If you’re like most folks who drop by my place on the river you probably think it takes an impossibly large, even bottomless cache of energy to operate a bnb. All that cooking. The laundry. The shopping. The arrivals, the departures. The endless schmoozing. The bread, muffins, granola. Just being there day after day after day.
Well, it’s a job. And you do have to hit your marks. There are usually a ton of items on the daily to-do list. I’ve alluded to this in the past — that it’s a combination of fear and caffeine that sustains me over the crazy months when I am running at full or near-full capacity. The truth is sometimes I stress out. The caffeine is just one little assist to keep me on track, but it can be hard on some mornings to even make my way from the bed to the coffee machine. I surprise myself with the consecutive days I can put in on five hours sleep — not much to brag about if you are 20 or 30, but that’s not the case anymore. I’m considerably older, so much so that I’m starting to recognize the skinny arms and bowl-legged knees, advancing crow’s feet, and even the scary eyebrows of my father — all little somethings I see even more clearly when I’m having a particularly tough morning. But he left me much more.
I heard from my sister that during the tougher years my dad went through, he would spend days on end in his bedroom. Shades drawn. Silent. Not a peep from the old man. Not a single note. And that was after the docs schooled him on staying healthy and mentally fit.
That wasn’t the father I remembered though. My recollections are of a dad with a martini in one hand and a cigarette in the other. We are constantly out on the town, in a damn nice restaurant with Arthur cracking wise with the maitre d‘ or waitress, entertaining them with one-liners and off-color jokes (get hold of a Don Rickles video on YouTube and back out the insults; focus on the brain in high gear and the mouth working overtime. That was Art.).
What I remember is a man who thrived on attention, social interactions, good food, laughter. Yes, the docs imposed a largely constructive regime to control the roller-coaster highs and lows, but my dad had his DIY solutions too — the martinis, the cigs, the parties, his tennis games, current events to delve into, books, the constant banter.
I strain to see the darker corners my sister recalls but I have no doubt the stories she tells are true. I know my father suffered through many years of pain and anguish; mostly private, but at times very public. His pain was also a gift of genetics. The darker stuff pushed and pushed at him, but he had so many highlights in his life — courtesy of his travels (early on in India, the Philippines, London, and some later extended stays in Spain, Portugal, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii) and his job (radio announcer, war correspondent, news producer) — that the low points were smoothed out, defused. Ultimately, the docs really did save him. By the time I got closer to him, he’d pulled himself back from the fringes, from rougher seas, and found comfort in an even keel.
My blood, thankfully, is of a lower octane, though I still call out his name on mornings that hint of ruin. But then I get my coffee, run Meg into town and her shift, and return to a tail-wagging dog and an incredible lineup of guests who provide an antidote to the pain with positive energy, honesty and camaraderie. I see their eyes sparkle as they gaze out over the river and into a mountainside of trees. I hear stories of curiosities satisfied by their trip to the redwoods and to my bnb on the river.
No doctors for me. This is medicine enough.