July 15, 2021
I wake up to the sun climbing the crimson wall of the upstairs bedroom at Camelot. I descend the second floor stairs to see Pop’s oxygen cord spiraling toward the kitchen. This means he’s beat me to coffee and is already seated to Nanny’s left in his stalwart post rocking to the hum of a Rio Frio morning on the front porch. I will find them both there sipping coffee and considering the day. Today is a work day for me and it being 8:30 am, I am already late; but I will make time to hold coffee court and contemplate the day before us, after all how many of these bleary-eyed congregations may we actually have left to share together?
The customary two-week stay following the fourth of July festivities does little to ease the pain of knowing there are another 50 odd weeks a year that I will miss these morning porch coffees, watching the skittish white tail deer graze in the yonder pasture, noting the slow tug of clouds threatening to thunder away a darn good day in the river, debating who or what might show up at the dinner table in eight hours or so. Coffee in hand, birds chirping, morning sun warms the cement under our feet, and all is right with the blooming day before us. I suck in the sweetness of each moment like one of the insatiable hummingbirds buzzing sugar from the flowering vines that crawl up the water well just to the ditch side of the oasis I call the front porch but which Nanny always reminds me is technically the side porch.
This morning’s porch talk is about an upcoming journey to Houston to visit Pop’s heart doctor, and the future quest Nanny will soon undertake to conquer her shot knees – the battle of the total knee replacement looms on the horizon, but we are fortified and prepared for the inevitable. Draining my second cup, I peel my thighs off the metal chair I have claimed as my spot, which sits in its princess position to the right of Pop’s wobbly throne. I will pull the battered porch door closed behind me, careful not to crush Pop’s oxygen cord in the crack of it, shuffle through the tiled living room, enter a small foyer and climb the wooden stairs Pop built more than a decade before I showed up. There I will toil in the drudgery of my computer work for the majority of the day, holed up like Rapunzel chained to a task desk in the bedroom tower of the second floor. It is in this way that this lucky-to-be-able-to-work-from-home princess can take extended visits to Camelot, earn her day’s wage, take a dip in the river and still serve court when the seven pm dinner bell rings.
I finish my day’s work at five sharp and am headed to the river which conveniently curls along a portion of our property line skirting the back pasture. I begin with a well-rehearsed gearing up to gear down which I have mastered since my arrival to this little piece of Texas paradise. Beer check, limes check, cooler and ice check, snack check, towel check, camping chair check, phone check, ear buds check. And from there I sully forth to sit and soak, to think like The Thinker, to ponder today, tomorrow and yesteryear as Pop advises I should do. He tells me I need to be alone with my thoughts. The good daughter can’t argue this logic.
Today as the cool Frio tumbles her smooth stones so fast no little minnows can even try to nibble my legs, I sit and sip and ponder as Pop instructs. First, when a hooked-up pair of dragonflies make my knee their own passion pad, I consider how one tells the difference between the male or the female? Is it the male sticking his thing in the back of her neck or is she the one dragging him around with her thing in his? The submissive desperation in the posterior one’s googly black eyes convinces me she is a she and must be the one being lurched here and there by her lover. She appears relieved he’s stopped to rest. But before long he pulls them both away, and she gives in to the lurch again. I return my gaze to the sparkling diamonds of sunshine bouncing off the gurgling waters. I wiggle my butt down a bit and dig my toes into the rocky bottom. I’ll be damned if the current thinks it can drag me wherever it gosh darn pleases.
Steadying the feet of my camping chair deeper into the stones, I sink in and press my face to the sun. I take a long sip of a Dos Equis and toast the fact that tomorrow makes a decade since I first pulled up the drive at Camelot, ten years since finding my way to a home I’d never laid a foot on but somehow always knew was out there waiting for my return. Gazing up into a powder-blue sky framed by swaying cypress trees rooted there long before I was conceived, I float freely atop the current of the cool Frio, as a decade of memories washes over me.
Ten years post reunion and I am happy to report our separate families have merged into just “our family,” the whole big mess of us, and we’ve bonded in ways none of us could have ever imagined. For me, the reunion brings, in addition to Pop and Nanny, an aunt with my own name, cousins, a brother and sister in law and a niece and nephew. For Pop, he gets a grand daughter, two great grandsons and bonds with my adoptive family and the friends I hold so dear long-ago fused into that treasured bunch. For both of us a decade in reunion delivers an endless all you can eat buffet of forth of July’s, Christmases and Thanksgivings, Easters, fishing trips, birthday parties, bonfires and road trips, our previous nine reunion anniversaries, and that fateful New Year’s night at the Buckhorn, when at 12:01 they called “Happy New Year” and then told everyone to leave. In protest, I stole an unattended bottle of Tito’s vodka right off a patron’s table. I regretted my adolescent act instantly, and within the hour told Pop bad karma was sure to find me in the New Year. Sure enough, three months later my little writer’s cabin Pop built burnt to the ground. “Yeah, Karma’s a bitch,” he reminded me.
