The Gift of Friendship

Birthdays and gifts go hand in hand.  I've been questioning how one should celebrate the birthday of one no longer with us as my daughter Julie's birthday has approached.  Julie had a gift when it came to making friends.  After her death, one of the most wonderful gifts that she left me was the gift of friendship with her many friends.  Tomorrow, April 8,  Julie would have been 39 years old.  Today, I will celebrate the gift of friendship that was found in one very close to her:  Scott.

When Jim and I were in Florida in February, I received a text from  Julie's high school boyfriend Scott Roberts asking if we would be able to connect while we were in the area since he lived an hour or so away.  I was thrilled when he contacted me, and we made a visit with Scott one of our highest priorities.

The Story of Two April Babies Born in 1976:

Scott and Julie

My daughter Julie met Scott not long after she moved to Pueblo Colorado, when I married Julie's step-father Jim.  I always admired the way Julie jumped right into the challenge of moving to a new town when she was in high school.  I know this was no easy task.  It wasn't long before she made a bevy of wonderful friends.  Scott was one of them.  After Julie's death Scott sent me note he had written to Julie on nineteenth anniversary of the first day they met.  He wrote: you were so cute, so happy, so full of life.  I loved you instantly...  This will be the first year I don't get to call you and tell you how long we've known each other.  We always made jokes on how we could have tolerated each other so long... There was always something special about you, I couldn't tell you the day I met anyone else...that's how much you've always stood out.  

The relationship between these two lasted as long as Julie lived.  They had some pretty rocky teenage times when much to my dismay they would have their spats.  I would hear the telephone ring all hours of the night when Scott would call Julie.  (Probably because she called him first.)  More than once, I heard the little tiny pebbles hit Julie's bedroom window.  I knew Scott was trying to get her attention either late at night or early in the morning when he was delivering his newspapers.  I would go to the bedroom next to Julie's, open the window and holler down to the young man standing below her second story window, "Go home Scott.  Julie is sleeping.  Leave her alone."  We laugh about it now.  

Scott and Julie attend their junior prom together.  They continued to date off and on during their freshman year in college. Scott was born three days before Julie on April 5, so every year, even the year Julie died in 2010, they always made sure they talked to each other on their birthdays.

When Julie and Scott were in their first year of college, they took a road trip to Utah with my son Jon to visit Julie and Jon's father, sister, and brother in Utah.  I think it must have been over Spring Break.
I recently ran across photos taken just before that trip.  Scott reminded me that he lost his job because he went on that trip with Julie.  I guess he'd just been hired on a new job at the newspaper, but decided to take a vacation anyway.  When he got back, he didn't have a job.

They all look so young and cute in these photos.  I think Julie must have the face to her tape recorder in her hand in the photo on the right.  I think she has a police detector radar device in her hand in the center photo.  I guess they must have had dinner at our home just before they departed for the trip.  I'm thankful for these fun memories.  I wonder if they were celebrating their 19th birthdays with this trip.  The trip was taken twenty years ago in 1995.  It seems impossible that many years have passes since these kids were teenagers.

I used to tease Scott whenever I saw him over the years by asking, "When are you finally going to marry my daughter?"  All those years ago, when these two teenagers were making each other and their parents crazy, I recognized the positive character traits of loyalty, faithfulness to friends and family, hard work, and belief in his religion in Scott.  I saw a young man I would have felt proud to have as a family member.  Scott has remained a dear "adopted" part of our family.

Upon hearing of Julie's death in May of 2010, Scott flew to Colorado from Florida to be with us and all of her dear friends for her funeral.  His presence meant so much to us.  Later that same year, he came to visit us and spent some time with Jim and me on our back deck.  I always remember him asking me as we walked through the house towards the deck, "Is the trampoline still there?"  Of course it was.  He said he hoped to see the trampoline where he and Julie had had so much fun when they were younger.  He sent a beautiful letter to be read at her memorial service that was held a year after her death when we buried her cremated remains at the cemetery.

