Thursday, June 21, 2018

November Dreaming

     I don’t know about you, but it was a late-life possibility I had never stopped to consider. See if you can relate to this. Our children—the ones whose diapers we changed (actually, in our household ‘we’ was something of a misnomer)—-the ones we drove to ballgames, track meets, and dance practice (Dad did help with that)—-the ones we taught to drive (Mom and Dad flipped a coin for that duty, the loser played Instructor for that day)—-the four precious souls who shared so many of our family adventures on their path to becoming the settled and productive adults they are now—those kids of ours are in the process of planning their own mid-life adventures. Can you believe that? 
     It’s a natural parental thing, isn’t it? Watching with pride as our children look ahead to their own September and October years. Of course we’re glad they are able to do that. Still, what do they mean, those nagging thoughts that bubble up in my aging brain when I hear our offspring speak of their dreams.  
     Is that a natural parental thing—-being envious of our own children for dreaming their dreams, the ones their own parents find drifting further out of reach? My first reaction is to deny such a selfish possibility. Yet I suppose those thoughts have been lurking in the back of my mind for a while. 
     Actually, I have a hunch I am not the only one who 'wishes it was me' dreaming those dreams. Perhaps most of us November types have experienced those moments. If so, I’m guessing we are feeling what aging parents have felt for as long as younger generations have set out to follow their own destinies, while Mom and Dad sit back in their rocking chairs, reliving their own youthful adventures. 
     Yet in the end Grandma and Grandpa are left with just one productive response—-“Get over it.” Use the hard-won elder wisdom we like to brag about to cope, to find the alternatives that work for us. 
     And that, dear reader, brings me to the meat of today’s post. How does a lifelong wanderlust junkie like me, who experiences pangs of envy when he hears his children dreaming their dreams of seeing the world, deal with his own limitations of age and infirmity?
     Truth is, those ‘limitations’ are not hypothetic. To begin with, in recent years Roma and I have concluded that at 81 our backpacking days, seeing Europe Through the Back Door, are behind us. Whether at home or abroad, the lengthy holidays we used to enjoy are no longer a fit. Just walking the length of a metropolitan airport has become a trial, let alone taking in the sights, stairs, and crowds that come with popular tourist destinations.
     All that seems to suggest a more sedentary form of travel. But that too comes with its own limitations. As young travelers how could we have imagined that simply sitting for hours—-on an airplane, a train, or in a car—-could be uncomfortable and tiring.  Beyond that it seems I have outgrown the lure of unfamiliar surroundings, exotic meals, and a different bed every night. And too there are budget constraints to consider. Who would have dreamed it could be so complicated.
     It seems that our response to those limiting limitations must deal with ‘age-appropriate’ issues we did not face as younger travelers. Simply stated, it is time to move beyond “What we wish we could do” to “What we can do.” I may be a slow learner, but I think I am catching on. Perhaps eighty-one is a good age to finally get realistic. Besides, it turns out my November brand of travel is satisfying and fun. Let me know what your think. 
     To begin with, what follows is bound to be very personal—-what works for me. Like I said, I have been a travel junkie for a long time—-since I first ran away from home at age thirteen. In the course of the last sixty years Roma, I, and our family have been blessed with opportunities to scratch that itch. And though our circumstances have changed I am not willing to let the ‘limitations’ I mentioned earlier put an end to our seeing the world.
     Those who know us understand that we are seriously serious Anglophiles. We love Britain, its people, its history, backroad villages, and picturesque landscapes. And that is where we are going today. If you too enjoy that magic country be prepared for a visual feast. In fact, if you are like us you may want to save some of the links that follow—-allowing for an easy return when you feel the need for an Anglo-fix. With that, let’s take a few minutes (or hours) to visit the Mother Country,
     I will begin our tour with one of our favorite stops. It was our friend Kay who introduced us to We Love England, an eclectic and exhaustive photo site. Once there I can click on any picture I choose, which produces an enlarged version. From there I use the side arrow to scroll from one photo to the next. Each page includes information about the photo's location, along with viewer comments. It’s a relaxing thing, scrolling from one sight to the next. With hundreds of photos you can scroll for hours.
     17 Most Beautiful Villages in Britain. That is a bold title, and probably unprovable. Still, the villages listed on the site are something special. This site includes enough narrative to have you wanting to know more. (That’s what Google is for.)
     Hampshire Photos. UK. It has been 46 years since we called Winchester, in beautiful Hampshire, home. We have returned several times, and still miss it as much as ever. These delicious photos will help you understand why.
     New Forest Photos. You must check out this special woodland park. It is big, nearly twenty miles square, and more famous for its ponies than its people. Once a royal hunting preserve, it is now a remarkable National Park, just a few miles from the highly populated Southampton/Portsmouth metroplex.
     How about 11 Gorgeous Places to Visit in ? Cornwall is England’s wild west—-a rugged coastline, scenic harbors, and brooding moors, with hidden, haunting villages at every turn. If you’re an OPB fan, this is Poldark Country. You’re bound to love it.
     And then there is Silver Tiger. This is a special blog that offers illustrated walking tours of many cities in England and Europe, complete with photos, maps, and detailed narratives of what you are seeing. This London-based blogger is really good. I signed up for his email posts and receive a new tour every week or two. 
     There you are, a sampling of our favorites. You can easily find your own. You can explore virtually any place you want to see with a your own cyber-ticket. Just Google “Photo blog XXX.” Fill in your own “XXX” and be on your way.
     Finally, we need to remind ourselves that it is time to let the kids do their thing, like we did in our time. And while they do that we November types can be doing our own thing. With today’s internet armchair travel it is easier and more rewarding than ever. Best of all it gives our body a break, while expanding our mind and renewing fond memories.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Father Knows Best --- or not

