No, Not the Face!
Steve took care of the car.
In the way that all couples have of dividing household duties, Steve took care of the car. For decades. He bought it. Did most of the driving. Maintained it. And visited the car wash religiously. Maybe obsessively.
He was not a good passenger.
Back in the early 1980s when we lived in Washington DC, we drove to the beach every summer weekend like so many thousands of beach goers still do. One Friday afternoon we set out for Rehoboth. I was driving. Somewhere along Route 16, his back seat (from the front seat) driving got the best of me. I stopped the car in the middle of the road, got out, and calmly walked to the passenger side.
“I will never drive for you again,” I proclaimed dramatically as I opened the car door.
That moment defined our automobile relationship for the next 35 years.
Steve took care of the car. Until his cancer came back and I suddenly found myself with a car to care for as well as a patient.
I couldn’t remember the last time I pumped gas. I managed.
Nowadays when something goes wrong with the car, I manage. By that, I mean I keep the car filled with gas and pay attention if one of those annoying little warning lights comes on, at which point I do indeed manage to call Allen Jarmon.
Two things I know for sure. Steve is going to haunt me if I don’t get the car washed soon! And, somewhere in heaven he’s laughing his ass off about my most recent trip to Wawa.
This really happened.
One fine summer morning after dropping my dog Pete at Kimberwicke Kennels for his monthly grooming, I stopped at the Wawa out by the Cinema Art Theater for a quick fill up. As usual, I put in my credit card, inserted the nozzle all the way in to the car, locked the handle in an open position, and stood there waiting.
With no sign of what was coming, the pump shut off in a normal fashion. I reached for the handle and pulled it out. The gas erupted out of the tank like Old Faithful. Full in the face. From the top of my head all the way down to my knees. I was soaked in gasoline.
Dripping, I staggered half blinded into the Wawa restroom and made some feeble attempt to get myself together before heading home.
My car smelled like gas for days.
So did I, but on what felt like an interminably long drive back to downtown Rehoboth Beach—my gas infused clothes burning my body—I had a moment of clarity.
Life hits us in the face when we least expect it.
Illness and death, financial crisis, job loss, substance abuse, and violence to name a few of the big ones. Whenever I come face to face with homophobia, racism, sexism—and all other forms of bigotry—it feels like a slap in the face.
At any moment in any day there is a possibility that someone will say something to us that changes our outlook in a significant way—an unexpected opinion, the result of a test, troubling gossip, an unkind word, an unjust judgment.
We plan and we plan and we plan. And sometimes we throw all those plans into the trash.
What is true for us as individuals is also true for organizations, only magnified. To live in a community with one another requires a governing framework constructed to hold us upright when the unexpected happens.
CAMP Rehoboth has worked to do that—to be prepared for whatever comes our way. When Steve died, we had a succession plan in place. It wasn’t perfect. It was a start, a handle to grasp in a time when we all needed a steadying hand.
Since that time, a tremendous amount of work has been done—most of it outlined in the pages of this magazine in the ensuing months. Consultants, a new strategic plan and updated vision statement, a search and transition team for the new Executive Director, a staff analysis, and a careful exploration of the roles of staff and board.
CAMP Rehoboth has a strong foundation and tremendous support from donors, members, volunteers, staff, and community. The framework we are creating now is built upon that foundation, and yet it has to be light enough and flexible enough to adapt to unforeseen changes in the future.
I’ve been around long enough to know that nothing is ever really “set in stone” as the saying goes. In my many years as president of the board, we tested different committee structures, programs, and policies over and over again. The good thing about a young organization is its willingness to try something new—to accept change.
CAMP Rehoboth will turn 30 next year. That doesn’t sound old, but in the rapid pace of the modern world, it’s practically ancient.
Think about this. The first website was built in 1991—the same year we started CAMP Rehoboth.
And don’t forget. The year construction began on the new wing and courtyard of the CAMP Rehoboth Community Center, the recession hit. The value of CAMP Rehoboth property was cut in half.
We have to expect the unexpected.
On July 26, the Rehoboth Beach Homeowners’ Association and CAMP Rehoboth hosted our annual Rehoboth Beach Candidates Forum. With six candidates running to fill two seats, it was the biggest crowd we had ever had for that event. We added most of the chairs from the courtyard; others stood, crowded into the back corners of the room.
While some of the conversation centered on the usual push pull between business and residents, for the most part everyone there had an eye on protecting the future—and preparing for surprises before they happen. I was encouraged to hear more talk about climate change than in previous forums—something that will have an enormous impact on coastal towns like ours.
The truth about us human beings is that sometimes it takes a good hard slap in the face to make us wake up and face the challenges that lie ahead of us. Status quo is easy. Change means we have to turn off the TV, put down our cell phones, and take a good hard look at the way our world is and the way we want it to be.
Steve’s death did that for CAMP Rehoboth and taught (is teaching) me how to let go.
As the time comes for me to step back from my leadership role, I don’t want it to be a difficult transition—I don’t want it to feel like a slap in the face for me, for CAMP Rehoboth, or for the community.
There may be grief in transition, but there is also the anticipation and excitement of a new beginning. Instead of gasoline in the face, it becomes a refreshing splash of cool water on a hot summer day.
I can provide that cool splash of water. Does anybody want to wash my car? ▼
Murray Archibald is an artist, CAMP Rehoboth Co-Founder, and longtime President of the CAMP Rehoboth Board of Directors. He is currently serving as CAMP Rehoboth Interim Executive Director and Editor in Chief of Letters from CAMP Rehoboth.