The way Scott has honored Julie's memory has always touched me more than he will ever know.  This past summer Scott made a very quick trip to Colorado from Florida for his 20th class reunion.  It also would have also been Julie's 20th class reunion.  He was in Colorado for fewer than 24 hours, yet he made sure he found out where Julie was buried so he could visit her grave and leave some flowers.  After he visited her burial site, before he headed forty miles south for the reunion, he sent me a message saying her stone was beautiful.  His thoughtfulness brought tears to my eyes.  I know Julie would have been greatly touched by his gesture of remembrance.  How many of us have a friend like Scott?  I've said it many times that Julie had a gift for making great friends.  Scott was one them.

Our Visit

We had arranged to meet Scott and his wife and daughter early in the afternoon on Valentine's Day for a late lunch on Daytona Beach.  This was not a day to spend a lot of time on the beach because the weather was quite cool.  Blistery winds whipped the waves of the ocean as Scott, Jim, I caught up on our lives.  Scott had brought his beautiful wife and daughter with him.  His two year old daughter, full of personality and spunk wanted to be outside running on the beach while we stayed inside the great spot Scott had picked for lunch, Racing's North Turn Beach Bar and Grille.


While Scott was attending the University of Colorado working on his engineering degree, he took up skydiving.  He has been involved in competitive canopy piloting since 2002.  His passion for skydiving has led him to create his company called Fluid Wings.  (Click to read about his company.)  He makes parachutes for a living.  He also does contract work in engineering.

Scott and I recounted what a crazy small world this is as we talked about my blogging friend and fellow Vashonista, Djan Stewart of DJan-ity and Eye on the Edge.  Scott had seen Djan's name on one of my blog posts.  Scott knew that there is only one Djan.  And of course he is right.

Djan was the person that certified Scott as a sky jumper while he was still a student at CU in Boulder, Colorado.  Isn't that just crazy?  He spoke of how much he learned about skydiving from Djan.  Then, he told me about Djan's husband, "Smart Guy."  He had great admiration for both of these people whom influence him so much in his younger years.  He said, "I learned to skydive from Djan, but I'm still alive because of "Smart Guy."  I asked why, and he told me that Djan's husband taught him about being wise and not so crazy as a youth.  He taught him not to take stupid risks.  He made him think.

Scott then told me that Djan had met Julie, "She just doesn't remember it." He said Julie was dating a friend of Scott's when Scott was skydiving and they went skydiving together and Djan was there when they all took their jumps.  That really warmed my heart to see the connection that I made with Djan after Julie died.  Djan, Scott's mentor, helped me in so many ways to cope with Julie's death through blogging.  Yes, it is a very small world.

Our time together was too short, but I left the lunch we had together feeling so blessed.  I loved talking to Scott again and was so pleased to observe what a wonderful human being he remains.  I was especially blessed to get to know his wife.  She was delightful and so very interesting.  I also was thrilled to finally meet Scott's daughter.  Words can't describe this child's bright, lively, and intelligent personality.  I think she will keep Scott on her toes when she becomes a teenager.
Scott and Family
Daytona Beach

My life has truly been blessed by knowing and spending time with Julie's friends.  She truly had a gift for making friends.  She made good life long friends.  Her friends are among my great gifts now.

This year, as I celebrate the birth of Julie, I am also celebrating that other April baby born just days before Julie was born: Scott Roberts. Memories of Julie's teen years and beyond will always be intertwined with memories of Scott.  Scott, you will never know how much it has meant to me that you made a great sacrifice to be with us when Julie died.  You will never know how much it meant to me that you made sure you left flowers for Julie on her gravesite when you came back for your class reunion. You two were friends with a friendship that spanned the years.  Now, it is my great joy to see you happily married, the father of a beautiful daughter, and involved in a career that represents your passion.  Julie would be so happy for you.  I am so very proud to count you among the gifts that Julie's life bestowed upon me.

