I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, January 27, 2019

The five of us

Me with Charley, Norma Jean with Icarus
Home again, after my time in Florida. The trip is now behind me, and in this post I'll try to chronicle the main points of the days I spent in the Sunshine State, with my sister, her two dogs, and my nephew, Norma Jean's son Peter (who took this picture). The five of us spent many moments together either in conversation, eating good food prepared by Peter, or watching various TV shows. We even watched one of the movies just nominated for an Oscar, Bohemian Rhapsody. When Judy asked me if I had any interest in seeing it, I declined because I thought it was just a retrospective of the band Queen. It was so much more than that; I recommend it, if for nothing more than Rami Malek's performance.

Now I've seen all the nominated movies, and I'm in a real quandary about which one I'd pick myself for Best Picture of the Year. They are all so different from one another. I'll give it more thought, but for now, back to the Florida fun.

Although Norma Jean and I talk a couple times a month on FaceTime, it's a totally different thing to be together for more than a week, absorbing the Florida sun and following her around on her regular routine. As I've said before, she is very active, and keeps herself fit through walking, swimming, and golfing. We both suffer from a genetic makeup that causes a tendency towards heart disease. Our parents and a sister both died of it, as well as my son Chris. We take our exercise very seriously indeed.

On previous visits, I've been unable to keep up with her blistering pace while walking around the mobile home park where she lives. But this past year, she slowed down considerably because of a problem with her feet. She now wears orthotics and walks under a four-mile-an-hour pace. I was pleased to find I can keep up!

I don't even try to match her pace in the swimming pool, however. As delightful as it is to get up in the dark and drive to the Y for a morning swim, her mile-long usual routine is far beyond my ability. I was able to swim a maximum of 28 minutes before my arms gave out. And our swimming was curtailed for several days because of cold weather: they don't open the pool unless the outside temperature is 41°F or above, and it was downright cold for parts of my visit. But that was just in the mornings, by noon the sun had warmed everything up wonderfully.

On a couple of days, I followed my sister and her golfing partners around the short executive courses, watching them play and enjoyed seeing how much fun they have together. All three of her cohorts are snowbirds, two from Canada and one from Missouri, so she plays with them often at this time of the year, before they return to their regular homes in the spring. I even had the joy of seeing my sister make two birdies during their golf games. Both birdies were from her being able to sink long putts. She's become a very good golfer over the years. Our parents would both be proud, since they were avid golfers.

And the dogs. I mentioned that her ancient Jack Russell, Zen, was put to sleep last month, and poor Icarus was miserable without him. Although they didn't play together, they kept each other company and the house seemed empty without him. So Norma Jean got another rescue dog, one that she found on Craigslist. The owner had moved from her home in a northern state, and once she bought a lovely condo on the beach, she learned that she would be unable to erect a fence, giving the dog a chance to exercise. She reluctantly decided to give him up, and Norma Jean became his owner. Since Icarus is a purebred Papillon, she wanted another similar dog. Charley is a Papillon mix, and as a courtesy to my sister, Denise, her previous owner, took him to a groomer, who trimmed ALL of his hair off his ears, his tail, and his belly. It will grow back, eventually, but he looks very different from Icarus right now.

We grew up in a home that always had plenty of pets, dogs and cats particularly. When I walked into Norma Jean's home, both dogs took a look at me and Charley immediately adopted me as his own. If Norma Jean is around, Icarus has no eyes for anybody else. But it was difficult to keep Charley out of my lap. Not that I minded, not at all. I have to say I love that dog. He charmed me completely, and when I'd be sitting on the couch reading or with my laptop, he would just insert himself wanting to be petted. It was really delightful, and it reminded me how much I would love to have a dog like him. However, I am married to someone who never had pets and therefore will have to get my fill of dog love when I visit my sister.

I enjoyed every minute of my visit, and it was really hard to say goodbye once again. At this age, every annual visit together might be the last time we are both healthy and happy and able to be together. I fought back tears as Peter and Norma Jean hugged me and sent me on my way. And then my focus was the long, long trip back home. I arrived way too early at the airport, anxious about the need to get through security during the shutdown. At Tampa International Airport, it only took 20 minutes, as opposed to hours and hours at SeaTac. But better to be early than late, I figured. It took me about 13 hours of travel before I laid eyes on my sweetheart, there to pick me up at 11:30pm. It was three hours later in Florida, so it was the middle of the night for me.

However, I slept just fine and woke in time to go on a wonderful hike with my usual Senior Trailblazers. By the time I got home afterwards, I was plenty ready for a long night's sleep. And now I'm back to writing my Sunday post with my beloved sleeping quietly next to me, tea gone and feeling ready to start my own wonderful day. I'm scheduled for a massage this morning and will enjoy every single minute of it. Of course, I'll be at the coffee shop with my pals before that, and now I feel completely back in the groove.

