Note: This is a guest post for the Cherished Blogfest. It was written by my brother Bruce and I am honored to present it to you.
I have an oil painting of my late wife Barb from a picture we took in Mt. Tamalpais State Park in 1976. It was painted by my daughter, Sara for Barb’s Memorial Service in 2013. It shows Barb dancing at the top of a trail in the park in front of a huge tree. She is happy and carefree and that is how I always want to remember her. The trip was a family reunion, our fourth anniversary (June 24), and we spent the Bi-centennial in San Francisco, with dinner on the wharf and fireworks shooting up through the fog!
We were twenty-one years from the onset of symptoms of Huntington’s, but there was no way to know that. Still barely noticeable in 1997 but progressing over the sixteen years to follow, the disease slowly took one freedom or ability after another until she was taken from us on Feb. 15th, 2013.
The details of the loss of her abilities over time cannot be confined to five hundred words, so this post will be about “The Plan.” We suspected the disease would show itself by age 50 or so, as it had with her mother. If it didn’t (there was no test developed yet to let us know), we would continue to work as long as we could. In the meantime, we decided to do the things now that most people planned for their retirement. It would be more expensive because we were less able to afford these trips in our twenties than we would be in our fifties or sixties, but we were younger and could camp and motorcycle… We climbed up into that tree on the trail at Mt. Tam, where six miles of winding road to the southwest and about 1000 ft. lower is the entrance to Muir Woods.
Muir Woods became a favorite place for us. We would not get there often, but on every California reunion there would be a day spent at Mt. Tam, Stinson Beach and Muir Woods. A motorcycle trip in 1977 would find us in Juarez, Carlsbad Caverns and on the beach in Galveston. In 1979 it was Mt. Rushmore, Devil’s Tower, Yellowstone, and Estes Park. Later that year we biked to a motorcycle rally in Ruidoso, NM. A 1983 trip to California included a visit to Glacier National Park, this time with a three-year-old Sara along. That trip would be tragically cut short by my father’s untimely death at age 60.
We would take Sara to Washington D.C., Disneyland and the Grand Canyon, and Disneyworld with Grandma, who would also accompany us to Maine, Colonial Williamsburg; other places. There were family reunions in Pittsburgh, Jackson and Vicksburg, MS, Traverse City, MI, and Painted Post, NY, and numerous short trips to Duluth, MN, Galena, IL, and Kansas City. I can recall any of those joyous times when I lose myself in that cherished painting, those memories.