How I lost, then found, my mojo

  • When I lost my mojo, even this beautiful road view in Death Valley left me listless.

For the first time in five years, I lost my mojo. Then I found it.

Actually, since we started this amazing adventure, it’s been pretty smooth sailing, and complaining about any small problems just seemed in bad taste, seeing as how most people our age are still working, and we’re living the endless-road-trip dream-life. I mean, come on, stop sniveling, you ungrateful assholes.

But this summer began as the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad summer (with some fabulous, very good, extra great moments).

We popped back to Scottsdale in June after traveling in northern Arizona and southern Utah to catch up on medical appointments. What we thought would be a hello-goodbye became a two-month slog.

My quick check up morphed into an endoscopy to check on a previous ulcer (all healed) and a breast biopsy (diagnosed as unremarkable breast tissue, which if it weren’t such a relief would seem a bit insulting.) Then, I caught the virus from hell, which knocked me down for more than six weeks. Really. Hacking, coughing, generally feeling like hell. For six weeks. In fact, I’m still fighting the aftereffects. And I gave it to my mother and sister. I sometimes thought it was Russian germ warfare on Democrats.

Earlier, my mother’s trigeminal neuralgia (nerve pain in her jaw), which was successfully treated in 2012, kicked back up. This causes intermittent pain, sometimes so severe that she can’t eat or drink. Or talk. This required hours on the phone to navigate the referral system from the Veterans Administration to Barrows Neurological Center, one 9-1-1-call, three trips to the ER, and finally some slight relief and an appointment.

Then my friend had a bad reaction to a colonoscopy. Another trip to the ER. I was getting very familiar with several of the ERs around town.

We rallied to celebrate our son Nate’s 25th birthday with cocktails and fabulous food and, with everybody seeming to be stabilized, we hit the road, headed toward a wedding in northern California that we had been looking forward to all year. Corbin, Nate’s college roommate, who we adore, was marrying his lovely Acacia, up in redwood country, our old volunteer stomping grounds.

First stop: Carmel, to visit my step-brother, Barry, and sister-in-law, Leslie, at their home away from home. We spent a week walking on the beach, eating sushi, enjoying happy hour on the deck at The Ranch, lunch at the golf course where their son Ian’s office (Northern California Golf Association) is headquartered, and where an impressive amateur golf trophy he won is housed, 10-cent drinks at the La Playa hotel, a soda and Rocky Road chocolate from Bruno’s Market, and a visit to the yarn store in Pacific Grove, one of my favorites, where I spent an obscene amount of money on some heavenly yarn.

Our frayed nerves somewhat re-knitted, we started north again.

Then The Epic Van got sick near of Stinson Beach, north of San Francisco. The dreaded 10-starts warning from the diesel exhaust system, which we’ve fixed three times. Aaaaaarrrrggghhh. ##*!&@##. After 10 starts, the van goes into “limp” mode, limited to 5 mph.

Then Mom had her gamma knife and it didn’t work. (My sister is helping her re-navigate the referral system for another go.)

Then, Nate got sick, dizzy, nauseous, exhausted, eventually heading to the ER, afraid he wouldn’t make the wedding.

That’s when I lost my mojo.

I just didn’t have the childlike joy I usually get when I jump in the front seat, buckle my seat belt and look out the window on the moving scene in front of us. My mind was set on worry, not wonder. I was tired.

I needed a mojo reboot.

First things first: The Epic Van’s 10-start issue: Fuck it. We drove to the wedding site (three of our 10 starts), parked at the perfect place Corbin found for us, just across the street from the inn where they would be married, and shut it down. We made an appointment in Portland for a week later (49th in the line of “emergency” repairs waiting) and called our friends David and Judi to throw ourselves on their mercy for a bed while our home cooled its heels in the Mercedes dealership parking lot.

Nate went to the ER, got fluids and anti-nausea medication, perked up, left with a referral to a specialist, and made his 5 a.m. flight to California.

We reveled in the multiday celebration, where I had that looking-backward-through-a-telescope, changing-of-the-generation feeling. We fell in love with Corbin, a kind, contemplative, soulful spirit, when he shared a Tempe college rental with Nate, and got to know and love Acacia at gatherings, game nights and visits in Miami, where she’s getting an M.D./Ph.D, and at the sadder-than-sad funeral for Corbin’s father, who died suddenly in 2018. After college, Corbin, on a multi-state camping trip in the spring of 2016, came to visit us while we were volunteering at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, stayed for two weeks of hiking, campfires, long talks about the 2016 election and a climate-change-is-real march in Arcata with Tom. We went to see Wedding Rock, a huge rock formation that juts out into the pounding Pacific surf. Corbin later brought Acacia back, and they decided that this coast was where they would be married.

Our quirky van life has allowed us to spend extended time with people, including Corbin and Acacia’s families, and we have fallen in love with all of them, feeling honored to be included in their intimate celebration.

The inn filled up with Acacia’s parents, brother Dylan, and grandfather, Joe, Corbin’s mom, sister Katie and brother-in-law, Mark, aunts and uncles, and friends, such wonderful friends: Evan, the brilliant, driven, impish member of the college-rental trio, now in medical school at New York University, Cole, the sweet, entrepreneur photographer, Rob, the suave glass-blower extraordinaire, and more and more and more. Every seat we took put us next to a fascinating person.

We played “Oh, Hell” (cards), talked writing and books with Acacia’s grandfather, who has self-published wonderful stories of ranching in Arizona despite his dyslexia (I’m humbled), laughed till we snorted with Katie and Mark and made plans to see them in Chicago, talked glass blowing with Dylan and Rob, who will be demonstrating at the Phoenix Renaissance Fair in the fall, ate fabulously, including at our old favorite, Los Bagels, in Arcata, took a nostalgic hike in the ancient forest, watched the waves crash at Wedding Rock, cried with Dylan as he professed his love for his sister and his now-brother, and saw two lovely people commit to each other, then danced at the inn with all the cool young folk.

My mojo meter started to tick up.

We left the love shack, headed to Dave and Judi’s, got there with enough starts to get to the dealership, and dropped off The Epic Van, feeling like one of our appendages had been removed. If you have to be stranded, do it at Dave and Judi’s. We went to Powell’s City of Books, our place of book worship, invited dear friends Deborah, Jay and Clara, for dinner, then an ill-fated picnic road-trip up Mount Hood, which included someone fainting, someone losing their purse (then finding it), someone’s car dying, rain and cold and no table, which left us eating standing in a parking lot with our stocking caps on, and laughing. Oh, and we bought more yarn. Yes! Mojo meter moving up.

Ten days and $4,200 later, we sprung The Epic Van out of its ER (that was a wash on the mojo meter) and headed north.

We stopped in Longview, Washington, to visit Barry and Leslie again at their home base. We ate, drank, knitted, bought more yarn, drove to Portland and bought more books at Powell’s, visited with Barry and Leslie’s other son, Joe, drove to Cannon Beach, bought more books, mailed a box of books home because there was no place to put all of them in The Epic Van, went to Longview’s Squirrel Fest and danced on the grass to the cool music of Five Guys Named Mo.

Up tick.

Now, safely ensconced in our rolling home, sitting on Whalen Island on the Oregon coast, grateful for generous, funny, fascinating friends and family, I’m watching the fog roll in over the water and birds fish in the estuary, my mind switched back to wonder, my worry pushed back with a lapful of luxurious yarn, my memory bank filled with love and marriage.

And my mojo meter is back to full.

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