This afternoon, I watch the little fishes fight the current to get a nibble at my unshaven legs and sigh nostalgic when the mating dragonflies this time light on my arm. They balance there flicking their little black legs, closed wings jutting like a delicate fin down each twiggy purple spine. They remind me of a river float down the Guadalupe, just hours from Pop and Nanny and a full decade before we’d meet. That day my bestie used her fancy high-res camera to capture such a pair of winged lovers on a lingering log, and she mailed me a glossy poster of their coitus a few weeks later. It was so zoomed in you could see the water’s reflection in their beady black helicopter eyeballs. “When will I ever frame that dragonfly porn?” I wonder — though almost three decades later it still sits curled safely in its tube at the back of my closet. Yes, life has kept me busy. I choose not to think about the bitter divorce that left me caterwauling into my pillow for months, the rip in what felt like the tight tapestry of my life coming just two years into reunion with Pop. Instead, I focus on the day that man I loved so much back then steadied me, coached me, and delivered me that warm July afternoon to the top of the country lane where stood the man I would soon call “Pop” — my biological father.
The rest is history as they say.
Tomorrow’s celebration is remarkable in that Pop never believed he would live long enough to see us a decade in reunion, but he did. And he is not as bad off as he or I imagined he might have been by now. Having watched my mother and grandmother battle heart disease and COPD, I knew the serious fight Pop would face one day. Today, I am glad to say that challenger in the ring, though slinging some hard punches, has yet to press Pop fully against the ropes. But I would be remiss not to admit that we are facing the last few rounds, and the years have taken their toll on us both, but certainly more so on Pop.
The Pop I met a decade ago sprung boots to ground from the back of his truck bed, drove tractors, hauled furniture, launched boats, pulled in 40-pound catfish with his daughter attached, ran pool tables almost as fast as he ran his mouth, dealt cards till dawn, and could still muster enough breath to scoot across a dusty Texas dance floor till the last note played at the end of the one song he’d waited all night for so he could dance the one dance he had in him with his “favorite daughter.” I don’t have COPD, but neither can I do much of anything like I could a decade ago.
These days we don’t spend our hours trying to learn everything there is to know about each other, that phase passed around year five. Today we are content to sit and hold each precious moment as it ticks by us. As cut from the same cloth as we are, we both like to sink our teeth into something our brains can chew on, and lately that is a joint passion project focused on renovating the monster of the 1948 Spartanette trailer who’s claim to fame is that she is the home place of my conception.
Pop and I agree this story is not done till that Sparanette is as pretty and polished as the day I was made under the dark polished paneling that once walled her big broad aluminum womb. And to take the dream a tad further, I vision board that one day I will tour around the country doing book signings from her porch steps — “Author Patricia Knight Meyer signs copies of her memoir “Somebody’s Baby” from the very trailer of the same name where she was conceived.” In short, it’s our way to bring the story full circle.
Tonight, I shuffle in from the river, slide open the back door hoping to smell dinner on the stove and am met with downhome wafts of Nanny’s hamburger gravy and mashed potatoes. “Almost but just not quite ready yet” she says. I encourage Pop and Nanny to join me on the porch, and together we convene to watch the wind sway tree limbs to-and-fro, we listen to the high buzz of night critters tuning up for their sunset symphony, and we share one more pink-hour of the thousands Nanny and Pop have witnessed on this sacred little spot of Texas hill country; and that is when Nanny says, “I can’t believe it’s just been ten years. It feels so much longer, like you have always been here, always with us.”
The adopted child in me unravels in a glorious way, does cartwheels across the lawn, flies high into the golden sunset, swings on the billowy terra cotta clouds and skips across the rolling purple hilltops. Though it feels like we just got started, and there will never be enough time to make up for forty-odd lost years, Nanny’s words reach into the marrow of my bones. I am as home as I have ever felt or ever been. As home as I was at five sitting between my Mommy and Daddy in bed smacking saltines and watching Mash. Through my adult bond with Nanny and Pop, I can better imagine what porch sitting with Mommy and Daddy might have been like at this time in my life, now that I am old enough to know a good porch talk entails more listening than blabbing on. Today I have come full circle, a place so many adoptees never get to visit, let alone call their own, and I thank God for it.
Tomorrow makes ten years since I pulled up that drive and yet it feels like yesterday. The evening will be another quaint night. We will cook steaks like we did the night we met. I will pull out a nice bottle of Hill Country wine, a favorite from the time early in reunion when Pop and I visited the vineyards in Fredericksburg. At my most prior visit at Pop’s, I broke the last of those special wine glasses we bought at the vineyard back on one of those special days. Tomorrow I will replace those glasses, and we will drink the same wine, but we won’t be the same people. We will be stronger, tougher, wiser, as present and real and honest as the day we met, and yet perhaps a tad more pragmatic about the future as well. We both solemnly understand there are fewer days ahead of us than are behind us at this point.
This night, we will watch the memorial video that you can watch here or above. It is one that my daughter Victoria and I made to celebrate this significant milestone and which we premiered on the porch this past fourth of July. We may go out and say Happy 10th birthday to Patricia Longlegs, the cow born at Camelot the day I arrived, but in truth our celebration will be as simple and sweet and easy as the day we met. I recall Nanny once saying “Well, what took you so long?” and I agree it did take way too long, but never has the cliché rang truer when I say “better late than never.”