Category Archives: Travel

Over-Planning, Under-Enjoying Travel: A Boomer Without a Bucket List

It may be heresy to express this thought, but I did NOT enjoy our recent vacation.

When friends ask, upon our return – “Didn’t you just love ***? It’s my favorite place. We loved our trip there.”  I can respond in one of three ways:

 

  1. Lie – “Oh yes, *** is a terrific place to visit. We had a great time.”
  2.  Semi-lie – “*** is fascinating. I can see why you liked it. ” – OR
  3. Truth – “Actually, I thought *** was a bit boring. Our vacation wasn’t as enjoyable/fun/interesting as I expected.”

Trust me, no one wants to hear the truth.  I tried it out last week on a good friend and her eyebrows raised in horror, “How could you not have loved it out there?

 

 

Yes, *** is a beautiful area. Yes, the red-cliffed scenery as you drive north is stunning. Yes, you see tall snow- topped mountains in the distance. Yes, there are fascinating remnants of ancient civilizations to visit.

But to my eyes, it was if I’d seen them all before. And in part, I had.

What happened, I think, was that I did so much Pre-Reading before we went on our vacation, that by the time we actually got to ***, the newness factor had disappeared.

I offer this to you as a polite warning;  it IS possible to over-prep for a vacation.

I over-studied every ***-related website, I read all the reviews, I perused all of the museum exhibits, I knew all of the restaurant menus. I knew what to expect. I knew too well what to expect. All of the places we went to in and around *** were familiar by the time I got there. They looked exactly like the internet said they would!

You might be saying at this point – “wow, is she ever a whiner!” There’s an obvious remedy here. I tell myself the same thing: stop planning so much. Allow in more serendipity. Lose your itinerary and to-do list.

And that is a valid point. On our next trip I will (me, the ultimate planner, list maker) TRY not to prepare quite so much. I will allow in more opportunities for adventuring down the side-road that wasn’t on the itinerary.  The freshness of the unexpected is what delights us.

It was more than that, though. It is that trick that our mind plays on us when our imagination jumps ahead to what an anticipated experience will be like and when it happens, and doesn’t pan out as we thought, we are disappointed. At least I was.

It is not as if we take frequent trips. We do not. We do not have a travel slush fund.  Each holiday must be planned for and anticipated.

My husband still works full-time.  But if when/if he retires, he wants to stay in a ryokan in Japan, see the sights in Istanbul and visit his cousins in Melbourne. (Bet you didn’t know that many Macedonians left Greece to emigrate to Australia?)

Pick up any advice column for people in their 60’s and beyond – we are encouraged to take trips, to broaden our horizons, to see all of the places we never had a chance to see when we were chained to our desks in our working years or taking care of our children. We are empty-nesters, free to see the world if our finances can take us there in that slim window of time before we become too infirm to stand in long security lines at airports.

The passion to travel has not (yet?) seized me.  I may be the only “baby boomer” (hate the phrase but you take my meaning) you know who does not have a bucket list of sights I long to see before I can no longer see.

Remember the lesson that Dorothy discovered at the end of the Wizard of Oz? 

“If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there….then I never really lost it to begin with.”

2025_1_1080p

 

It is not as if I ventured to *** to seek out my heart’s desire. The analogy does not translate that closely.

But I do enjoy my own backyard. Sitting on my deck, laptop on the table, my dog (a/k/a my writing muse) at my feet. I can hear bird song, smell the flowers and tell time by the sound of when the school bus stops on my street.

For now, familiar scenery beckons me more than exotic vistas.  Call me “Dorothy” if you like. I’m happy to see your travel photos. Just don’t ask to see mine.

 

 

 

 

 

4 Comments

Filed under Baby Boomers, Empty Nest, Holidays, Husbands, Semi-Retired, Travel

Lake Privileges

FullSizeRender (20)

Why do we travel? Do the reasons change as we get older?

Years ago, as Young Marrieds, my husband and I mentioned to his Dad and Mom that we wanted to take a trip to Paris, a place we had never visited together.

JP’s Dad asked us:

“Why? Do you have friends in Paris?”

We told him we didn’t know anyone in Paris. Our visit to the famous city would be to sight-see.