Scott & Sally
Daytona Beach

A Vacation in Winter ~ Our Trip to Florida Part II

Perhaps nothing will bring out the differences in people than traveling together.  I happen to strongly believe that you truly never know a person until you take a trip together.  Before my husband and I married, we took a road trip during December to Utah together.  I wasn't sure we would get married after that trip. Our differences always show up when we travel.  After over twenty years of marriage, we now travel together quite well because we have learned to include those parts of travel that we both enjoy into the trips we take.

Jim is the planner when it comes to travel.  He wants a plan.  He likes to follow the plan.
I'd just soon show up in a place that looks interesting and explore.

I like to camp.
Jim loves to stay in fancy hotels.
Ok, he was right all along on this.  Fancy hotels are nice.

Jim is a destination traveler.  He wants to take the fastest route with his GPS leading the way.
I like to explore by reading maps to lead me off the beaten track.

Jim loves staying in big cities.
I want to visit the country.

You get the idea.  We are different.  That is a good thing.  We try to do together what both of us enjoy individually.  When we went to Florida, Jim only scheduled the first two days.  He left the rest up to me.  I didn't get my homework completely done.  I did go to AAA and picked tour books and maps (gotta have maps) and sat down with Jim to make a list of things we might like to do while in the Orlando area.  We forgot to bring the tour books, the list, the maps.  How did I go on vacation and forget to take a map?

So, here is what we did on the three days that I was in charge of a plan:

Jim doesn't especially care for beaches.
I love beaches.

Clearwater Beach

I specified that we visit at least one beach.  I had hoped to visit both sides of the peninsula that is Florida.  I didn't care which side we visited first, but I was thrilled when it was suggested by my husband that we visit the Gulf of Mexico side of state.  Jim's daughter has spent a lot of time in Clearwater, Florida because of her triathlon experiences.  She highly recommended we visit the beach at Clearwater.  

Using the GPS, because we had no map, we headed towards our destination in our rental car on our third day in Florida.  I must say that I was a bit of nervous wreak on the highways of Florida.  Jim did an excellent job of getting us where we were going, and I tried not to backseat drive because honestly, I was just grateful not to be driving.  He drove us right to the place that was recommended for lunch.  The local favorite, grouper, is wasted on me.  I'm just not a fan of it, but at least we had the experience.  After lunch, we headed to the beach.  On our way, I stopped into the local chamber of commerce for a map.  They had no maps of Florida.  What?

The beach was awesome!  I'll be honest with you, dear readers, when I think of Florida, I just think of beach life.  That is why I wanted to go to Florida.  I wanted some beach time.

When I had my head injury in 2011, the physiatrist I went to told me I just needed to go find a beach somewhere and dig my toes in the sand for about six weeks.  He said, "Nothing would be better for you than digging your toes in the sand and keeping them there until your injury heals."  Of course few of us have the luxury of extended toe in the sand time, so when I get a bit of it, I make the most of it.

Walking barefootin the sand is the perfect exfoliator for winter weary, dry heels, and and it also soothed my aching instep.  I love walking on the seashore.  The water was cold, but oh so refreshing.

Even if the weather is a bit cool, you just can beat lounging on the beach.

Mount Dora

On our fourth day in Florida, it was really quite cool, and we didn't really know what to do.  (We'd forgotten that list and the tourist guide.)  We remembered that we might like to go to Lake Eola Park in downtown Orlando.  Jim kept calling it Ebola Park.  We made our way downtown on those terrible highways that I hated, parked the car by the park, and wondered what to do next.  Jim suggested we go to botanical garden that he thought was close by.  I love botanical gardens, so we thought we'd check out the exact location on our iPhones while we warmed up at a coffee shop.  A Starbucks was just a block away, so off we went.  Jim found us a table where a couple was sitting.  They asked us to join them.  Soon Jim was telling them stories of being a principal and about working at the Apple Store.  We had a great conversation with the young man.  He is a realtor in Orlando, and talked to us about the real estate market in Florida.  Just as the couple was leaving, the woman told us we should really visit Mount Dora.  She said it was not that far away, and she said we would love it.

