Family Reunion 2012

house2It was a family reunion to remember. But then, they usually are. The week was packed with tumult at home and very present calamity in Bayview. There was a feeling of distraction, and things were tugging on some of us, but when all was said and done, I’m sure we would each say that it was well worth the trouble and expense to be there. The turnout was light in spite of the fact that Bear and Sandi were hosting from their famously lavish Bayview home. (I still sometimes wince with jealousy when I hear descriptions of the 2008 reunion I was unable to attend.) Nevertheless, there were only seven of us this year, including our hosts. Somewhere in all this is proof that we don’t show up for the creature comforts.

Bear and Sandi’s Bayview house is a spacious A-frame nestled in the trees on the lakefront. It has four bedrooms, four bathrooms and a living room that could hold two baseball teams comfortably. I knew I was there when I walked into the front room and took in the soaring cathedral ceiling and saw the shards of sunlight bouncing off the lake. They have a deck that stretches across the entire front of the house, with patio tables, a hot tub and music piped out from the stereo system inside. Indoors, there is a full bar, a large kitchen and a dining room furnished in the style of Louis XVI. Everywhere you go, a plush shag carpet massages your feet. As Andi remarked, “Everything in this house is beautiful.”

My mom and I arrived at the Spokane airport Saturday morning, and by Sunday afternoon, the incoming group was fleshed out to include my cousins Andi, Lynette and Stacey. We settled into a comfortable holiday routine of good food and board games. Sandi and Bear are excellent hosts, and we never wanted for a thing. At one point later in the week, I asked Sandi if I could do some laundry, but she insisted on washing, drying and folding my clothes for me.

Pend Oreille MapBy the second day, the younger set were ready for some action. Andi, Lynette, Stacey and I headed out onto the lake to do some jet-skiing. We tooled around for a good part of the day, barely scratching the surface of the lake. Pend Oreille is the largest lake in Idaho. It is 43 miles long, six miles across at its widest point, and 111 miles in circumference. Its pristine blue waters are more than 1150 feet deep in places. Because of its attributes, the lake was used to train around 300,000 soldiers during World War II, and it is still used by the Navy to test submarines. The lake is uncluttered and mostly undeveloped since most of the lakefront acreage is owned by the U.S. Forest Service.

Our jet-skiing was interspersed with beverage and swimming breaks. At one point, we found a quiet cove to splash around in. It was a hot day, and the water was enormously refreshing. The lake is remarkably clean. It actually tastes rather like drinking water.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAAs we continued on, Lynette and Stacey took off on their jet-ski. Andi and I were on the more powerful model. It was Andi’s turn to drive, and within a minute, we were doing at least 40. I let out a whoop, and then it happened. Just as we hit a pair of thick waves, Andi punched the throttle, hard. She felt me let go of her and turned just in time to see me part company with the jet-ski. While I was flying through the air, I remember thinking, “Wow, I’ve never done this before.” Then I was tumbling on top of the water like a crash-test dummy on concrete. (When you’re going 55 miles an hour, water isn’t soft anymore.) I would find out later that I had broken two ribs. Meanwhile, Lynette had caught up with us and wondered why there was large blue debris in the water (the color of my life vest).

Andi was afraid I was badly hurt, since I wasn’t moving. But when my pain subsided, it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. I was able to get back onto the jet-ski, and we limped back to Bear and Sandi’s dock. We shook off the incident and got back to relaxing, although I was, shall we say, a bit stiff. Two days later, I finally got some medical attention. Dr. Chun of the Kootenai Medical Center, who looked at my X-rays, said he was glad I hadn’t punctured any organs when my ribs snapped like popsicle sticks.

Andi felt awful, but I kept trying to tell her that this is a relatively normal outcome of American speed-based recreation. The internal combustion engine is a great invention, but I’m pretty sure people weren’t meant to go 55 miles per hour on top of the water without any kind of enclosure. Sometimes when we push the envelope, we pay the piper. But I’ve already made up my mind that if I get the chance to go jet-skiing again, I’m going to jump on it. I figure the law of averages will favor me for a while.

Wednesday Bear and Sandi took us out on their 40-foot boat—a 4087 aft-cabin Bayliner with twin Cummins 250 hp diesel engines. It has two staterooms and two bridges, giving the captain the option of enclosed or open-air command. Naturally, it has all the comforts of home. The recreation deck is particularly comfortable, but there’s plenty of room all over the boat for seven people to spread out. At one point early on, I was exploring the boat and ended up out on the very tip of the bow. I stood there for a minute with my arms outstretched, catching the wind with my hands as though I were on the set of Titanic.

After snacks and beverages, Bear shut off the engines and we spent an hour pursuing one of the more popular vacation activities―Doing Absolutely Nothing. Lynette made jokes about the way I laughed because of the rib injury (part laughter and part grimace). I played some cribbage with Mom. Then things got interesting again. About 45 minutes after Bear had stopped the boat, Andi and Stacey went in the water for a swim without life jackets. This is natural enough; I wouldn’t have worn one either. But once they had been in the water for a while, they realized they were drifting away from the boat. Apparently, this was happening because the wind was blowing the boat away from them, not because of actual current. I was standing on the deck taking photographs of them when Stacey started yelling for a life vest. I didn’t get the seriousness of the situation at first; I continued to stand there taking pictures for a second. I think I said something like, “OK, Stacey, I’ll get one for you. Smile!”

But then, suddenly, there was fear in Stacey’s voice—so much that it hurt to hear her. The next thing I knew, Sandi was handing me a life vest, and I was swimming out to Stacey. I concentrated on calling out to her as I swam. Everyone was in motion. Sandi was yelling at Bear to bring the boat around. The second I reached Stacey with the life vest, she hollered at me to take care of Andi. The fact that my ribs hardly hurt while I was swimming out to Stacey was most likely providence. If it was, it went away the second I started to climb back on the boat. That was murder. But I fondly remember that my cousins were there at the stern to help me up.

Then all was well. We were soon warm, dry and grateful, chugging toward Hope, where we sat down for dinner at The Floater, a restaurant on the docks next to the marina.

There’s more, but it’s trivial by comparison. We had some more laughs, ate a lot more food, played Catch Phrase and Balderdash. Andi and I took a hot tub and discussed religion. We all reflected on the entertainment value of non-lethal calamity. We had experienced two mishaps, but neither one of them had really harmed us. My ribs are still hurting; I find it difficult to sleep most nights. I’ve gained some weight because of my relative idleness with the injury. But I thank God for what happened, as silly as it might sound to some people. The injury has caused me a great deal of pain and discomfort and has rearranged my life completely. But maybe it was time for a bit of rearrangement. The whole thing has made me realize how important it is not to crystallize in lethargic routine. I want to live a life that gets shaken up from time to time. The alternative is boring. Thank you, God, for fresh experiences!

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About Douglas Abbott

I am a freelance writer by trade, philosopher and comedian by accident of birth. I am an assiduous observer of humanity and endlessly fascinated with people, the common elements that make us human, what motivates people and the fingerprint of God in all of us. I enjoy exploring the universe in my search for meaning, beauty and friendship. My writing is an extension of all these things and something I did for fun long before I ever got paid. My hope is that the reader will find in this portfolio a pleasing and inspiring literary hodgepodge. Good reading!
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