My friend, who is in her nineties, is going to summer camp. Actually, she is moving into assisted living. She realizes she can no longer care for herself. However, it feels so final—this last stop on life’s path. I admire her courage. It is the ultimate adult act — to put one’s self under strangers’ care, to live out one’s days in a place not home, and to remain stoic and upbeat even as twilight descends.
When you have friends in their golden years, it is inevitable that you will have to say goodbye to them sooner than later. Still, it is hard for me. I prefer to face their departure as if they are going to summer camp. It’s easier. They’re not really gone; they’re just at summer camp.
When I was young, almost all my friends went to summer camp. It seemed as if they went far away to exotic places: Camp Ticonderoga, Cocolalla Lake Bible Camp, Camp Sawtooth, Big Elk Creek Camp, Horsethief Reservoir Camp. For some reason, none of my school friends went with me to Vacation Bible Camp in the Palisades of Idaho.
Just as summer began, my friends were leaving me. I was upset to see them go but happy for them because they were going to really cool places. Summer camp was the ultimate in fun—fishing, canoeing, volleyball, hiking, swimming, doing crafts and flirting with boys. I, on the other hand, stayed home until I went to my own summer camp.
We gathered early in the morning in the parking lot of my church. The kids were of all ages. I didn’t know most of them, except at church—some went to different schools and others were not in my clique.
Everyone came with a sleeping bag, pillow, and suitcase. The Greyhound bus would arrive and all our gear was stowed in bins underneath. I’d say goodbye to my Mom and Dad, brothers and sister, and traipse onto the bus seeking a companion for the two-hour trip. While I felt scared and alone, before long I made fast friends. I have many fond memories of summer camp.
Now my friend is going to summer camp. She is not able to take all her things. It is necessary for her to pare down for a smaller space. She can take linens and towels, a pillow, limited kitchen stuff, personal items, and clothes packed in two suitcases. She won’t need a lot because she will eat in a dining room, have cleaning service, enjoy leisure activities, swim at the pool, and meet a whole bunch of new people for lifelong friendships.
I can’t wait to visit her at summer camp.