Saturday, August 6, 2011
Anniversaries and such.
That's the Iron Door Saloon, in Groveland, CA. It's the oldest bar in California, and you might recognize it as "that place I stop into on Highway 120 on the way to Yosemite." We Tuolumne River guides recognize it as "the closest place to get a beer" and "Karaoke Night" (aka Thursdays in the summer time).
It's also where Will and I met.
In fact, it's also where we had our first kiss.
August is full of anniversary stuff for us; for example, we first kissed on August 3rd. How do I remember that? Because our friend Chelsey had an epic birthday party that happened to fall on a karaoke night (Thursday) at the Iron Door Saloon, and it was amazing that we all were able to guide the next day. We took a group of 25-35 year old tech gurus from Chicago down the river on a two-day trip leaving the next morning, and it was probably one of the most memorable trips in my 15 years of guiding. Will wasn't on that trip, but we ran out of beer by 5pm (the rafting guests drank ALL of it by 5pm) and then ran out of wine by 6pm. So what did we do? Naturally, we used the satellite phone to call the ONE person we knew would be up for a mission: Will. He hiked in 4 handles of rum and 8 liters of mixer with his guitar and made it to our camp by 9pm. I remember the entire group cheering as they saw his headlamp bobbing down the trail from Groveland to Indian Creek on the Tuolumne. He then stayed and played songs until midnight, hiked out and worked a one-day trip (18 miles of river in one day), took out from the water with us AND was our bus driver due to his Class B license at the time.
He's kind of awesome that way.
That was one of the coolest instances in our relationship
Also in August was our first trip to Burning Man, also known as Black Rock City, Nevada, also known as The Playa (not pronounced "player" but "plie-yah"). It's where we fell in love, it's where we got engaged, and we also got married at the temple there last year, dressed as Unicorns, by our friend and reverend "Pastor Prime" (get it- past her prime? nyuck nycuk nyuck).
August was awesome.
And for those who might be wondering, October is our "default world" anniversary, where we got married in the state of California and made it all legal and stuff with our families.
September, however, will be tough for anniversaries.
What some of you may or may not know is that on Sept 24th of 2010, Will was supposed to be leaving for his bachelor party. It was a Friday. I was driving on Highway 80 towards Roseville, having decided to go check out lingerie and maybe go have a night with my girlfriends in Truckee.
Will called me, "Nicole, Paul is dead."
"What? Don't say that. It's not true."
"Nicole, he shot himself this morning. Justine found him."
I immediately pulled over on the highway and vomited.
Paul was Will's best friend, our best man, and was deeply in love with Justine.
I didn't blog about it last year because I didn't know what to say. I still don't. Paul was one of the most amazing people I knew: he was an expert river guide who, even with a below the knee amputation, could run faster down a river bank, could guide crazy Class V heck even Class VI rapids, and could do more than the average person ever dreamed of. He was larger than life. He was incredibly loving. I remember when he took me and Will aside and showed us the ring he was going to give Justine later that week, and the sparkle in his eyes, and how excited he was. I don't remember a Paul who was depressed. I don't remember a Paul who would ever have left this world intentionally.
Here's how I remember him (he's in the dark t-shirt, Will is closest):
We went to his funeral the weekend before our wedding.
Paul and Justine's wedding anniversary was October 11th. Ours is October 10th. We had kind of planned it that way, and had spoken about celebrating together over the course of our lives.
That's gone now.
It was horrible. It still is horrible. Nobody will ever know why. Many of us blame ourselves for not seeing something sooner.
Having to go forward with a major celebration of love when one is grieving is emotionally confusing. Trying to support Will in losing his best friend when I've lost a friend, too, is a balancing act. And then there's the fact that when I write about all of this, I feel like the vocabulary is lacking.
I feel selfish on so many levels- I wish we had a wedding that wasn't overshadowed by grief. We celebrated, but we were definitely subdued. I wish that Will had actually been able to go on his bachelor party- he's planned so many for other people and was so excited to have had one for himself. He deserved that.
And I wish Justine had Paul back. She is one of the most amazing women I've ever met, and her grace in all of this chaos has been impeccable. I cannot imagine the hell she has been through.
And then I know my feelings and my grief, and yet, I still feel selfish for wishing it had never happened.
But it did happen. And I'm angry and sad and mad at myself for being angry, and feel powerless in the wake of all of this death.
And I can see how much it's affected our relationship (Will and I) over the past year. To say that "Things have been hard" is an understatement.
And I don't know how any relationship can survive something like that.
Sometimes I still have trouble taking care of people who are 5150'd in the ER. I had a woman wake up, intubated, after trying to overdose on benzodiazapines, and when she realized her husband was there, she started crying out of shame for what she had done and relief that she was alive. She got help.
I wish I could have helped my friend.
So, yeah. Anniversaries. Some are beautiful and meant to be celebrated. And some are laced with incredible sadness. This time last year, my friend was still alive. This time last year, Will's best friend was still alive.
People can throw quotes at you all day long and can offer hugs and reassurance, but nothing, NOTHING takes the place of that person in your heart.
This year at Burning Man we will have the Temple of Transition. I have a lot to bring to it, and I know where my heart will be as I watch it fall.
Words from Transitional Times.
- ► 2009 (28)