Weekend in the Woods

snowThis weekend, a group of friends and I trekked to the Catskills for our annual winter getaway. It’s the fourth year that my group of college friends, affectionately deemed the Fordham family, headed upstate for a cozy, wi-fi-free weekend of catching up by the fire, cooking together, and playing ridiculous games for hours on end. It’s been about nine years since we all first met during our freshman year. Since then we’ve grown up, jobs have changed, and significant others have entered the picture, but one thing remains constant: When we’re all together in the same room, it’s like no time has passed at all.

On Saturday after brunch at our cabin, we bundled up and headed outside to do the only thing a group of people in their late twenties should do when provided with a steep driveway and generous amount of snow: sled. At the top of the hill watching yet another one of my friends willingly catapult himself into a snowbank, I was filled with joy and gratitude. I thought about that day’s challenge, which couldn’t have been more fitting: “Fast from taking moments for granted. Try to enjoy and be present in every morning today.” Despite years and distance, my friends continue to provide me with moments I want to hold onto.

We spent the rest of the afternoon playing games, reading, and talking. Then on Saturday evening just before dinner, I heard from my mom. My 93-year-old grandfather, whose health has been declining since a stroke two years ago, was taken to the Emergency room with breathing problems and diagnosed with the flu. My heart sank. The peaceful feelings that I felt all day Saturday were immediately replaced with anxiety and fear as my mind flashed through images of my mom sitting next to my grandfather’s hospital bed, struggling to help him communicate with the doctors and nurses. A feeling of helplessness for being so far away flooded over me.

After dinner, I snuck away for a few minutes to be alone so no one would see me get upset, but the biggest blessing and curse of renting a house with 14 people is that there aren’t a lot of places to hide. It was just ten minutes before my friend Marissa found me and wrapped me in a hug. After I pulled myself together, I rejoined the group. Despite attempting to put on a strong face, my friends could quickly tell something was up. They showed their compassion in the best way friends can — they listened. And gave me brownies. And poured me more wine.

Sunday morning, I woke up to enjoy our last few hours together before heading out, and quickly checked the day’s challenge. Reading the words “pray for those friends who have always been supportive,” I couldn’t help but laugh yet again at the timing of such a suggestion.  In my current state, this might have been the easiest challenge yet.