He shook his head.

Then why go there? We only go to places to visit people we know.”

I scoffed at my wonderful late father-in-law’s approach to travel. He and my mother-in-law came to the U.S. as immigrants after WWII when they were a young married couple and on the rare occasions when they left our country, they did so only for the purpose of visiting their relatives and friends in Northern Greece or Australia. The thought of booking a trip to go to a fascinating city where you knew no one was incomprehensible to my father-in-law.

I remember once seeing photos after my in-laws had returned from a three-week stay in Melbourne where many of their friends and family from Greece had emigrated. Hundreds of photos. All of people sitting around dining room tables filled with food smiling for the camera. Not a single picture of the city, a nature park or a famous winery.

Norm, if you are up there listening now, I finally understand!

Now – in my Empty Nester/Newish Grandmother Days/WeAreAllGettingOlderFast Days – I see my father-in-law’s point – sometimes it is the people, not the places.

This summer JP and I took two people-driven trips.

The first was a week in a circa 1962 rental house in a beach town on the Delaware coast, a place we have been to many times before, but never to stay together with our daughter, son-in-law, their near three-year-old son and 4 month old baby.

You may think that sharing a house with two little people who wear diapers, require frequent feeding and must constantly be watched is not particularly relaxing. And you’d be right. It was not relaxing.

Memorable instead. To experience all of the familiar seashore sights through the eyes of my oldest grandson. To  introduce him to the big ocean waves (scary), to miniature golf (fun, but why couldn’t he keep the ball at the end?) and to chocolate ice cream with sprinkles (more, please).

And to walk the beach with the baby, to watch him nap in the sea air and to hold him every chance I could.

Sure I did my fair share of diaper duty, dish washing and laundry folding (it’s not really a “vacation” when household chores are part of each day, is it?)  but getting in so much bonding time with the two little guys was worth it. Even if they won’t remember this trip we took together, I will. And for the people, not the sights.

The second trip – which we are still on – as I am writing this – was also people-driven, at least the first half of it. Luck comes in the form of having family who have a lovely house perched on a hillside above a small lake in southern Vermont and invite you to stay there for a few days.

My aunt and uncle’s house faces west to the mountains. We spent lots of time sitting on their deck. Enchanted by the changing moods of the lake, rippled only by the occasional kayaker or paddle boarder. Watching the sun set (I’m not awake when it rises.) Warm days and sweater-wearing nights. Lovely.

We did do a bit of sightseeing – to places I remember from childhood ski trips – to the Vermont country store, snacking at a dairy bar and taking the chairlift to the top of the mountain – and then down via the alpine slide (the slow track.)

But like our week at the beach, the best part of Vermont was the people.

Listening to my aunt and uncle’s stories. Enjoying my uncle’s puns and my aunt’s good cooking. Hearing updates about my cousins and their families. Laughing at familiar foibles.

We stayed for 4 nights – seemed like the right amount of time – and then drove south to the Berkshires in western Massachusetts for a few nights. More mountain views, lakes, charming little towns.

The Berkshires are quite lovely – there is art to see (highly recommend Mass MoCa, contemporary art in a re-purposed factory), nature to enjoy (JP hikes, I read and wait at the bottom of the trail) and places to find with good coffee and interesting food.

But gorgeous as the scenery is in the Berkshires, the second part of our trip after being with family in Vermont seems a bit hollow. Minus the time to spend with relatives, the sights lose a bit of their luster.

My husband and I are having a wonderful time, don’t get me wrong. Any chance to get him away from his hard-charging office to sit in the morning sun on the porch of a bed and breakfast and admire the gardens is welcome. And I particularly relish – as the Empty Nester who stays home with a Still-Working Spouse- spending weekday time together.

I now appreciate my father-in-law’s view of travel. Choosing to fly thousands of miles to visit with family instead of to see kangaroos in their natural habitat. The top ten sights of Paris will always be there (I hope) but family and friends won’t be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 Comments

Filed under 1st Grandchild, Aging, Baby Boomers, Empty Nest, Family, Husbands, Travel, Women

Comparatively Speaking: Making Jam or Climbing Mt. Everest?

