Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Ohana Means Family

The crew before our departure, photo credit - Momma Rose
After our weekend on the river, there was something almost poetic about our trip home from the Delaware Water Gap. The orange hue of the dark blue sky during lightning strikes. The Super Moon lighting up the Valley to the East, but what made it most special was having Brad in the passenger seat. 

Trust me, I don’t always like him there. He tends to passenger drive, but this time it was different.

We don’t talk about Afghanistan. It’s an unwritten rule, but I thought about Brad's deployment a lot on the ride home, especially when we got into Maryland. A song came on the radio, and I started in with the quiet sobs. Brad must not have heard me or maybe he chose to let me have my moment…I don’t know. I breathed deep breaths and decided to leave Rihanna's "Stay" on the radio.

The Poconos were my safe place during the summer of 2010. They were something familiar and fun. I felt surrounded by love and laughter, which gave me such positive energy.  A summer to remember that’s for sure, and every once in a while it creeps up on me either in the form of a reminiscent smile, misty eyes, or both. 

Brad’s deployment, Jan’s death, whatever else was going on, it inspired me to live. It was the summer of the Bucket List and the summer I gained a family.

Remember Lilo and Stitch? It’s an old Disney movie with a cute little alien and a sweet Hawaiian girl. Lilo is the pint-sized Hawaiian, and in the movie she says, “Ohana means ‘family,’ and family means nobody gets left behind.” It’s not about blood or, hell, a last name. It’s about how you take care of each other, and I owe so much to John Lohmann, Jessie Lohmann, and the Krueger family for never leaving me behind.

You may be wondering why Maryland set me off. I would communicate sporadically with Brad during the Summer of the River. Replying to an e-mail from Momma Rose Krueger’s desktop. Answering a phone call on my drive home. Brad called me one time, and I had just arrived in Maryland. I talked and drove until West Virginia, and then pulled over at the rest stop to concentrate on him and his voice. I hung up and proceeded the lonely ride home. I'm sure Mumford was playing in my CD-Player. That summer was the summer of Mumford too. 

When I arrived in Maryland on June 23, 2013, Brad was next to me, deary from the weekend of fun and the big meal we just ate at Cracker Barrel. 

At the river, we grilled out. We put on plastic horse heads and galloped around a Stroudburg yard. We canoed. We bickered about my canoeing skills. We made camp. We grilled more. We laughed. We almost capsized. It was the perfect conclusion to a vacation. Brad got to experience the river like I did that summer he was gone, and he got to know the river family that he's heard so much about. 

He learned that Jessie doesn’t like bees or Poison Ivy, and when you mix the two, it’s grounds for a possible boat rescue from the campsite. He learned that John’s limit is 5 Brad-caliber Captain and gingers because by then John's trying to capsize the tethered canoes by standing with no sense of balance. Brad learned that Bridgette and Hank are the freakin’ coolest and so are their horseheads. Momma Rose has the best damn listening ears and broccoli salad...ever. Nick likes drinking games more than campfire talk, and Mr. Krueger is a champ at navigating a pontoon boat, especially when he’s trying to spray you with water.

The pranks we pull, the jokes we make, it’s all out of love. Jessie pulls a dead fish out of the water, all of a sudden it’s in my face, and she screams “Ahhhh!!!” I scream back.

John and Brad collaborate to put a fake snake in my sleeping bag. I nearly jump out of the tent and wake everybody up.

Bucky tries to shotgun a beer for the first time. It takes him three minutes, literally...

These memories are moments now, and now Brad gets to be a part of them instead of just hearing about them from me.

Please note, don't get all pixelated and gross, but I'm too tired to keep messing with it. :( It's still cute without being huge, though!

1 comment:

  1. Somewhere along the line I learned that friends are family too. Cried and cried reading this. Miss you and love you!