Riding It Out

Sometimes in life you gotta ride it out. In the short-term and the long.

Today is Saturday. We woke up early and I had an idea to go to our old favorite park, Carkeek, in the neighborhood we used to live in. Turned out to be a great idea.

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See, we used to live up the hill from Carkeek, in a townhome on Greenwood Avenue when Jack was young. I always say, “Jack grew up in that park.” Because we didn’t have a backyard so I took him down there all the time. In boots, sweatshirts and rain.

In the fall, we’d find maple leaves as big as a giant’s hand, pick them up by the stem and wave them around. The meadow would also be dotted with mole hills, just these little mounds of fresh dirt, and Jack would go from one to the next, stamping at each of them in his red boots with tiny yellow animals on them.

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To get to Carkeek, you drive down a long, windy road with overhanging trees at all angles above you. You park, and walk along a path with the stream on your left and wide grassy meadow on your right that the robins like to hop around on an early spring day like today.

You hear the stream and the birds chirping. You pass stands of cedars and a willow tree.


You cross a little road and enter a woodland trail. There you may hear the train rumble through, the west coast BNSF coming down from Canada and going on to Oregon along the eastern ribbon of Sound. You can go left over a man-made boardwalk that crosses back over the stream, straight to the railroad tracks, or right, up a little diagonal hill which we usually take.

This brings you to another path that hugs the park road leading you up to the railroad trestle. You cross. The trestle is bordered by chain link for safety. The tracks below smell like tar and beam. The view of the Puget Sound opens up. In the western sky, the Olympics are in full view when there’s sun. Today they only came out for a few minutes, full of snow amid cloud. After crossing the tracks you go down steel steps and make sure you don’t fall. Then your foot hits the soft sand. We’ve roamed the low tide flats and played with pails and water wheels on this beach many times.

So Jack’s had seizures in this park. I remember the exact spots. Once in the meadow in the secret little side trail along the stream. He just fell over and started shaking. Once on the beach at pretty low tide, and I had to carry him all the way back up with our pail and shovels because he always sleeps so hard after a seizure.

Today, after being gone from Carkeek for so long, I could really see just how far he’s come. No longer did I need to corral him to not dart out into the roadway. He has more self-control. He can manage that huge set of unforgiving stairs himself. Still a bit sway-y going down but I wasn’t grasping his arm and pulling him into me for fear of tumbling. Because there used to be a lot of tumbling and red, dented knees. What’s clear now is that he’s come out of those early years not unscathed but strong and spirited.

There were no seizures at Carkeek today. Just rediscovery of mud to stomp your boots in along the rutted path. Sand to scoop in your pail at the wide wide water’s edge. And a strong southwesterly beating against your cheek blowing away the cobwebs of the week, the month, the year.

We rode out that time, that time of failing medicines and slow realizations. We’re in junior high now, and we can see the future a little more steadily.

Carkeek will always be Jack’s park. In sickness and in health have we enjoyed that grass, those trees, that sky. And when the railroad rumbles down from those northern tracks, we’ve lifted our heads and waved out to the conductor who blows the horn two times, calling us to the moment.

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