Friday, August 19, 2011

Camp Stegall - Yes, We Have Our Own Camp

My family doesn't really have its own camp named after us, it's just a name that was suggested when we first started our summer annual get-togethers at a beach house in Garden City, South Carolina six years ago and it stuck.  Each year is designated with Roman numerals and abbreviated; this was CSVI.  Being that my family is spread out all over the country (brothers in Arizona and Georgia, sister in Minnesota, parents in North Carolina and I'm in Connecticut), reunions are usually the only time we are able to visit in person.  By the end of the week, the emotions are a mix between "I feel so normal compared to the rest of my family" to "I have the best family ever". 

We headed toward this year's vacation by finding out a few weeks before that we would not be meeting my step-brother's new girlfriend.  We had all been excited to meet her, but she had recently broken up with Jeff, he was moving out of their apartment and trying to pull himself together.  Knowing Jeff, his mood was expected to be less than his normal level of a guy who loves to do things and have fun. 

On top of Jeff's break-up, my mother received word that her only sibling, David, had died a couple of days before the vacation was to begin.  She and my step-dad had to drive to Washington, D.C. where David lived and take care of identifying his body and arranging things with the funeral home.  Please note, when you hear about checking in on the elderly during extreme weather, take it seriously.  A malfunctioning air conditioning unit in his apartment and the record-breaking heat led to his death. 

The first part of the week seemed to be dominated by my uncle's death.  My husband Jay, who was celebrating his completion of law school and having just sat for the bar exam, stepped in to help Mom with the legalities of being appointed administrator of her brother's estate.  We held a small service in David's honor in the spacious living room of the beach house.  My step-dad John led the service while Mom played the keyboard she'd brought, my sister and I read passages, my brother Paul sang a solo, we all sang a couple of hymns and talked about David.  The event brought closure to David's life and my mother had a much-needed cry afterwards with her three children holding her in group hug. 

David's service behind us, things lightened up.  Jay and I got into our normal beach routine of a morning walk along the beach, followed by a swim in the private pool.  We would be so sweaty with the South Carolina heat and humidity after the walk that I just took off my socks and sneakers and swam with my walking clothes on.  It was a relaxing routine with no animals to clean up after or feed, no hair on the bed (except what we brought with us), no dogs or chickens to let out or lock up.  My bill for my pet-sitter was going to be high, but she was keeping the dogs with her at her doggy day care and sending me pictures of Chardonnay and Coraline with their new buddies.  The dogs were at camp.  The cats, chickens, tortoise and hamster were all taken care of twice daily.  It wasn't just a beach vacation for us, it was an animal-free vacation.

My son Tyler rented a moped to try out for a couple of days to see how he liked it.  He wasn't able to make enough money to buy himself a car to take back to college with him, but he figured a moped would be okay.  He goes to USC (South Carolina, not Southern California) where winter isn't a big deterrant, parking would be easier, gas mileage is incredible, etc.  Of course, I had to try it out and ride the scooter around the block.  Tyler initially expressed doubt as to my abilities, nervous that his old lady of a mother might break a hip.  After his grandfather rode the moped, Tyler admitted, "Now that I've seen Granddaddy Joel try to ride it, I guess you're not so bad."  I hinted at my biker chick past, but I don't think my son believed me. 

Tyler with his new wheels
Each year, Dad and June offer to keep the four grandchildren while Generation II goes out to dinner.  The kids don't really need to be watched anymore since they now range in age from 13 to 19, but they've accepted their status and agree to hang with the Grands at a restaurant.  Generation II consists of my older brother Paul, his wife Denise, younger sister Diana and her husband Rick, younger brother Jeff, Jay and me.  Normally we just go out to dinner.  This year, we followed dinner with a small comedy club.  By small I mean a crowd of about 25.  We had to navigate from dinner to the club during one of those torrential southern thunderstorms.  Paul and Jeff had been volunteered to fetch the cars around so they were drenched while the rest of us were merely spotted with rain. 

The seven of us took the front row at the comedy club, all tables for two with a space allowed for the comedians to walk on the platform stage.  Because of the spacing, Jeff sat away from our group and refused to move his chair over and join us.  Denise told her husband Paul to sit with Jeff so he wouldn't be alone.  She joked that since they were both sporting wet shirts, they looked like a couple anyway.  The warm up comedian was painfully long, but the front liner, Jeff Bodart, was awesome.  My two brothers, who did nothing to dispell the image they projected as a gay couple, gave the comedian a lot of material to inject about their preferences (nothing mean or hateful though).  Our howling laughter just egged him on, my sides and face hurt by the time the show was over.  As we left the club, we spoke to the comedian and filled him in on Jeff and Paul's true relationship.  He apologized and said we should have told him.  Sorry, it was more funny to listen to the jokes and know the truth.

Paul and Jeff Play the Part

We've been back in Connecticut a couple of weeks now.  Reality hit as soon as we walked in the door and I made the rounds to check on the animals.  Back to the messes, cans to open, boxes to scoop, hair on my clothes, chicken poop on my shoes.  No more king size bed and a shower with five heads.  No huge house that the maid service cleaned.  No more beach walks or private swimming pool.  Mostly, I miss my family.

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