      It’s about the best thing that can happen to a man—-being a father. I am reminded of that often, but especially on Father’s Day. Beyond that, in my book fatherhood is about family, which means that besides being a father I am also a husband.
      Fact is, for the last few days it has been my role as husband that has captured my attention. You see, when it comes to ‘husbandness,’ you can’t have reached the October and November years of life without having learned a few important, even existential lessons along the way.
      For instance—-absolute, 100% spousal agreement need not be the hallmark of a satisfying, productive marriage. Most of us know that having found the soulmate we deserve does not guarantee that we will agree on everything. Any self-respecting husband learns that bit of truth within days of their blessed “I do.”
      Of course the ways any couple responds to their personal mix of agreement and disagreement are as varied as the challenges they face. And why not? In every case the blend of personalities, problems, and possibilities is absolutely unique—-no other persons have ever encountered the exact set of circumstances that you and your spouse will face.
      What was it then, after fifty-eight years of marriage, that had me revisiting that all-too-obvious truth? So the two of us didn’t agree on something. What’s new? Surely, by this stage of the game we have learned to deal with that.
      Like I said, every marriage is unique, so I won’t pretend to speak for you. However, looking back at the course of our own maturing relationship, I can see in hindsight subtle, yet important changes in the shape of our partnership. Truth to tell, we are not the same persons we used to be.
      You see, over the years the cocky, head-strong young husband and father I once was has been appropriately humbled from time to time by the relational path we have traveled together. It may have taken longer than necessary, but I have learned some things along the way. I know now that I did not know what I thought I knew in the beginning.
      Meanwhile, the other half of our blissful partnership was, in her own understated manner, also changing. Perhaps a biblical reference will best explain what I mean.
      “The meek shall inherit the earth.” We learned that in Sunday school, didn’t we? If you were like me you did not understand how that will happen, or even what it meant. But according to that logic the ‘meek’ will come out ahead. I am not sure it always works that way, but I can cite at least one example where it has.
      Let me be clear—-I can’t tell you how theologians expect the ‘meek’ to pull that off. But I have a pretty good idea of how it happened in my world. In her own quiet and caring way, without raising a fuss of any sort, my partner learned how to shed some of what I assumed was her submissive meekness and make a stand.
      Though it was not something I see all that often, I have no doubt her determined resourcefulness was there from the beginning. I knew her mother, so I know where that strength comes from. Over the years I have seen that side of her, when she pulls herself up to her full five-foot two, (at least it used to be) to let the old man know he had slipped off the tracks again. Truth is, she seems to have grown more comfortable doing that.
      So what was it, you might ask, that sent me off on this detour—-rehashing what any reasonably observant husband has known from the start? Could it have something to do with another one of my really good ideas bumping into her determined resistance? Well yes, it could be something like that.
      Except…….this time made absolutely no sense. I was so right. Why couldn’t she tell that? Whatever happened to Father Knows Best?
      Roma, you see, is an energetic soul—-especially during this time of year when her gardens are growing, and the weeds seem to be gaining ground. There is so much to be done, so much up and down, so much stressing and straining. More to the point, it is a very bad time to be nursing what she at first called a “bad back,” before the doctor diagnosed a “pinched sciatic nerve.” At its best it was painful. At its worse—-excruciating.
      For days she tried to tough it out, relying on hot pads and ice packs, along with a occasional Aleve. It hurt to sit, to stand, lay down. A decent night’s sleep was impossible. It literally hurt to watch her going through her day.
      Finally, I did what any caring husband would do. I stepped forward with the obvious answer to her sciatic agony. The exercises the physical therapist  had recommended were not helping. It was time to bring out the big guns. And I knew exactly what that meant. After all, I had Googled everything I could find about her condition, and the answers were perfectly clear.
      Hemp Oil Extract, which contains the CBD element of the marijuana family, is touted for its pain-relieving capabilities—-with no risk of getting high or addicted. Beyond that, marijuana-laced edibles have proven to an effective form of relief for someone who has never smoked. Clearly those were the answers Roma was seeking. Right? How could she argue with that?
      Did I mention that my meek and occasionally-submissive life mate can be stubborn and unyielding---especially when my normally spot-on answers don’t ring true to her. There I was, prepared to show her the error of her ways. And I surely could have done that, if only she had given me a chance.
      By then it mattered little how much she was hurting and how much sleep she was losing. No doubt she was more desperate for an answer than I was. Yet,  even before I could state my case she let me know in no uncertain terms that any answer that included marijuana or hemp oil was not going to fly. There would be no ‘pothead’ answers in our house.
      Of course the lady was entitled to exercise her free will. And you can bet she knows how to do that. But why suffer needlessly when relief is so close at hand? Heck, Amazon Prime could have hemp oil in our hands in two days.
      Then to my surprise, it turned out that my meek, but unyielding lady managed to beat the promise of marijuana relief by twenty-four hours. The very next day her new doctor, who herself lives with sciatica, recommended that Roma double up on Ibuprofen each morning and night, with no additional reinforcement during the day. 
      I shouldn’t have been surprised to learn that the doctor knew best. That is their job, you know. This very morning, as I prepared to renew my hemp-oil pitch, Roma bounced out of bed, took two Aleve, and motored through the day without a hitch. Of course she took it easy, and an MRI is still on her schedule. But it seemed that for now the pain was largely gone---and with it the need to listen to my “obviously superior” answers.
      Just what I needed…….having her armed with apparently sound reasons to strut her feminine independence, while the man of the house retreated to lick his wounds. Like I said, “Whatever happened to Father Knows Best?”