I absorb information like a cardboard crate of paper towels. News articles and images seep into my consciousness and collect into arbitrary categories of thoughts to consider, images to delete, and items that yell at me to "Do something!" A background in journalism contributes to my desire to know the who, what, why, when, and where of an issue. Recently, the harsh realities of world calamities became too much to carry. So I ran away.
It was a peaceful Sunday afternoon when I turned on my computer and read the horrific headline about the latest assassination of police officers in Florida. Other horrific news described updates on the premeditated slaughter of families celebrating Bastille Day in France. It became difficult to breathe as I read about the pending funerals for five police officers in Dallas. I couldn't process the information without crying.
My two adult children and their families were vacationing on the Oregon Coast. The adults all work hard at their jobs, so the annual trip was a well-earned excursion with their children. After I became distraught about the news, I sent a text to my daughter asking her to send me a positive message. She replied, "Join us." So, I did. My husband agreed with my spontaneous decision as I made arrangements.
It was possible to spontaneously escape because I regularly contributed money to my "No Smoking, No Pets" account. I've never smoked and don't have indoor pets, so the money I would have spent on cigarettes, veterinary bills, dog food, and cat condos was deposited into a special fund that allowed me to get away when necessary. No offense to those who own pets, but that option worked for me.
Using my dedicated funds from the special account, I booked a morning flight from Boise, Idaho to Portland, reserved a rental car, and booked a hotel room for two nights. Less than 15 hours after seeing the news report, I was driving down Highway 101 to Cape Kiwanda. On a typical day, I couldn't find my way out of a crowded parking lot in Boise, but on this journey I drove to the ocean without a problem.
I found my family of four adults, five children, and two dogs, camped side by side in an RV park across the street from the cape. My young granddaughters were happy to see me and begged me to tell them stories. My daughter handed me a glass of wine, and my son calmed my fears and told me not to worry. One child was climbing on my back and another grabbed my hands and wanted to dance in the grass. Breathing became normal again.
That evening, we created individual pizzas with dough and toppings they brought from Boise, and my son-in-law cooked them in a portable pizza oven attached to his grill. The next day, my son and son-in-law parked their pickup trucks on the beach and set up a day camp. The kids played in the ocean, ran along the beach, and ate snacks in a portable tent attached to the pickup. The three older girls surfed the incoming waves on boogie boards while the two younger girls dug in the sand with shovels and created temporary castles. Their pure joy restored my spirits.
We enjoyed a hearty dinner at the Pelican Pub & Brewery before returning to the campsite. I told more stories to the little girls, and they demanded details about the mysterious princess and the scary monster. Each account became more creative as elaborate characters and impossible challenges meandered in and out of each tall tale. Finally, their mothers carried the sleepy girls to bed, and the adults sat outside to talk and sip adult beverages as the sun set over the ocean.
I kissed everyone goodbye the next morning and drove back to Portland. As I traveled through lush forests and past rolling meadows, I wondered how such a wonderful world could be so hostile and what I could do to improve the situation. Images of my happy grandchildren propelled me to keep going and focus on what really mattered.
The uncomplicated authenticity of life with a loving family surpassed any grandiose scheme to change the world. I couldn't do anything about distant chaos, but I could support and cheer for my children, their spouses, and their children. I could tell stories and write blogs and books that caused people to laugh. I could turn off the news.
I'm grateful that my grandchildren took care of me over two days. I hope they can grow up to contribute to a world that promotes more peace, tolerance, and love. And for times when everything becomes too much to process, I encourage them to take their "No Smoking" fund (they have pets), and make spontaneous journeys to splash and laugh in the ocean. Then they can sit around a campfire and tell stories. Maybe they could include a silly character named Tutu.