Happy Birthday, Son

Written by Rae Ann Norell on . Posted in Blog

May 22, 1979, shortly after midnight, I was blessed with my second child, a son. We hadn’t decided on a name yet and were still debating between David, and Jesse—the latter is the name of my great-great grandfather.   Named or not, what a perfect picture of health, and of course, how beautiful he was. I knew his three-  year-old sister would marvel at him when we brought  him home in a couple days. By the following day, both his father and I knew his name was David—it was meant to be.

                Flash forward to May 22, 2013. What joy our son and daughter  have been to us over the years. It has been nine long years since I hugged David after he dropped me off at my office following  lunch together at Macaroni Grill. I waved and watched his white Nissan pick-up truck, with the kayaks on top, drive out of sight. Little did I know that was the last time I would see him on this side. It was three weeks before his 25th birthday.

                I think of the song “Forever Young” and am sad. The last time I saw David, he was a handsome 24-year-old with the lean, toned build of an athlete. What would he look like today?  I have pictures of  David’s  father at 34 to compare to—he resembled his dad who was also athletic. I have his kayaking friends, who are 33-35 years old, to compare to. Although they not share  family resemblance, at least, like David would be,  they  are still in great shape necessary for the extreme kayaking adventures they continue to enjoy. I have David’s beautiful sister to compare to; they looked a lot alike, and at 37 she remains fit, and looks much younger than her age. I don’t think David would look much different now. Perhaps on his 40th birthday I can find one of those computer programs that ages a person— based on an older photo— to predict what they might look like years later.

The world hasn’t changed much in the nine years since David left. Politics, wars, electronic gadgets, cars—-much of these are the same. Sure the price of gas is a lot higher—that would bug David. There are slicker cell phones, and social media has come a long way since 2004. I’m sure he would fit right in and no one would blink an eye, thinking, “Where has this guy been?”

                I’d give anything to wake up,  walk into my kitchen, and see my son sitting at the table eating breakfast, or pick up the phone and hear him say, “Hi Mom, want to go to lunch today?” Instead, on his birthday I take a pilgrimage to the

David's 21st Birthday

memorial site, eight miles up the mountain road where he died doing something he loved—on a bicycle competing in a race. I call my daughter to share memories of David. I look at his pictures, read some of his journals, and watch  DVDs showing him whooping for joy as he  careens over a huge waterfall in his kayak.

I smile, I laugh, I cry.

Telluride—Coming Home

Written by Rae Ann Norell on . Posted in Blog

Bridal Veil Falls/Telluride

Bridal Veil Falls/Telluride

As a child in the 1950’s, I spent six summers in Telluride, Colorado. My dad, a geologist, was mapping the area. Back then, it was a small town with a population of about 500. No movie stars,  no ski resort, no condos. We rented a different Victorian home each summer. We loaded up pack horses to reach Dad’s mapping area, camping high in the San Juan Mountains. I vividly remember the smell of  evergreens, the sound of the wind rustling through the Aspen leaves, the chill and thrill of wading in the creeks with my brother, and lazy afternoon picnics.

Several years ago, on the way home from my  20th high school reunion, I decided to visit Telluride with my two young children. I hadn’t been there in 16 years. I had dreamed so many times about Telluride, and longed for the day I could see it again. My heart pounded as I drove up the twisty canyon, approaching my destination. Rounding the final bend, I was overcome with emotion as I caught my first sight of the town, nestled in the valley between majestic peaks of 13,000 feet. The view took my breath away. Pulling to the side of the road, I stopped the car and quietly wept as the children slept in the back seat. I was home.

Via Dolorosa

Written by Rae Ann Norell on . Posted in Blog

Statesman006Via Dolorosa means sorrowful road. It usually refers to the road where Christ took his  last walk to the place where he died.  I thought of these words, Via Dolorosa,  when I saw a movie called The Way. It is about a father whose adult son  died unexpectedly while traveling in  Europe. The father and son had not seen eye- to- eye in recent years. The father was a successful ophthalmologist. The son wanted to see the world and experience  different cultures , even if it meant not acquiring a  nice house, cars, and other material possessions. The son had invited his dad to  come to Europe with him, but his father turned him down. The father receives a phone call notifying him that his son has died. I can relate to this as that is how I found out about my 24 year old son’s sudden death.

The father travels to France to bring home his son’s body. He learns that his son had died on a pilgrimage to Spain, a popular spiritual journey on a particular route that many people had taken. The father decides to complete this two month walk in his son’s place. He  sprinkles his son’s ashes along The Way. The  pilgrimage  becomes a healing journey, in which he  comes to terms with his son’s death and makes amends.

I can relate to this journey  along the road where a son has died. My 24 year-old son died in a triathlon,  having biked eight miles up a mountain road  and then collapsed. I have taken this  path almost  every month since he died, albeit in a car. I put flowers at the memorial marker his friends placed at the spot where my son fell. I meditate        about this sorrowful  road, and mourn the loss of my son. [Photo: Less than one mile from where David died.  Photographer, Katherine Jones, Idaho Statesman.]



Written by Rae Ann Norell on . Posted in Blog


Okay, my one vice is watching a soap opera.  For 35 years— One Life to Live. Yes, an educated middle aged (at least!) woman, who loves to read, write, and travel the world, indulges in such a colossal “waste of time.” I can’t help it; the plot, however silly and unrealistic, got me addicted, oh so many years ago. I will miss Bo and Nora, Vicki and Clint and their children, and especially Rex, the raffish-looking 30ish young man with the errant blonde hair. I still have Castle and Harry’s Law to look forward to, but those are night time shows. (Incidentally,  the star of Castle used to be on OLTL.) 

I dreaded this day three months ago when I first heard the news. What?! For a woman who watches about 10 hours of TV a week, is 40 minutes a day (I DVR it and fast forward the commercials) of my favorite mindless past time too much to ask for?  During half of those 10 hours I’m folding laundry, doing dishes, dusting, or organizing paperwork. I’ve lost my favorite shows starting with Frasier several years ago, then Lost a couple of years ago, and this year, also Desperate Housewives will be leaving us. At least those series have DVDs  of all the seasons. But not OLTL. I will go cold turkey Monday.  I’ll not take up another soap opera— for a while at least. And most certainly not one on ABC; I refuse to watch General Hospital.  Let ABC see what a big audience OLTL had!  Even Oprah is gone so I won’t be replacing it with that. Maybe I can use the extra time to write my own soap!