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In late September, with our focus on relearning to walk, Rich using his prosthesis, and me, having graduated to a quad cane with four legs, our 17-year anniversary snuck up on us. Technically, it wasn’t our real wedding anniversary. Three months and 17 years earlier, on summer solstice, we had a secret civil wedding at the Hillsboro Courthouse, west of Portland, witnessed by Rich’s best friend and two women I knew from work.

Rich left a week later, moving to Texas, to continue working for IBM as an advisory engineer, while I stayed behind, finishing a contract, writing the Intel home computing website.

In late September, Rich returned to Portland, and we had a Victorian wedding at the lavish Broetje House in Milwaukie, OR, in front of 40 or so people. We’d invited considerably more, but at the last minute many didn’t bother to show up, maybe because Rich had already left for Texas and they didn’t think the wedding was taking place.

In the long run, it didn’t matter. We had a beautiful wedding, complete with a bagpiper – commemorating Rich’s Scottish heritage – who played as we walked from the steps of the Broetje House to a large white gazebo, we’d decorated the day before with garlands of white tulle and bunches of floral and ivory ribbons with wisps of green tulle. The months before, I made the centerpieces, stacks of boxes wrapped in floral and ivory wedding papers with bunches of silk ivory roses, tied with floral and ivory ribbons.

Our cake table was also decorated with tulle, and of course, floral ribbons, along with small bouquets of flowers. In addition, I made the invitations, using Victorian-themed papers.

I loved our flower-festooned wedding with lush landscaping outside, and Victorian decorations in the reception hall and throughout the historical house. The house and estate were originally owned by a horticulturist and is now on the National Register of Historical Places.

After the wedding, we spent a night at the historic Governor Hotel (now the Sentinel Hotel) in downtown Portland, and then spent two nights on the Oregon coast at a little 50’s style motel with a row of rooms on a high cliff. At one end of the driveway, they had a newly refurbished cabin, which overlooked the ocean. We breathed a sigh of relief since our plan was to drive until we found a place to stay.

It was perfect. After unloading the car, filled with gifts, food from our wedding and warm clothing, we hunkered down while it rained outside. We had two lovely days, opening gifts, nibbling on wedding cake, and braving the chilly beach.

Every year, we try to do something special for our anniversary. This year, getting up, dressed, and into the car seemed ambitious. Happily, we had somewhere to go.

Earlier in the week, Stacey planned to meet us in Port Gamble, a 120-acre mill town on the shores of Hood Canal. Founded in 1853 by William Talbot and Andrew Pope (Pope & Talbot wood products), the town had the longest continually operating sawmill in the United States. Now on the National Historical Registry, it’s a picture-perfect destination with turn-of-the-century buildings filled with shops, a picturesque church, and New England style houses on maple and elm tree-lined streets.

Before we could meet Stacey, we had to scramble to catch the 10:45 a.m. ferry from Coupeville to Port Townsend. Rich tried to make reservations online, but the ferry was full, which was concerning. We rushed out of the house, grabbing granola bars for breakfast, and were relieved when we were fifth in line for standby, which almost certainly guaranteed we’d get onboard.

Sure enough, after a 45-minute wait, we drove onto the ferry. We then decided to venture topside. Prior to our accident, we’d always hop out of the car and scurried up the stairs to the passenger deck. However, since our accident, we’ve remained in the car because we were either in wheelchairs or unsteady, using walkers.

While I’m somewhat confident, using a cane, Rich had more difficulty getting between the tightly parked cars, using a crutch and a prosthetic leg with an “elementary” knee that only swings forward with a forceful thrust of his thigh. Plus, the nearest elevator to the passenger area turned out to be a freight elevator.

I hobbled over to one of the ferry workers, who graciously used his fob to open the elevator so we could take it to the passenger area. After the ferry left port, it started pitching, which made it very difficult (and frightening) for Rich to walk. After he sat down, I could breathe easy. Nevertheless, I could sense his frustration and disappointment over the difficulty of doing something that used to be ridiculously easy.

I couldn’t hold back the tears, realizing how much mobility and enjoyment we’d lost since the accident. It would be months or longer before we can go out onto the ferry’s sun deck and feel the wind against our faces as the boat battles across the often-stormy tip of the Puget Sound.

Long before the ferry reached Port Townsend, we made our way to the passenger elevator, down to the car deck, and through the cars to ours. In retrospect, it wasn’t terribly difficult, just different. And each time, it’ll get easier until we can once again hop out of the car and race up the stairs to the passenger deck.

Pleasant celebration and victory of determination

Our trip to Port Gamble, over the Hood Canal Bridge was scenic, and we arrived in Port Gamble in good spirits… until we noticed a festival was taking place. Once again, in the pre-accident days, we would have leapt out of the car, checking out the festivities. Instead, we found a parking spot near the Port Gamble General Store and Scratch Kitchen 360 where we planned to eat.

We were hit with a blast of icy air when we stepped out. Not only was it cold, but extremely windy. Shortsightedly, we’d neglected to bring jackets. We quickly shuffled into the general store. Happily, they had several easy chairs by the entrance, one of which, Rich plopped down on.

I wandered through the store, which had a delightful assortment of home décor, gourmet foods, wine, jewelry, and other snazzy, non-touristy items. In the center of the store was a wide staircase, and upstairs was one of the largest displays of shells and mollusks in the world. Crazy!

Evidently, the former owner of the store started collecting shells as a high school biology project. The seashell museum now includes shells from 40 different countries, neatly arranged and labeled in walls of wooden display cases.

I’d been wandering through the museum for 15 minutes when Stacey arrived. I carefully made my way downstairs, and we went next door to Scratch Kitchen 360 where we ordered Cubano sandwiches, me with potato salad, Rich with potato fries, and Stacey with sweet potato fries.  The portions were large, and the food stupendous. 

Because it was too cold to be outside without a jacket, we opted to see a movie. We chose Ad Astra with Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones, which was playing in Silverdale, a bustling community north of Bremerton with every imaginable box and chain store, and fast food and franchise restaurant, lining the main drag in recently built shopping centers.

Prior to going to the theater, we stopped at World Market so I could buy a 36-ounce jar of mixed Mediterranean olives to make puttanesca. The variety of olives makes a great sauce, and the price – $9.99 – is what I’d pay for a 12-ounce jar in a grocery store.

Rich and I see a movie every 3-5 years, so it came as a shock when we walked into the AMC theater and saw rows of recliners and Stacey indicated we had assigned seats. Once we got settled, Stacey had to show us how to elevate the footrests.

These new-fangled theaters are so comfortable!

Stacey then got us KidsPacks with a small drink, small popcorn, and bag of candy. Frooti Tootis for me and Junior Mints for Rich. It was the perfect size. We both ate half, eating the rest when we waited for the ferry back to Coupeville.

It was a truly lovely day, considering where we were in our recovery. Stacey made our 17-year anniversary a memorable occasion from the delicious lunch to the interesting movie and great company.