Monday, August 11, 2014

Cottage Country — A Home Away From Home

I just spent the past weekend with childhood friends at a cottage on a picturesque lake in the middle of nowhere, about two hours north of Toronto, Ontario. 

Naturally, because it was a cottage full of guys, no one had the presence of mind to pull out a camera and take some nice pictures of the occasion. Conversely, and again because it's a bunch of guys, it was exceptionally smart that no one pulled out a camera to take pictures or — God forbid — video of the occasion. 

A nice spread, to say the least. Though our presence might have
momentarily affected local property values. 
So we're left with a handful of fuzzy photographs and even fuzzier memories to chronicle this first-time-ever event, which is probably a good thing. 

While it's entirely expected, the level of behavior and juvenile discourse we immediately devolved to when amongst ourselves was appalling. I'll confess right off the bat to being a prime (and proud) contributor to this corrosion of decorum. 

We weren't together for more than two minutes before the inappropriate comments were being volleyed around with reckless abandon and every second sentence was peppered with language that would make a sailor stop and salute. 

It's one of the reassuring things about life to have a group of friends who get along so well that their most visible defining bond seems to be uttering some of the worst, most vile, reprehensible remarks you can imagine to each other. 

The framework of this friendship is supported by decades of history. And in between the grossly inappropriate comments and a steady stream of laughter, conversations teemed with names, places and events that we haven't heard in years. Yet each and every person there sat on the same page. 

But you can't just spin your tires on the past and we didn't. We all got to know each other again. The changes we've been through. Wives. Kids. New jobs. New homes in new cities. The challenges that each of us face as we continue to grow up and grow old. 

Throughout the weekend, moments multiplied where the jabs at each other gave way, the insults relented and friendships shone through. 

Our most reliable boat. You should have seen the canoe.

In just one instance like this, I rode out about a half mile on a paddle boat with a friend. (A paddle boat was the only dependable transport we had folks.) As we crossed over the perfect, clear water, it occurred to me that this friend I've known for 20-plus years now has a great wife and two kids. His wife also has a potentially serious illness. 

Yet, you'd never know it to talk to him. We talked, I asked him how things were. And, like he always is, he was calm, measured and, in many ways, thankful for all he's got. One day at a time. He's a stoic this friend of mine and he also cooks steak perfectly.

In another instance, I went for a ride to the grocery store with one of the guys and we just talked about life; it was a decided departure from our other conversations, though we did reduce ourselves by purchasing three pounds of bacon, a bottle of Pepsi and nothing else. 

You'd never know it when you're all sitting around a fire pit drinking beer and taking turns roasting each other, but throughout the weekend I think we each learned that no one's life is perfect — thankfully, no one pretended theirs was. But, the mere fact that we were all there together, laughing at the absurdities in one another meant we'd at least done a few things right. 

As the weekend wore on, my bedtime drew earlier and earlier. First 2:30 a.m. Then 1:35 before a precipitous drop to 11:15 p.m. Thankfully another one of our crew was on hand to ensure that, as long as he was awake, no one would be sleeping. On and on we — and on and on he — went. 

In the midst of the controlled chaos, I made an effort to stop and appreciate the moments I could. 

There was the time eight or nine of us were bantering back and forth, with plenty of salty language before one friend, unbeknownst to the rest of the group, inserted his phone in the middle of a conversation with his father on FaceTime. (Incidentally, this is the same friend who took such delight in not letting anyone get a decent night's sleep prior to 4 a.m. He was also the friend who crossed the border to pick me up from the airport and drive me three hours so I could be there for this weekend. So, you take the good with the bad, don't you?)

There were poker games in which I was chastised (rightfully so) for my gross lack of poker experience. One person joked that I was merely playing possum before unleashing an unexpected torrent of poker awesomeness. How wrong he proved to be. 

A view far beyond what the crew occupying this space deserved. 
As the newness of this trip slowly gave way to thoughts of impending departure, my mind wandered back home. Back to Mrs. Blackwell and the boy. And while we never said it, I know some of the guys did the same. 

In that respect it made the weekend all the more special. 

Yes, I missed my wife and my son. Yes I missed my bed and the little comforts I've surrounded myself with at home. But my oh my, what fundamental good these occasions can do for you — right down to your core.  

Home is where your life starts each day and it's the comfort you retreat to each night. But this past weekend showed me that my foundation occupies a much broader swath.

It spreads north to Canada, out west to friends in Vancouver and Seattle. It continues south to Southern Illinois and east, to my mom, my dad, my brothers, my nieces and nephews. 

To be sure, home is where the heart is, but as I've been reminded, it's not the only place.


Mike Wilfong said...

Well done as always... That guy keeping everyone up each night sounds like a real piece of work. His name wasn't Fackleman, was it?

Blackwell said...

No comment.

Todd said...

Great weekend boys! I had a blast. It was great to hear all the stories and also realize just how bent my brother and all his friends really are!

Perri Davenport said...

Sounds like such fun! It is wonderful to go away and catch up, but it's nice to come home too...miss you! Great read!