So, part of my purpose in choosing Desert House of Prayer is family. I wanted to visit on both ends of the retreat so that Grady, who is only three years old, will remember me. So that when his momma points at a picture of me, and asks, "Who's this?" he will immediately say, "Grandma!"
So in the time providing the weekend parentheses surrounding my retreat, I got to hike with Grady and Sarah, attended the U of A hockey game, had a separate hike and girl time with Sarah, played baseball, hockey, and basketball with my grandboy, Grady, met up with some longtime friends, and took in an astonishing sunset from atop a mountain.
And, oh, the stories. When we first knew each other, Janet was in her first year of college, Joyce was finishing up high school, and Merle invited us to meet with students in her home on Sunday evenings, which was already full of teen-age types, as she and her husband, Bruce, still had three other practically grown kids living there: Jerry, Barry, and Julie. Merle is now a spunky, lovely and loving, adventurous eighty-five-year-old, and is well cared for by her family. She still teaches a Sunday school class of other women. Theirs was a military family, and she recounted the time she and her mother drove to Alaska with four kids in the car. Bruce built a makeshift playpen in the back for the older three, and Barry was only six months old. She and Janet and Joyce provided a current family litany, telling us about the lives of all the children and grandchildren, who are now having children of their own.
We also reminisced about our experiences together in California, and figured out the last time we saw each other had to be in 1986. Joyce shared with Sarah that once at a retreat in the early 70's I heard about a singing group that would be touring eastern Europe (then behind the Iron Curtain) and I went to her and said, "Joyce, you should go on this." She said it changed her life. I don't even remember it.
And just before we parted, Mama Merle took my hand and said, "Debby, I love you. I have always loved you, and I love you still." Nothing sweeter than that.