It’s the first summer in years we won’t be at camp, and I have to wonder: Is it really summer without camp?
In Maine, we say we’re going “upta camp”—what flatlanders would call a lake house, cabin or cottage.
Enjoyed by family for four generations, camp is my rock. The place where I embrace the extended step-family who grounded me so many years ago, offering a semi-normal life with a brother, grandparents, aunts, nieces, another mother.
Camp is sunrise on the deck with my brother; tubing behind the jetski; chocolate donuts and Orange Crush; kayaking at sunset. Camp is where I snuck out as a teen to meet the boys. And it’s where I unwittingly began writing morning pages two years ago.
At camp, we undock our worries and let them drift away.
Camp is a state of mind.
I’ve left mom alone for ten days for a petsitting job, and I’m as nervous as she was when she dropped me at summer camp, age eleven.
She’s not alone, really. The caregivers in her memory care home look out for her 24/7. The care director texts photos of her at cooking club; playing the harmonica; modeling new hats. I should enjoy this time away.
It’s hard, though, after spending four years with someone who panics when I’m not there every day. Parenting roles are reversed in our demented lives and each time I leave, it’s as if she were a child again, scared her mother won’t come back. Even after the hundreds of times I’ve left and returned, all she knows is that in that moment, I am gone.
Eventually, worry lifts; fear subsides and I learn to trust the process.
My life is ruled by dogs. Morning walks. Potty breaks. Belly rubs. Squeaky toys. Moments measured in kibbles.
Leashes and tennis balls are the tools of my trade.
I’m an occasional petsitter, a job I serendipitously stumbled upon after agreeing to watch a friend’s dog during her vacation.
It sounds like the ideal job. Easy money. Playing fetch all day. But when the pet parent worries like a mom on the first day of school and requires hourly texts, or the pup has separation anxiety and won’t eat, or I accidentally set off the house alarm?
These are real-world petsitting problems.
It may not be the most lucrative career, but it gives me time to write. To think. A brief sabbatical from my real job: caring for a mom with Alzheimer’s.
Taking care, in any form, gives my life purpose.