This is part two of a multi-part series of writings chronicling a remarkable stretch of days From January 3, through January 12, 2015 in which what could go wrong did yet, though it. a family perseveres and a man finds his creative voice he thought was lost with the death of his father one year ago.
The Twelve Days Of New Year
By Bill Essex
Waking up wide eyed at three in the morning is nothing new to me. Usually, I have the sweats and a gripping, heart pounding, panicky feeling my life is imploding at that very moment. I grind through every problem and never fail to throw in a few “What if?!” scenarios that are so far beyond my control, it’s idiotic. The way I figure it, those kinds of ruminations keep me out of crumbling caves, off of tall ladders and from selling my left over Vicodin to the neighbor kids for extra cash. This early Sunday morning, the fourth day of the New Year 2015 and “Our year!!” is different. My mind is furiously working over the details of the cruise of cruises planned for us, the Essex family. It will be just the five of us. The kids, our twenty-one year son, Michael and our 18 year old twins, Lauren and Trenton, college students all, are growing up and out. Lauren will be the first to leave us in the fall when she moves to Chico. I’m just not ready for it. That’s what this trip is about. Tomorrow, all three will join Ronda and me for possibly the last time on vacation together, as a family unit. Our ship is pulling out at 5:30 PM from the bustling Port of Long Beach. We will embark arm in arm, ply the deep blue and redundantly named Channel Island Channel to Santa Catalina Island, down the coast of California to Mexico, then back to Long Beach aboard the majestic Carnival Cruise Liner the Inspiration, a perfectly named craft, for four nights and five days of daddy bliss with the family.
The few threads that started to unravel on our New Year the previous night at La Mo, began to take on a more ominous appearance the eve of our departure. Late in the afternoon, Lauren, our lovely, articulate, funny, smart, go-get-‘em, 18 going on 37 year old and part time pain in my ass daughter, voiced complaints of severe abdominal pains. We had spent a day in the hospital, begun and completed treatments for a systemic infection not 4 weeks before after she suffered the same pains. It was excruciating watching her go through the agony, again. OK, in the interest of full disclosure, I did float, with a pointed finger no less, the; “You are NOT acting sick to stay home just because your fucking boyfriend is in town!” balloon right out of the gate. I actually do like her “boo”, Bryce but, apparently I can be “…such a jerk sometimes!”
5 January, 2015, 6:30 AM, departure day. Had things gone as planned, the Essex crew would have zoomed, as a familial unit, Southbound on Interstate 5 through the fruit and nut basket of California at about 80, over the Tehachapi’s and the Grapevine at 70, crawled through the heart of Los Angeles in bumper to bumper traffic and on to the Port of Long Beach. There, we were to fulfil my fantasy of nightly dinners together aboard ship, siestas on demand, strong drinks, impossibly loud laughter, dancing and pictures, oh the pictures…. That’s when Ronda rolled over with her beautiful, ‘good morning sunshine’ smile. It was absolutely stunning that colors like that could occur in nature. Ronda looked like she had been pranked by someone handing her a big pair of binoculars with outsized eyepieces stained all the way around, eyelid to cheekbone with the freshest and richest purple, green and blue hues….or hit between the eyes with a full cut from a fungo bat. She was Barbie with a puffy nose and raccoon eyes, very swollen raccoon eyes. It was obvious then, we had a man down. A few moments later, Lauren reported in by throwing up violently for twenty minutes in the hallway bathroom. Each of my Boo Boo Bunny’s agonizing heaves sounded to me like; “yer suuuuch an asshole…..yer reeallyyy an asshole….Gawwwd…my dad’s a huuuge asshole…”. With two men down and leaving no-one behind, our little squad was out of action. Just like that, the cruise was cancelled and my fantasy disappeared behind a dark fog bank. Despite this setback, I’m convinced it’s still; “Gonna be our year!!”