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Our Special Place

by Benjamin Bishop


10:34 PM. Far too late to be calling. Especially for any reason that would be a good one.

I glanced at my cell phone sitting on the table beside the hotel bed. Vibrating irritably. 

The only people who ever called me were the occasional telemarketers, trying to sell me something I didn’t need, my mom, calling to check up on me, or my wife, asking me to pick up something from the store, and she was currently in the shower. The fact I was getting a call at this time of night could only be for two reasons. Either a wrong number, which I seriously doubted, or it was something far worse.

Bad news.

Oh, please, I thought. Let it be a wrong number so we can just go to bed. 

My phone continued ringing, as if taunting me from the nightstand. I stared at it and let it ring.

My kids were asleep in the other room, lying on the pullout bed. Both were exhausted from the day’s activities of hiking, swimming, and sailing out on the lake. We were on the tail-end of our biannual trip up north to Lake Tahoe, our special place, and would be heading back home at sunrise. As eager as we all were to make the eight hour journey back home, we all silently wished we could stay by the lake a few more days. Leaving Tahoe was becoming harder to do every time, but that only made each consecutive trip all the more worth the long trek up the next time.

Coming to Tahoe had slowly become a family tradition over the years. I don’t know if it was ever meant to be, but something about the lake and the surrounding mountains seemed to keep pulling us back up here. Calling us back, really. Beckoning to us. Maybe it was the nearly pure water of the lake, like a cleansing fountain of youth that seemed to invigorate your mind and body with every cool dip, or perhaps it was the picturesque views of the mountains that made you feel as if you were entering into a painting that you were the focal point of. 

I think the real reason we kept returning here over the years was because every time we visited Lake Tahoe, we were making lasting memories to look back on with each year gone by. Special memories in our special place. 

I turned from my ringing phone, to the bathroom, and then back to the phone. Steam was escaping from the bathroom, enveloping the dim light of the hotel room like a hazy dream I was trying to awaken from. Slowly suffocating me. Except, I was wide awake and something deep down inside of me was whispering, telling me to let the phone ring. 

“Don’t answer it!” the voice cautioned. “If you just let it ring, then that means it’s not real.” 

But my phone only seemed to scream louder, as if hearing the internal predicament I was spiraling into like an invisible vortex that I could not escape from. 

I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, the phone continued to ring, but my attempt to slow my breathing only seemed to make the situation worse as I mentally began to hyperventilate. I felt bothered that someone would be calling me at this hour. I was upset because I knew that the only reason I would be getting a call right now was because I was about to be on the receiving end of some very bad news. And selfishly, I was angry my family’s special place would forever be tarnished with the memory of whatever bad news I was about to hear. 

And somehow, as I stared down at my phone, I already knew what the message would be, because I knew that the only two people who ever called me were my wife and my mom.  

10:34 PM. Forever the bad news hour. The only question I had was who would be the one delivering it? 

One of my favorite things about coming to Lake Tahoe over the years has always been how excited my kids are to go each time. Going to Tahoe has become like visiting an old friend that you haven’t seen in a while. A few years might have passed since you’ve spent time together, but as soon as you see them again, you naturally fall back into the same familiar routines. Like a real comfortable buddy that you’ve known your entire life. The whole car ride up is nothing but them reminiscing about the good old times and anticipating all the new adventures that are awaiting just around the bend of the mountain. 

One of the days my family will rent a boat, spending hours pulling each other on a tube as we try knocking each other into the lake, then pausing to enjoy a picnic lunch on the water. Another day will be spent out floating on a paddle board, watching the gentle waves ripple passed like days going by too quickly as we eagerly try to keep up. Still, most days we are just found relaxing on the sand, watching the geese sail across the sky as they chase the sunset falling behind the snowy peaks of the mountains. 

Reminding us that every day must come to an end. 

My phone stops ringing, but the chime informs me that someone has left a message. I stand for a moment, mesmerized by a sound I have heard at least a hundred times, because I know that this time the news I hear will be different than messages past. 

I look at the screen. It’s my brother. 

“Sorry to call…so late,” he says. The pause in his voice, and the fact that he is calling, all but confirms my regrettable suspicions. “It’s mom. She…she’s not doing so well.”

I sit down, staring at the floor. I can’t help thinking that this room will now forever be the room where I received the bad news. 

“I think you should get back home as soon as you can,” my brother’s message continues. “I don’t think she’s going to make it much longer. This might be your only chance to say goodbye.” 

The message ends. 

My wife comes into the room, sensing that something is wrong, and comforts me the best she can. Eventually the tears pass.

Lying in the hotel bed, I replay all the good memories of my mom throughout the years like scenes from a movie, glad for our moments together. I find my thoughts wander to Tahoe. A place that has brought me so many good memories. My eyes grow heavier and the memories of my mom and Tahoe become one. 

My last thought before I drift off to sleep is that Lake Tahoe will forever be my place. 

A special place the memory of my mom will last forever. 

 

Benjamin Bishop resides in Riverside County, CA where he enjoys the beach and camping. Benjamin has both a Bachelors and Masters in English Literature. Benjamin has poetry, fiction, and non-fiction published in several literary magazines and anthologies, such as Clever Fox Literary Magazine, The Expressionist Literary Magazine, Hey Hey Books, The Humanist, and Reverie Magazine.

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