FullSizeRender (13)

Last week I learned how to can.

Laugh, if you must, but my husband, JP, believes I am deficient in the skills of happy homemakers. If you were to go downstairs into the knotty-pine basement of his childhood home, you too would have marveled at the closet shelves where his mother stored her many jars of home-grown pickled peppers, vegetables and lots and lots of tomatoes.

JP’s mother not only worked full-time at a factory but she also did all of the cleaning, cooking and canning. And still does.

(You can read about my wonderful mother-in-law’s feats in the kitchen including making phyllo dough from scratch – yes, you read that right – here: )https://wittyworriedandwolf.wordpress.com/2014/10/02/the-nice-jewish-girl-and-the-macedonian-mother-in-law/

I have neither a knotty-pine basement nor did I, until recently, know how to preserve anything in cans or jars.

That is not to say I am not a good cook. I am, as was my mother, a good cook. I love reading about food, getting new cookbooks as a gifts and trying out new recipes.

But I am not a baker because that requires the careful following of directions which I do not do.

On a whim (and with JP’s strong encouragement), I signed up to take a morning class in canning taught by a lovely young woman in her home kitchen where I learned how to make up a batch of peach/rhubarb/ginger jam to put in clear glass jars.

I was one of four students chopping, peeling and stirring. Perhaps I was the youngest, me not quite Medicare-aged; the other women likely slightly beyond but hard to tell. And since it was a weekday morning and we all live in/near Washington DC, the inevitable question came up as we chatted around the center island of the sunny kitchen:

What do you do now that you are no longer employed?”

(when you are not learning to can, that is.)

Answers:

  • volunteer as a medical doctor in a clinic for indigent patients
  • write about foreign monetary policies
  • play tennis 3x a week
  • go birdwatching
  • hike Mt. Everest

Hike Mt. Everest?

That last one stopped me in my tracks

My own activities have significantly lower (no pun intended) expectations. Just before the morning canning class I was rather thrilled with myself that I managed to remember to:

(a) set my alarm the night before,

(b) take a shower and get dressed on time,

(c) arrive at the canning class only a little bit late.

My efforts to stay on daily task did not compare with a recent hike on Mt. Everest.

My classmate, the ardent hiker, told us about the many countries in which she regularly hikes. She was as warm and friendly as she could be. Yet obviously  far more active, energetic and outdoorsy than I have been or ever will be.

Our lack of knowledge about making jam was perhaps, the only thing we had in common.

Is it ridiculous to still find yourself in comparative mode? To wonder that you are not filling your days with enough productive activities? Not measuring up to the expectations of what post-career/second-stage/semi-retirement life has to offer?

I thought about this a bit after the class ended. It wasn’t jealousy I felt at her list of adventurous activities; it was awe.

My list of excuses for physical slothfulness is a long one. Look, I point, to the left-over from 2x open heart surgeries within 3 months. The weariness and some mild depression are the consequences I live with. And while there are many things I do – and some I even do well – I will not be climbing Mt. Everest soon. Or any other mountain. Ever.

And to those (few) who suggest I should set bigger goals for myself, create a ginormous “bucket” list of ambitious activities, I say “who are you to judge” or something more unprintable than that. To each her own.

But I can take great pleasure in meeting women who do accomplish amazing things in their semi-retirement. Like climbing Mt. Everest.

And also take great pleasure in making jam with them on a sunny weekday morning.

 

 

 

 

6 Comments

Filed under Aging, Baby Boomers, Female Friends, friendship, Husbands, Marriage, Midlife, Relationships, Retirement, Second Careers, Semi-Retired, Travel, Women, Women's Health

Why Colleges May Offer “Parent Only” Dorms by 2025

FullSizeRender

 

Why are we, parents in the U.S., a decade ago and still now, so ridiculously over-invested in where our offspring go to college?

Nearly ten years ago our daughter spent her spring college semester studying in Florence, Italy. Beautiful Firenze! My husband and I visited her in early March.

From my albeit brief experience as a world traveler, I can confidently tell you that parents in other countries may not be quite as invested in their kids’ college acceptance outcomes as we are.

