Our last night at Lake Cahuilla, ever.
It was our fifty-second wedding anniversary.
Arms around each other we watched the stars – millions of stars – Orion – heaven.
Anne shivered, are you cold dear – no.
Anne was going to live high-out two more years. Probably less.
Our granddaughter was studying the very stars stars at school that hung above us.
All was dark around us, even the majestic sky, were it not for the myriads of twinkling stars sharing their light from far away, even further than the sun is from the earth, leaving us in deep thoughts that made me shudder to, but not of fear.
I wondered what Anne was thinking, was she anxious about her impending death?
If she was she had never mentioned it and I had never asked.
Every day was precious now since the ALS was steadily devouring her.
“Let's go inside” she said.
The lit light-bulb dangling inside our small tent transformed it into a glowing yellow ball like a giant moon, yet it looked small between the palace-sized motor homes now fading into the dark. Their owners were asleep, gathering energy for a next day of retiring, while we still wandered around the campground using the tent as a beacon to return to.
'Nothing is more enjoyable than sleeping in a small tent in the desert.'
Anne loved sleeping in the tent as much as I did, we used to read before going to sleep, all the while listening to secret little noises of the night, only broken by the far away cry of a coyote calling his kin, who were closer to our tent and in chorus howled back as only they knew how. Ow ow ow-ow-ow woo...
Years ago their cries had frightened us, but since we realized that the eerie communication belonged to the desert night, we enjoyed it sometimes initiating it by howling ourselves.
I asked Anne once to name seven of the most enjoyable things she could think off in her life, not including having babies. All had to do with camping – lying on a folding chair sunning was one, talking together another, walking over autumn leaves in a campground near Kelowna.
“Do you remember that morning in Kelowna?”
I remembered it alright.
A hard wind had stripped most all the leaves off the trees overnight which after a wild ride plunged on the earth where they made a crisp carpet for us to walk over.
“Sleeping in our tent, reading, reading in bed.”
Anne was a voracious reader, she finished two large historical books before she was unable to hold the books any longer, the one was called Russia, the other Berlin I think.
One thing I would've added to her list - the regular breathing of my partner and my love beside me in the tent, my wife.
We had many great memories about camping in all of BC and the prairie provinces, but we never failed a winter holiday in the south of California and Arizona.
We couldn't get enough of the freshness of the air of southern California which just before sundown was drenched with the intoxicating scent of oranges and grapefruits.
We drove then with the car-windows wide open, swallowing the heady aroma by the mouthful.
Lake Cahuilla is made entirely of concrete and used as a water-reservoir for irrigation.
The lake is regularly stocked with catfish, bass, trout, even sturgeon, and anglers from different cultures fished only for the kind of fish they themselves preferred, often abhorring the choices of others.
We used to walk daily around the lake, taking about an hour, and made frequent stops to talk with the locals about the strangest of topics but mostly about fishing and fish which they didn't mind to proudly display.
After our walk we usually parked ourselves near our tent-home for a fresh-perked coffee.
O, It was such an easy going worry free life, which we enjoyed fully, but this would be the last time we would enjoy it.
I was dreaming about the great times we had when we were still together and camped at Lake Cahuilla. Time does not stand still, it keeps on moving sometimes slow, when bored or suffering but fast when dreaming.
The fourteenth of January was our our wedding anniversary. Our fifty-second, had Anne still been alive.
Two years ago we celebrated our fifty-ed.
My plan had been to celebrate our fifty-ed wedding anniversary on a grand scale, like taking family and friends on a fun cruise to some exotic place like the moon, a spectacular outing and I knew just the friend to make it happen, since she had traveled all over the world, but Anne vetoed my plan, choosing to go camping by ourselves, with our trusted two persons tent as we had done several times before.
Perhaps her plan would've been the better one, Anne usually did have the better plan.
We finally agreed to split the difference and had have a family friendly wedding party at a place of Anne's choosing, which came together with a long stairway to the reception room but not long enough to reach the moon. Anne had some trouble making it to the top of the stair though.
“We're getting older,” she panted. Old at 69?
We lived at the corner of Canterbury ave. and Boley street and since the front door faced Boley I had the property registered as 2763 Boley street.
Wrong. The address should've been Canterbury.
“How could you've been so …...!
Canterbury sounds much more elegant, more distinguished, more etc.
“It's the same as the dishes all over again, and the fridge, and the dining-room set.”
When we were just married I was very anxious to please Anne and made purchases that were perhaps better made by her, but since our tastes were similar I just went ahead and bought it when I saw something we needed (or not) I purchased it, loaded 'r up and surprised Anne with it.
I didn't quite understand why she was not more happy, when I took a twelve-place dinnerware set at home, placed all the pieces on the floor and nearly ran out of space. What a wealth, but Anne was not happy, even though she would have probably have chosen the same set.
The stove and fridge were bought from old man Paulusma before we were married Anne, and the chesterfield had been John and my bed, after we had taken the ends off and discarded so it would fit in the house trailer we build, and from there reversed to chesterfield again and used as such in the house we build. It actually looked pretty good when you draped a blanket over it. I agree Anne, the wooden dining set should have been purchased by you.
And the dishes.
And the dryer.
And the bed.
All of this and much more came to mind the fourteenth January 2018, which would have been our sixty-third wedding anniversary – had you been still alive.