He was sitting on a rock just off Hwy 434 in New Mexico. He could see Blacks Lake from his perch as he tried to get cell phone reception to call AAA to come unstrand him and his mini-van.
We traveled to New Mexico several times with the Patrick’s, friends with children, friends with children our age, friends we had come to know through various circumstances.
Pete and I would take the kids on the 60 minute trek through the canyons of New Mexico to ski at Angel Fire or Sipapu. They had three, we had two and as I remember it we had a couple of spares. Marty and the better half of the Patrick marriage stayed at Marty’s parent’s house and slept, drank coffee, talked about their families and generally enjoyed mountain solitude.
We were about 15 miles from Angel Fire when the Patrick’s van slowed and then stopped on the side of the road.
Pete is career Navy and served on really big boats and has wonderful stories and is never frazzled. He took the break down in stride even though we were clearly in the wilds of New Mexico with no passing traffic and only a passable knowledge of the area.
Pete had been through naval SERE (survival, evasion, resistance and escape) training, I assumed he could handle being stranded and I could supervise the gaggle of adolescents skiing. I’m not sure who got the best end of that deal.
We piled the gaggle of teenagers into our periwinkle blue Expedition, affectionately called the whale, and we waved at Pete, sitting on his rock raising his analogue cell phone in the air trying to find reception.
When I got closer to Angel Fire the mystical waves that drift in and out to connect to your cell phone became more frequent and I called Marty and Sue and told them of Pete’s plight and how sad he looked sitting alone on his rock. They grumbled a bit but agreed to pile into our last vehicle to check on Pete.
I skied with the kids, trying every now and then to touch base with Sue, Marty or Pete the Naval aviator who was ground bound. We eventually finished the day on the snow and loaded up once again to make our haul back to Penderies and the house.
As it turns out Pete did get a cell signal and called AAA who managed to find him and the Patrick mini-van. They picked Pete and the van up before Sue and Marty could make their way through the canyons to the site of the stranding.
As a Navy wife Sue has tracked down Pete all over the world as he did his tours. As an ex-Navy wife Sue started her hunt for Pete. Sue and Marty tracked him and the broken van to Taos, a wonderful New Mexico city some 60 miles from where Pete sat on his rock.
When Marty and Sue got to Taos they found the van but no Pete. Sue, undaunted and knowing her Pete asked where the nearest casino was. Pete was a found dude sitting at a table, chilling and gambling.
We eventually all made it back to Penderies, me with the kids and skis, Marty with Sue and Pete with his now repaired van. Pete and I sat on the back deck that night in the cold mountain air and smoked his cigars and I marveled just a bit at the joining of Pete and Sue and how well they knew each other.
As it turns out, these friends of ours are celebrating 40 years of marriage today. They are true and faithful partners and have made a family that is getting bigger as the children we watched grow became adults, married and are having children of their own. Marty and I have always felt privileged to be a part of that family.
It’s this family, the product of those 40 years, that we skied with, that we sat in church with, that we ate meals with, that we could always count on, even when Marty had the strokes.
It was Sue and one of her friends who came to our house and helped clean it after Marty’s first stroke. It was Sue I called to meet Marty at rehab when we finally made it to rehab in Waco.
It was Pete and Sue I sat with one afternoon not long after we came home after the 2nd stroke when I was filled with so much doubt and fear and I wasn’t sure if I could do this, if I could really care for Marty. It was Pete and Sue who looked at me and said they would support me and be there for me whatever happened.
It was their youngest son who reached out to us and invited us to his very small wedding; it was their family that allowed us to be our “new us” for this very special occasion.
It was their daughter who came to our house to tell us she was pregnant with their first; it was their daughter who still sends us birthday cards and mother and father’s day cards every year.
It was their middle son who came to see Marty and sit with her despite how hard it was for him. It was Pete who called and called to get me to play golf and get me out the house.
It was this family, Pete and Sue started 40 years ago, that has made our life so much better.
Happy anniversary my friends.