September 14, 2019 – Joemma Beach State Park – Gig Harbor, WA
Though summer is not officially over, I can already smell the musky scent of fall. Nights are cooler, rain is moving in, and the flow of campers has slowed to a trickle. By the end of the month, both Penrose and Joemma will close most of their campground, leaving only a few sites available and no showers—just one more reason why we need to get out of here. But we’re camped in the most beautiful spot in Joemma, on a hill overlooking the ocean, and it’s hard to say goodbye to paradise. Last night it rained, but we stayed warm and dry in our trailer loft, and with the new memory foam pad, I woke up feeling refreshed for the first time since we started this journey.
One of the things I’ll appreciate most when we get to Arizona is having neighbors. This can be a lonely existence, especially now with few fellow campers. Aside from the occasional visitors, it’s just me and Brent, and I wonder how the pioneer women survived without going crazy. No matter how well you get along with someone, it’s hard spending 24-hours a day in a small closed area.
Yesterday, I told Brent, “I’m so glad I’m experiencing this with you. I don’t think I could have done it with anyone else…”
…and it’s true, to a point. (I should mention I said that after he’d woken from a long, 3-hour nap and I was bored shitless.) I tend to get into my head a lot, so I need to be around someone with high energy to keep me sane. It shouldn’t be that way, I know; my mood shouldn’t be dependent on those around me. I long to reach the point where I can be fully confident in myself, where I can radiate happiness to those around me instead of absorbing theirs, and I’m getting closer every day.
Sharing common goals and ideals is important to a relationship. Brent and I both enjoy the nomadic life, living off the grid and having few possessions. But other things we have in common can be problematic. We’re both overly sensitive, emotional, defensive, rebellious, opinionated, and analytical. Years of growing up with criticism have led us to turn it inward, striving for perfection in even the most mundane tasks. We slip into arguments too easily, and we argue about the stupidest of things, like how to slice tomatoes for hamburgers. On the positive side, I’ve learned to give in a bit, instead of stubbornly resisting, and he has as well. Now, when I see an argument coming, I retreat instead of fighting back. Retreat doesn’t mean running away as I used to do, i.e. getting in the car and visiting a friend. It means taking a walk or going to bed early. I no longer threaten to leave since I know how deeply it hurts–I’m learning his trigger points, and he’s learning mine.
It’s the emotional, analytical side of our personalities that cause problems. For me, it’s been the homeless issue, exacerbated by reactions from friends and family. For months I wavered between two drastically different versions of Brent—the manipulative, homeless guy trying to take advantage of me, and the kind, gentle (often impetuous) person who wants to be with me because he truly likes me. In the beginning, the ratio was 70-30% in favor of the homeless version. As time went by and I came to know him better, the scale tipped in favor of the kind, gentle Brent. Now the numbers have flipped to 30% vs 70%.
For Brent, it’s the age issue. I’m sure that when he met me, he thought I was younger. I had no idea how old he was—deep wrinkles in his forehead from living on the street made him look older than his years. But, unlike me he’s always been transparent about the issue. I should be proud of my years, not ashamed, but in this culture, there’s a stigma attached to aging, especially when it comes to women. We don’t think twice about a 68-year old man dating a 51-year old woman, but when the situation is reversed, the woman is deemed a “cougar.” I don’t make a conscious effort to pursue younger men—it’s just that most men my age have that “old age” mindset. They’ve lost their enthusiasm for life and are resigned to living out their final years with as few challenges as possible.
I was terrified from the beginning that Brent would discover my true age and run the other way. He’s always dated younger women—his last girlfriend was younger than any of my kids, so this is a new experience for him. I tried to avoid situations where I’d have to reveal my age, but that was next to impossible. The first time we went to the food band meant filling out an application for assistance which of course included date of birth. He didn’t say anything, so I don’t know if he saw what I wrote that day, but eventually he learned the truth. It’s nothing but a number of course, and homelessness is nothing but a short-lived experience, but in our minds, we blew things way out of proportion, and we’ve been trying ever since to regroup and put things into perspective.
We’ve always been accepted as a couple by others, so I don’t think the age difference is noticeable. The one exception was when we visited the local food bank to pick up some stuff. Brent went through first, and along the way saw some fruit juice he knew I’d like. When it was my turn to go through, the man in charge commented as we passed the drink section,
“Your son told me you’d like this, so he saved it for you.”
It’s the only time to my knowledge that I’ve been taken for his mom and the rebel in me wanted to reply, “That’s nice. Did he tell you we had sex the other night?”, just to see his reaction, but I bit my tongue.
I think that the age issue is bigger than Brent wants to admit. He’s probably flipping back and forth like I did between the old lady and the young girl in me, and I’m not sure where the ratio stands with him. Or maybe I’m over-analyzing the situation.
Right now, we’re dealing with other issues, like how to fix up the trailer, put everything in order and get out of here by the end of the month. I’m excited that we get to camp out with my granddaughter Emmy for a couple of days. She’s coming up with my son the day after her birthday (Sept 25), so it’ll be a great way to celebrate and say our goodbyes. By the 29th, we’ll be on the road, heading for a new life.