 1.2 mile hike with an increase in elevation of 1020 feet, clearly a steep uphill climb. I didn’t get too far before my knee ached from the twisting and turning to avoid sharp rocks and loose gravel. My left knee has arthritis, bone on bone. When I tried to imagine the hike back down, I bailed. My husband understood. He said he wasn’t sure how far he’d make it either. After years of climbing ladders, his knees are worse than mine.
I returned to the shady picnic area back at the trailhead, got out my journal, and started making notes for the novel I am writing. I felt bad. I felt old. I felt like I should have tried harder. I kept justifying my decision. I hadn’t completely adjusted to the altitude. What if I slipped on the loose gravel and really hurt myself?
So as not to be a complete slacker, I got up and took a two mile walk along the bike trail which brought me under Route 70 and along a river where white water rafters passed by.
Back at the trailhead, I listened to the sound of aspen leaves rustling in the breeze and birds chirping. Butterflies were everywhere. I enjoyed the serenity of the afternoon, the opportunity to write in such a beautiful setting. The peace and quiet.
I tried to accept my limitations. There are more walks and hikes to take, but I missed one that day. My family brought me photos. The waterfalls and lake were beautiful. I wished I had seen them, but my extremely athletic oldest daughter admitted the hike was difficult, even for her. But still, a part of me was raging against aging.
A woman in a silk shirt and blue sandals returned to the trailhead. She was about my age, out of breath and tired. She was from Texas. “I guess I wore the wrong shoes,” she said. “The breathing was the worst. I only made it half way.” She took off her shoes and put her aching feet in the cold stream. “I hope my husband’s okay,” she said.
A short time later, a group of people appeared around the bend in the trail, shouting, “Anyone know Jim?” The Texan looked worried, exclaiming, “My husband’s name is Jim.” A young man smiled and said, “He has a message for you. He told us to tell you he’s almost to the top and he’s doing fine. Oh yeah, and he also said to tell you he’s still vertical.” I smiled at the woman, she smiled back. Today we didn’t make it to the top, but at least we tried.
We went into Glenwood Springs for lunch. Now that’s something I can do.
But this is what I missed:
I recently read Time to Write? Go Outside and can say for me it is absolutely true. Check it out if you need some writing inspiration.
***This piece originally appeared on the Huffington Post as Raging Against Aging