With that, the post is written, the first task of my day accomplished. I think of you, my dear readers, with such love and joy that I wish I could give you all a big hug. The virtual equivalent will have to do. Please remember to shower your loved ones with appreciation, since we never know how long we will have together. And I really resonate with this quote:
“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” – Anthony Bourdain
Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things.


Marie Smith said...

You trip was worth the long travel time for sure. You appreciated every minute by the sound of it. There is nothing better than time with loved ones, even if but a few days a year!

Enjoy your day!

Linda Myers said...

I get such a sense of the pleasure of your visit with your sister and company. So glad you continue to meet up despite the annoyance of travel.

I especially love the quote at the end.

Linda Reeder said...

Your bond with your sister, and her dogs :-), is lovely to read about. You are fortunate to have it.
I hope you do a post on this or your other blog about the nominated movies. I am not going to make the effort to see them all this year, since we did not see them when they were current, and now some of them are unavailable, and others do not interest me enough to pay theater prices. We did see "The Favorite" last night. Mixed impressions, but certainly not my favorite.

Terra said...

Your Florida trip and time with your sister and nephew sound wonderful, and time with her cute dogs too. I look forward to your opinions on the nominated movies, I haven't seen any of them yet.

gigi-hawaii said...

Nice to read you had a great vacation in Florida. Your sister is much more active than I am, and she seems physically fit despite foot pain.

Tabor said...

This past year I have touched base with friends I had not seen in years and years and it has opened new feelings and new avenues of my life. Travel is challenging, more so as I age, but like exercise it is necessary.

William Kendall said...

It sounds like you had a good trip.

Elephant's Child said...

Love that quote that finishes yet another thoughtful insightful post. Thank you - and a very, very happy week to you.

Rian said...

Excellent quote! I used to love to travel... would go anywhere (almost), but I do find that as I age, it's not 'comfortable' anymore. But it does change you and leave it's mark - especially in your memories. So happy you had a good trip!

Far Side of Fifty said...

I am so glad you are back home safe and sound. Charley sounds like a wonderful little dog! So happy your sister rescued him:) I hope you have a good week.

Glenda Beall said...

I agree with that quote. Travel changes you. I came home so happy on Friday after spending a week with my sister at the coast of South Carolina. I wrote about it on my blog today.
So glad you had a wonderful time with your beloved sister. I know how emotional I get when I leave my family now. We never know. Thanks for sharing your good time with the dogs.

Red said...

I know the feeling when you look at someone and wonder if you will ever see them again. It takes effort to travel but it's worth it.

Arkansas Patti said...

I was almost certain that you had seen all the nominees. I use to be that way but the nearest theater here is a 3 hour round trip. Always enjoy your reviews though.
Next time you and Norma Jean face time, give a shout out to Charlie. Sure he would know your voice.
So glad the return trip was uneventful. Enjoy settling back in.

Rita said...

What a wonderful trip! So glad Charley now has such a good home.

Can hardly wait to hear what you think of the nominee movies. ;)

I know what you mean. I deeply appreciate my blog followers, my real life friends, and the loved ones in my life, too. Virtual hug back! ;)

Annsterw said...

I am sooo happy you had such an amazing trip and visit!! You will be able to hold tightly to the memories until you see her next year! Family is so important! I hope you have a great week!

Sally Wessely said...

Loved reading your recap of your time in Florida. I appreciate you sentiments about showering your loved ones with appreciation because we never know how much longer we have or how much time they have. I'm so glad you have this time with your sis. Treasure the bond and the time.

Jackie said...

Your posts always soothe my heart.
It's as if a friend is chatting with me.
What a lovely feeling.
I'm so happy that you and Norma Jean are close and have the chance to Skype often.
Technology has helped you both in that regard.
I know that parting was difficult....and I felt that as I read your post.
Hoping that you are able to see each other again very soon.
Love the fur baby lovin' that you got, too.

Dee said...

Dear DJan, I, too, am becoming so aware that the next time for anything might be the last time. So this year I am hoping to call friends and family members more often so that we can share our lives--sorrow and happiness, need and plenty. You and Norma Jean and her son bless each other so clearly with your love and appreciation. It's beautiful. Peace.

Galen Pearl said...

I enjoyed your travel reflections. I had to laugh though. You talk about trying or not even trying to keep up with Norma Jean. I could not keep up with YOU for 15 minutes! You are a dynamo, even at your slowed down pace.

Tanza Erlambang said...

Sound you have pleasure to visit your sister and company.
have a great day

Words and Stuff said...

Your story about your name makes me think of my dear mother-in-law, who we just lost at the beginning of December. She was 93, and live a very full life, but one heartbreak she never got over was the death of her only sister DMay. Dorothy May was a young mother of 3, in her early 30s when she died of breast cancer. My MIL always made it a point to stay in touch with her sister's children, and I don't think I ever had a visit with her that DMay's name did not come up. Every life touches so many others.