On The Town With Richard
By Richard Alton Stermer
This week I have a story to tell. Yes, there will be food. But, I have to set the stage.
“I’m renting an RV and driving Joey and James to Leo Carillo Beach. We’re going to record Jame’s birthday celebration Friday morning and then I’m looking for a ride out with Giovanna who’s our DP.’ “Uh, OK” I said “I can do that. I’ll come Thursday night, stay over and then we can drive out Friday.”
I arrive Thursday afternoon and I see a 95 year old woman, Joey, making her way with James, a 36 year old man with Progeria, a progressive genetic disorder that causes children to age rapidly, who wasn’t expected to live past 18. James came to live with Joey when he was 10, after his younger sister, Karen, had told Joey about having an older brother in the foster care system.
They have been coming to this campground, every year, as a family for all this time. Joey has been coming to this campground, every year, with her family, for over 40 years.
Over a 60, some odd, year period Joey has fostered and or adopted 122 children.
“They said that we have too many people on the campsite.” Said Tess, the family chronicler, who was under Joey’s care as a teenager and now has grown adult children of her own.
Looking around I count 7 tents and 12 people sitting around the campfire.
We didn’t leave Friday.
“Hello Chris, I didn’t see you this morning,” I said. “Yeah, I went to work, but on the way I got a call telling me that my younger brother had died.” Chris is the husband of Jame’s sister Karen, who I was told has been struggling with the challenges of substance abuse and has recently “cleaned up”. “I’m very sorry to hear about your brother, Chris. Do you know how he died?”. “They’re not sure. Maybe a heart attack.” Chris looks to be in his mid-thirties. He has 17 years experience working as a cook. (Joey has praised his culinary skills). He says that he has taken the day off and is going to cook some ribs over the fire pit. I give him a hug and say ‘That’s good.” I tell him of occupying myself by being constructive and of service during my grieving process. I tell my friend Bruce that we need to stay for Chris’s ribs. We did, they were everything a good rib should be, moist, flaky and succulent with a little bit of tang.
I will not soon forget my time spent immersed in all this humanity. I will also not forget Joey and her tremendous example of selfless service and the power of love.
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