SECOND VERSE NOT QUITE THE SAME AS THE FIRST

Thirty five years ago I was single, touring the world with a tall, dark and handsome Aussie.  Zimbabwe…Switzerland…Vanuatu…Egypt… The world beckoned and we made the most of his Qantas flight benefits. We’d close up our flat in Sydney, put the mail on hold and wing our way around the globe for a month or more with barely a look back. No plans. No reservations. Not even a cell phone. Just a thirst to travel and see the world.

Thirty five years, and more than a few white hairs later, we are back on the road again. Today is the first day of our month long adventure to Australia and Fiji and I am a conflicted mess of excitement and apprehension.

Thirty five years does much to ones mindset. That handsome Aussie and I are married. With kids. And grandkids. And a house and mortgage. And our own small travel business in Colorado. We’re not nearly as free as the last time we set out on a month long adventure. And I wonder what the hell we were thinking.

Perhaps we should have dipped our toes back into the vagabond life with just a two week vacation? Will a month be too much time away from the lives we have built? Should I have visited the dentist before we left? What if I crack a tooth? Or lose a filling? Stuff happens. I packed my Medicare card but what good will that do once I cross the Pacific?

My daughters promised to water our houseplants but does anyone really care about my five year old geranium as much as I do? I’ll check emails each day to see if my clients need me but what if a blizzard hits Denver and my spring break travelers can’t get out of Dodge?

One entire month without binge watching Suits and This Is Us.  Do they even get Netflix in Australia?  Will I forget the plot and have to start all over again when we return?

I used to travel light – toothbrush, Walkman, Advil for hangovers. Now it’s a month supply of Vitamin D to keep my bones strong, magnesium to keep my cholesterol low and baby aspirin to keep the blood flowing. Tooth picks to maintain healthy gums.  Ipad to Skype with the grandkids.  Umbrella for rain. Jacket for wind.  Shorts for heat and jeans for cold.  It’s a good thing the airlines enforce strict luggage limits or I would be schlepping half of my house with me.

Today is the first day of what is either a chance to rediscover my youthful spirit of adventure or the overly ambitious journey of a silly old woman who thinks only other people grow old.  Might it have been easier to simply buy a sports car, inject Botox into my wrinkles and take up salsa lessons at the rec center? Does the soul of that young adventurer still reside in this aging version of what once was?  Only time will tell.

 

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Posted in Aging, CARPE DIEM, TEMPUS FUGIT, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE

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SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE

One week into our Down Under adventure and I’m feeling a growing connection to the young woman I was before kids and mortgage and life in the burbs morphed me into a responsible adult.  Odd that I never noticed the ‘dul’   in adult before.  Hmmmm, maybe that’s what’s been nagging at me lately? Am I doomed to become just another dull old lady? Or can this month of travel rekindle my true essence?

I’m glad I wasn’t silly enough to think I could, or should, travel like I did in my twenties.  Good riddance to those youth hostel days.  There’s nothing remotely tempting about sharing a bathroom at the end of the hall with an international group of rowdy college kids returning from a night on the town just as I make the first of many late night trips to the loo.

Instead, we are housesitting in a 55 and over community. It’s modern and friendly, with smiling strangers waving to us at every turn. It’s convenient to the shops, restaurants and, most importantly, the beach. There are dance lessons and trivia nights and aqua volleyball.

But nothing screams senior citizens like hand rails in the shower and extra wide doorways for wheelchairs. Surely I’m not yet one of  “them”.  Determined to ignore the fact that one day I may actually need those accommodations,  I lace up my sneakers and set a brisk pace on the shady bush trail to the beach.

Twenty minutes, and just a few mosquito bites later, the path clears and we catch our first glimpse of a stunningly beautiful sight. Waves roll onto shore and crash onto the rock cliffs at each end of a small, deserted beach.  The powdery sand squeaks under our feet as we head to a spot in the shade. Gone are the days of sun worshipping for hours with baby oil slathered on to maximize the tanning rays.  Now it’s maximum strength sunscreen and chasing the shade as the sun dips behind the high cliff at our backs.

