During the past several years as my eyesight has diminished, when I go to my address book with a magnifying glass, I come across the name of someone I haven’t seen or heard from for a while, even though they used to be someone I spent a lot of time with.
As a result, every time I look for a phone number and see someone I haven’t seen or heard from, I pick up the phone and call them to say hello. Unfortunately, the last four old friends I called were living somewhere else because of the same reason. I’m pretty sure all four of them are living in heaven because they died, and it’s really hard to reach them up there, even by cell phone.
When I am able to connect with an old friend, it takes about five or 10 minutes to get caught up on what they’ve been doing for the last decade or so. While I am listening, I just put my phone on the speaker mode and continue to do my normal day’s office chores while I listen. One thing I have discovered is that some of the old friends that had good health have fallen off of the high-speed truck that we all used ride on.
Many of them have given up their skiing, surfing, racing sailboats around the buoys, wind surfing, or just sitting on the beach in the hot summer sun because we all have learned about the negatives of growing additional cancer cells on our almost naked but sagging bodies.
I have traced a few of the friends to their managed care facilities in the neighborhoods where their last known address was. When I visit them in one of these facilities the housing and care vary quite widely in quality dependent entirely on what the cost per day is. They range from a very small one bedroom with a bed, a hot plate, a bathroom and shower to some which are very deluxe. I’ve been told about one that even has a Cadillac on the premises that doesn’t have an engine, but there is a stoplight and the people housed in the memory section of the facility take turns driving it to and from wherever they thought they went and arrive back home with whatever they thought they bought. And safely!
I try to do whatever I can physically and mentally to maintain the best health possible, but like anything that is alive the parts wear out. The trick to keep the parts running is to find medical assistance that can either repair, replace, or just try to get you to forget about the worn out part of your body. Just try to get done whatever you are trying to get done regardless of how uncomfortable you really are.
When someone asks me, “How are you?” I just say reply, “I feel great!” Which of course is a relative feeling when I mentally say to myself, “Relative to what?” Actually, I usually tell them that the wheels are definitely falling off!
The sun is out and it’s the middle of July, the golf course grass is still green instead of brown, even though we haven’t had rain for almost a month, our boat is running well, we have the occasional visitor here on our island who can’t understand why we live in such a difficult place to get to. However, after they spend 24 or 48 hours with us, they can easily understand what a gentle place Orcas Island really is.
I know that if I had stayed in Southern California, fighting the freeway traffic mess every time I tried to go anywhere, as well as the general level of noise of the automobiles, airplanes and sirens, I would have died long ago.
There is a place on our island called Rosario that was built by a shipbuilder called the Moran Mansion. He and his two brothers had the second largest shipbuilding yard on the West Coast in the early 1900s and at a young age he got sick and the doctor said he was going to die within six months, so he turned the business over to his brothers, moved to Orcas Island, built his mansion and lived for over 30 years. I believe that the reason he lived that extra 30 years was the lack of pressure here versus that in living in a large city. Pressure such as the ones I used to have to live with in Southern California. I was somewhat lucky however because my home and my business were located within two blocks of the beach, but I still had to get in my panel delivery truck with my surfboard or windsurfer and drive somewhere else and try to find a parking place to ride good waves or in the case of windsurfing find a place to park my truck and hope that it didn’t get broken into while I was out windsurfing. I was lucky because I only had my truck broken into once. They stole all of the money out of my wallet. Fortunately, they left the credit cards and other information intact. The passenger side window had been broken and my wallet was on the seat with all the credit cards spread out. The crook had a little conscience.
During the summer on our island when the large crowds have arrived, I take the ignition key out of the car, but in the winter I just leave it in. This is the way I remember it was growing up in Hollywood California when there were still lots of vacant lots in the neighborhood where you could dig caves, fly kites or camp overnight. Unfortunately, as Laurie told me the population of Earth has grown from 2 billion people to 7 billion people in the last 40 years or less. Orcas Island is the same size as Manhattan Island and they have 14 million people living there and we only have 4,200 living here.
The only sense I can make out of all of this is for people to find a place to earn a living out here is hard, and this place is even harder to get to, so not very many people even try to come live out here.
Fortunately for us, there are not too many ferryboat crossings on a daily basis and many people who come here for the first time, find that they have to wait for the next ferry which might be three or four hours later and the same thing happens when they try to leave and they just don’t want to ever come back. Selfishly this leaves more room for those of us who learned how to read the ferryboat schedule. The bad part of the schedule is that the car and a single passenger cost around $50 and takes about one hour and 25 minutes of transit time to get to our island and each extra passenger is $6 or $7 so you don’t go to the mainland too often. This inconvenience works for us.
So far this month, I have called three of my old friends that I grew up with in the city. I feel very lucky that I left the city and I’m still alive to answer the phone in case any of my other old friends call me. The chances of that happening are getting smaller with each passing month.
Filmmaker Warren Miller lived in Vail for 12 years and his column began in the Vail Daily before being syndicated to over 50 publications. For more of Miller’s stories and stuff, log onto WarrenMiller.net. For information about his foundation, The Warren Miller Freedom Foundation, go to www.warrenmiller.org.