Sometimes in our lives we are fortunate enough to have at least a couple of good friends who will still be around despite relentlessly changing priorities and lifestyles. Someone who will not go through the motions if we dare to annoy them a grand total of once a year and barely-tolerate our “imposition” with brief emailed response. Or worse…someone who will not block us from Facebook because they feel there is no point in keeping in touch anymore. But for the sake of mental stability we should have the attitude that when this happens it is the equivalent of the damn trash taking itself out to the curb. I am very fortunate to have at least a couple of these close friends who will stick around when others do not see the point. One of these individuals is Lora Gilmore who I have known ever since the third grade and who was a constant staple in my life until she moved to Texas in the middle of sixth grade. Considering that social media did not even exist in 1996 we lost touch for a very long time. The magic of Facebook brought us back into each other’s universes despite the major distance between us. Her friendship prompted me to do something different this year for my yearly vacation.
Every single summer I have made it a priority to go to Wildwood Crest, NJ in an attempt to revive those fantastical beach dreams from the childhood days of yore and yesteryear. I even brought at least one of my friends with Asperger’s every single year and we called it the “Asperger’s Summit.” This year I impulsively decided that it would be Bryan, Texas to visit Lora and stuck with this decision. There is more to life than playing 1980s nostalgic video games that once took me to the moon but now some of the luster is obviously diminished thanks to adulthood and the more potent forms of stimulation at our fingertips. There is also more to life than running on a beach contaminated with cigarette butts and various other debris thanks to incurably inconsiderate idiots who do not understand this is the one thing I give myself all year. It turns out that the right decision was made.
I am pounding out this entry because it is only the first day of the vacation. The “I’ll do it tomorrow” attitude is the kiss of death because “tomorrow” ultimately leads to “never.” Lora has taken me to many places such at Texas A&M University where George HW Bush has created his own library as well as a business school. There is so much to see and do with never enough time to cram everything into three full days. But I am hopefully smart enough to not overdo a thing because the worst type of vacation is one where you need another vacation upon returning. In fact, if I ever married a woman who desperately had to be on-the-go and structure every single minute with rigorous activities then there would be only one way the marriage could survive. We would have to have two separate weeklong vacations: one for her to ruin with unnecessary, self-inflicted stress and one that revolves around doing leisurely activities ideally on a beach or a cruise.
One of the worst vacations of my life took place in 2004 with a well-meaning friend who made us go all over the place and be relentlessly busy to the point where I came down with a terrible cold. The final straw came when we went sailing on his disgusting sailboat where a hundred spiders had multiplied due to it being docked for so long. He freaked out when I stomped on them and left stains of spider guts on his already dirty boat. As he was below deck I continued massacring as many as possible as though at war and he screamed from below, “You’re not up there killing spiders, are you?” I answered a guilty, “No, I am not” probably followed by “ya jerk!” in a whisper. He also refused to take my to my favorite restaurant, which is obsolete in most of the east coast and criticized me over the silliest things such as making small talk with the restaurant server for a short time about hiking the Appalachian Trail. When he asks me to visit him again, my response is an unchangeable, “Absolutely not! Now it is your turn to visit me.” My level of forgiveness does not extend to potentially spending hundreds of dollars to be miserable for four days. There are a lot of ways to be in distress for free, after all. Now it is time to change the subject because I want to focus on THIS vacation!
Lora has proven to be an excellent host as we have revived memories both good and bad. Even bad memories are good to talk about for a sense of catharsis. For us, our respective childhoods were not exactly the Wonder Years…but often a perpetual battle just to exist. Both our peers and even the teachers hired to build our self-esteem and help us reach our potential bullied us at many points in our lives. Our adult lives are far from perfect, but bearable and much closer to perfection than ever before. With Lora…I do not have to constantly worry about trivial offenses or walk on those eggshells with every single statement. It is true that even with my Asperger’s syndrome it is not right to use it as an excuse to be inappropriate. But it is not ever going to be perfect and sometimes one has to stop trying so hard. I work in an incredible field with talented individuals with challenges. The reality is, however, that it is a field where I must watch what I say at all times and cannot use some of the humor or remarks that seem like a verbal reflex. There has to be times when it stops for a little while, and my vigorous self-control has to also be on vacation for a little while. Our free time is quite valuable and worth spending with people who do not make us feel like we are on the job or on the TSA line at the airport. On that note, Lora is a veritable gemstone carved by perpetual, oceanic tides. I hope that everybody (especially those on the autism spectrum) has at least one friend such as Lora who will be honest when it is needed. Speaking of honestly, Lora inadvertently assisted me in escaping a romance with a manipulative and emotionally abusive woman a few years back with a soul filled with rampant instability as well as irrational jealousy. For someone who prayed to have a romantic partner for about thirty years…the grass certainly was not greener on the other side.
Being with someone like Lora is similar to a vacation itself and everyone who reads this entry should take the time to acknowledge the “Lora’s” in their lives who make a difference and will be around for the long haul!