Over the years, I’ve grown accustomed to comfy beach loungers lined up in neat rows while  attentive waiters tempt me with tropical drinks. At the very least, I’ve relied on beach chairs for back support. I can’t remember the last time I spread out a towel in the sand for a day at the beach.

My knees creak and scream that they are not the same as they once were.  Getting up from my towel has become a four step process that isn’t very pretty from any angle.  I push through the pain. What choice do I have?  Deserted beaches do not come equipped with the comforts of large resorts.  It’s a trade off I’m just going to have to accept.

Gradually, I succumb to the simple beauty of two beach towels, lying side by side in the warm sand.  Relaxing to the sound of waves breaking on the rocks, I slowly, deeply, inhale and exhale to the rhythms of the beach.   Sea birds calling. A gentle breeze blowing.  I’m once again that 17 year old lazing in the shade of the lifeguard stand at Rockaway Beach. I’m that 28 year old gazing up at the single palm tree on a tiny motu in French Polynesia, contemplating my good fortune that I am not among the masses fighting for a seat on the New York subway.  In my mind at least, not much has changed.  And then…

“Excuse me, ma’am”

Ma’am? Who is this young man standing over me and who is he talking to?  Ma’am?  Seriously?

“Sorry to bother you, ma’am, but is this the nude beach?”

Slowly sitting up, my glorious memories recede as the years cruelly drag me back to the present.

“Yes, I think so.”

“Would you mind if I …?”

What am I, the prude police? Just because my hair is the same color as his gran’s?

“No… of course… not at all.”

Go for it, I want to scream. You won’t be young and beautiful forever. This too shall pass. Grab it while you can. And don’t for a minute think you invented skinny dipping. Oh, the stories I could tell… moonlight in the Caymans, late afternoon on the Hawkesbury river, sunset in Fiji…

The sun continues to dip behind the cliff, elongating the shade almost to the water’s edge. Time to pack up our towels and head back to the retirement village.

Luckily for me, the man at my side, the one I share so many memories with, has been aging right along with me. Without our reading glasses, wrinkles blur and fade.  I may be Ma’am to some but, to him,  we’re still that couple biking over Diamond Head and backpacking through Europe.  There are cold beers in the fridge and salty chips on the patio, waiting for our nightly toast to the end of the day.  How nice to find that some things never change.

Posted in Aging, Australia, TEMPUS FUGIT, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

BLUE BIRDS OVER THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER

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KAVANAUGH KAHLUA KOFFEE

Trump tells us “It’s a very scary time for young men in America.” I can certainly relate to their fear. What woman hasn’t lived her life painfully aware of the dangers threatening women in our misogynist world?

In an effort to help this newly marginalized group feel safe while they indulge in that age old, male bonding ritual of downing endless brewskies until they puke, might I suggest an alternative beverage? Scary times call for bold action. Now is the time for adolescent boys, and men stalled in their college days, to make the switch to Kavanaugh Kahlua Koffee, or KKK for short.

Simply put, it’s a cup of black coffee, emboldened with a shot of Kahlua. The Kahlua provides the buzz that we now know most all-American, star athlete, academically gifted boys crave. The black coffee provides the caffeine needed to remain alert against attacks by those conniving women looking for the easy road to fame and fortune. It’s the perfect blend of adolescent risk and adult caution.  Best served with a side order of imitation Halo cookies.

 

 

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AND THE PAINTED PONIES GO UP AND DOWN

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My daughter, Cassie, turns 30 today. As much as that is certainly a milestone worthy of celebrating, I will also be celebrating my own milestone today. March 1, 1985 was the day that I first stepped onto the never-ending, always-spinning carousel of Motherhood. Thirty years! And what a long, strange trip it’s been.

