Well, I’m here. Virginia. First solo hike since the TIA. But before I get to that, I have something I want to tell you about.
My friend Paige.
I met Paige in 1966. She was 16. I was 15. She lived about 4 miles uphill from my house in Chalfont, on a bicycle. I only rode my bike up there a couple of times. Once to swim, when her parents weren’t home. Yikes! She was perfect. Smart. Always smiling. Soft spoken. Kind. Such life she had in her eyes. They looked straight into me. It was too much. I was such a little boy back then. She was a young woman. We became friends. Really good friends.
We sat together in home room all through high school. She went to William and Mary. Temple for me. She met Steve. Married. I married one of her best friends. The 4 of us got together a lot. They stopped to see us in Arizona when I was there in pilot training. Steve, her husband, and I became friends. Good friends.
I got a teaching and coaching job and Paige and Steve both taught in a school outside Richmond, VA. She was the head of the English Department. No surprise. Voted the favorite teacher a number of years. No surprise.
Steve got the idea to build a home for them, just as it would have been done in the 19th Century. After all, he was a history teacher. They lived in the basement during the planning. I took one of my Volleyball players down with My wife and two children for the “house raising.” Timber framed just like an old barn.
Two weeks we spent there. Up went their house. It was an amazing experience.
They have, I think 3 children? Beautiful smart athletic children. Paige played hockey at W and M and Steve, baseball.
Paige some years ago contracted a very rare type of dementia that will eventual take her life. I spoke with her on the phone this morning.
I first sent a text to Steve. It’s been maybe 30 years since I have spoken to either of them. My only explanation is alcoholism. My alcoholism.
Steve wrote me back at 8 this morning. I had asked if I could, if appropriate, speak to Paige. He said she had only said a couple of words that morning, but she had smiled when he told her I might call.
He put her on the phone. She laughed. She spoke. She answered my questions. She worked hard and constructed a few sentences. She told me she loved me. I told her I always have and always will love her, too. We cried. We laughter some more. I cried. I promised to call again and visit her the next trip to Virginia. I promised. I will.
We said goodbye and Steve took the phone. He couldn’t speak. I couldn’t speak. I told him I would call again soon and come for a visit.
I got a text back 10 minutes later. “Sorry I couldn’t talk to you any more. Seeing Paige smile and laugh and work so hard to talk, I just fell apart. Thanks so much for the call.”
My friend Paige. I really hope there is a Heaven. I don’t need to see friends who have died, but this is different. Maybe I could see Paige. The before Paige. Maybe I don’t need that. Today was truly beautiful.
Right. Tomorrow is my first solo hike in 9 months. Doesn’t seem so daunting now.
It’s tomorrow. I hiked 7.2 very tough miles. Heavy pack. 5 days of food. It was a great day. I’m tucked in my tent for the night.
Good night all.