We took her up on her suggestion and off we went to see Mount Dora.  All we knew was that it was a "quaint little town with lots of antique shops."  The drive to our destination was great.  We saw orange groves, and wonderful country homes along our route. When we drove into town, I was somewhat reminded of Baker City, Oregon, because it seemed like we were going back in time.  The homes, the streets, the shops, were all reminiscent of the 1950's or 1960's.  We explored many of the shops and walked down to Lake Dora which is just a few blocks form the shopping area.  We got to Lake Dora too late to schedule a boat ride around the lake during the day.  We could have taken a sunset tour, but we wanted to eat and get back to Orlando before it got too late in the evening.

After shopping and walking around town,  it was suddenly late afternoon.   We decided we'd better find a place to eat.  As we wondered around checking out restaurants, I saw an intriguing spot at the end of the street.  A beautiful historic inn painted with bright yellow paint didn't need the double "Welcome" signs in front to convince me that this was a spot I wanted to know more about.

We passed a smaller yellow building that was a gift shop as we headed towards the larger building featuring a large veranda.  I saw the sign in front, The Lakeside Inn, and knew I had found a treasure. Listed on National Register of Historic Places, this inn opened in 1883.  Jim and I walked up the front steps and into the main lobby of the inn.

By the time we got here, we were running out of options for an early dinner.  It was Friday night of Valentine's Day Weekend.  Places that weren't booked did not appeal to us.  "Do you think we can possibly get a reservation for dinner here tonight," I ask Jim.  "I doubt it," he says.  "It's my treat.  I'm buying you an early Valentine's dinner here tonight," I said as I walked towards the tavern that I could see off to my left.  I basically begged that we could have a reservation for 5:00.  It was 4:30.  The young man knew that they would be busy that night because there was a large group staying in the inn.  So far most of the group was still having drinks on the veranda.  They hadn't thought about dinner yet.  I got us a table for two for 5:00.  

Jim settled himself into a rocker on the veranda to wait for dinner while I went off to take some photos.

As I said, there was a large group staying at the inn.  They belonged to an old cars club.  Their arrival only added to ambiance.

Don't you just love this place?

When 5:00 arrived, we went into Tremain's Tavern, located inside the inn, for our dinner.  We both had their blackened red snapper.  The dinner was absolutely fabulous.  We enjoyed the food and the experience so much.  I wished we were not tied to our room in Orlando so we could have stayed here at least one night.  Sadly, all good things must come to an end, so we left our idyllic Florida inn and headed back to the resort where we were staying.  

Jim asked if I would like to watch the sunset from shores of lake before we left the area.  It was Valentine's Day Weekend after all.  We found the perfect spot.  Armed with my camera, I was excited to practice taking sunset shots.

I love the light just before the sun sets.  This scene is so peaceful.

 We found our perfect romantic spot to end the day.

Flocks of birds set out for the horizon at setting of the sun.  This one seems alone on his journey.

Walking back to the car, the light fading, I observed these birds still on their perches.  They also seem to wish to linger in this spot just a bit longer.    

This day we had begun our journey with no real destination in mind.  This day could not have been more perfectly planned if we had tried to do so.  It was a serendipitous kind of day.  We met strangers who told us where Starbucks was.  There we met strangers who led us to Mount Dora.  There, we happened on this wonderful inn where we ate a fabulous meal on a night when reservations were hard to come by.  

As a couple, we have too few days that end with us watching the sun set in western sky.  But this day, we took the time to end the day with a romantic stroll along the shore of a lovely lake.  Who could have planned a better Valentine's Day Weekend experience?  

Cast in a golden glow, this day ended perfectly.