Nothing can really prepare you for the ride. At times it slows down, like on those interminably long, rainy days when your kids need to be outside because there is only so much finger painting, coloring, dress-up and story time that you can pack into a gloomy, rain-soaked afternoon. Other times, it speeds up into warp speed, like on those family vacations when everyone is happy at the same time and each sunset brings you one day closer to the end of the best week at the beach you could have ever hoped for. Occasionally, it stands…

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BLUE BIRDS OVER THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER

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BLUE BIRDS OVER THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER

Posted on March 4, 2018 by Carol Bryant

He was sitting in a well-worn recliner, head rolled back, dozing in the sunshine slanting through the tall window. The room was standard institutional bland but he made it look almost classy with his dapper, baby blue sweater vest, pressed pants and shock of wavy white hair. He had shaved and dressed early in anticipation of our lunch date. The rehab schedule was light on Sundays and we planned to break up the long, tedious day with lunch at his favorite steak house. His eyes fluttered open as I tiptoed into the room.

“How’re you doing, Dad?”

He smiled that gentle smile. “Mighty fine.”

Nearly 90, with failing vision, a weak heart and decreasing tolerance for walking even short distances, he still managed to find something positive to say each day. On good days, he was mighty fine. On less than good days, he was “Coming along. It’ll take some time.” If I had to deal with all of his health issues, I might simply pull the covers over my head and never get out of bed. Yet there he was, mighty fine and ready to hit the road for a good steak with his middle daughter.

Our world had tilted in so many ways since the death of my mother the previous year. Lately he handed me the keys to his car and almost trusted that after 40 years, I finally knew how to drive. My mother’s walker, which we folded up and tucked into the back seat, was now needed by him for anything more than a few steps around his living room. His pace, our pace, had slowed to nearly a shuffle. But still, he was mighty fine.

As the hostess showed us to his favorite booth, I watched the charming man who never missed the chance to flirt with the ladies. Everywhere we went that day waitresses, nurses, and even the checker at the grocery store, indulged him as if he were their very own grandfather and seemed to truly enjoy his company.

The sun was shining as we headed back to the car. Even though it was close to his nap time, I decided to keep our special day going a bit longer with a ride along the waterfront, a ride he had taken countless times with my mother over the years but not once since her death. I popped one of their CDs into the player and, as tunes from WWII filled the car, he crooned along to the songs of his youth. His mellow voice transported both of us back to happier times when he was young and strong with years of endless possibilities ahead.

One song, The White Cliffs Of Dover, resonated with me that day as never before.

There’ll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover tomorrow just you wait and see

There’ll be love and laughter and peace ever after tomorrow when the world is free

It was a song of hope, made popular at a time when our country was fighting an evil force threatening to destroy the free world. I thought about how frightening it must have been to live through that time in history.

“It must have been so scary during the war, Dad. Weren’t you afraid all the time?” I asked.

“Not really. We knew Hitler wouldn’t win”, he said.

“How were you so sure?”

“FDR told us it would be okay and we believed him”

He made it sound so simple. He had grown up at a time when the world was turned upside down, yet he had believed it would all be okay. And it was. The same generation that never lost hope as bombs fell on London, Pearl Harbor and around the world, was now the generation living into their 90’s and still finding a reason to get out of bed in the morning. The Nazi army had goose stepped across his formative years. Rather than break him, that time in history had turned my father into a man of strength, hope and endurance.

Did that explain his optimism as he faced down the cruelties of aging with courage and grace? How he could adjust to the steady chipping away of his independence and still give it his all at the rehab center, proving to the naysayers that he could indeed live out his remaining years in his own home, on his own terms? His missed his wife of 65 years with a sadness that was constantly just below the surface. Countless tears were shed when he was alone in his bed at night. But each new day brought that gentle smile and the reassurance that he was once again mighty fine.

No one lives forever and my father gave up the good fight not long after his 90th birthday. It’s been a long, dark winter as I adjust to a world without our daily phone calls. There are days when I resent what aging is now doing to me – the wrinkles, the aches and pains, the sense that I am becoming invisible.

But spring is in the air, the birds are returning and I’ll never be younger than I am today. I’m grateful to have come from such solid stock. Whenever I play his CDs, I can still hear him crooning and will forever cherish that day cruising along the waterfront of North Carolina. So as I think of my dad, and the lessons he taught me, I too am feeling mighty fine.

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