Wrapping scarves around our necks in Florentine fashion to walk around the city every morning, my husband would ask for “caffe macchiato” and I said “prego” to every shopkeeper.  I’m sure we did not fool anyone into thinking we were Italians, but we liked to pretend that we were.

Being on vacation for a week that March distracted me from what was really on my mind. Waiting for college admission news for our younger child back home, then a senior in high school.

So while I was standing in line to get in to see the statue of David, admiring the crenellated tower of the Palazzo Vecchio and discovering the varied delights of crostini and ribollita,  inside my head I was partially back at home waiting for the mail to arrive.

This was in the day before email notifications of college admissions so I was visualizing thick envelopes (yes!) and thin letters (no) –  and worrying.

Whenever we travel, my Detroit-born husband likes to point out what kinds of cars the locals drive. He has gotten me in that habit, too. On our Italy trip that March it struck me what the cars I saw did NOT have.

Not a single car had a college sticker on its’ bumper or rear window!

How was that possible?

And in the other parts of Tuscany that we toured in our tiny rental car, we did not spot a car window or bumper sticker that said “Universita degli Studi di Firenze” or “di Siena” or “di Pisa”.

I remember thinking, if only we could never leave Italy, where there did not seem to be a parental obsession with where their children went to college. Unlike back home where parents wore college identifying caps, t-shirts, sweatshirts and drove cars sporting omnipresent rear window and bumper stickers as if we were the ones enrolled in college instead of our kids.

Our vacation ended, as all vacations (sadly) do, and we had to return to the land of overly-abundant college affiliation indicia.

Why do so many of us point with such pride to our kids’ Higher Ed affiliations in what we drive and wear as if we were the ones who actually did the hard work to get admitted?

Earlier this fall – prior to my recent Fabulous Fibula Fracture  – I had started to volunteer with a terrific college access organization which helps first-generation kids apply to, find financing for, get accepted by and once there, stay in college.

I can’t wait until my ankle is healed enough so I can hobble on back to it.

In this program I work directly with high school seniors. Not that I have anything against parents –  heck, I am one – but having been through the college admission process 2x, I would not want to deal with any parent who behaved as I did.

Thinking back to those past Octobers and Novembers when we were in the absolute thick of the college admission process, when the “C” word was like a curse word at our dining room table, I know that I was not at my best and highest self.

Those fall days when my kids snapped at me if I asked innocent questions such as “Good morning” or “How are you?”  – which my children wisely recognized as Mom code for “Have you finished your applications yet?”

The tension in our house was palpable. Luckily, my kids were accepted at great colleges because of what they, not me, accomplished.

This fall of 2015 the media reminds us that parents are even more involved (if that is possible) with their kids’ college choices. If this over-involvement trend continues, where might it lead to in another decade?

I see the future:

By the year 2025 The National Association of Over-Involved High School Pre-College Parents  (“NAOIHSPCP”) will have successfully lobbied for and won the right to be College Co-Attendees!

  • New “parent-only-variants” of the SAT and ACT will be adapted so parents will be able to submit their own corollary college applications.
  • Parents will be required to write their own “Why I Am Unique and Have Passion So You Should Admit Me” essays.
  • And by the 2025 colleges will have created specially configured dorms so parents may live on campus near their offspring.

Satirical, maybe – but really, if this hyper-pride-in-where-my-kid-goes-to-college trend continues on its current trajectory, perhaps Parent-Only dorms will be the Next Big Thing?

Take it from someone who’s been there, done that -> Rip up your NAOIHSPCP membership card now while your pre-college child is still talking to you.

Remember: Your kid is the one going to college, not you. Repeat as many times as necessary. And one small bumper sticker per family only, please.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Comments

Filed under College, College, Education, Family, Moms, Parenting, Raising Kids, Travel

Why We Travel: A Lesson From My Father-in-Law

 

england

My husband, JP and I just returned from a long-anticipated, 12 day August vacation to England where we knew no one.

I phrase it that way because taking this trip brought back memories of my father-in-law – let’s call him, NP –  who had his own take on the concept of travel.

NP was the ultimate “people person.” More than anything he loved visiting relatives, going to family reunions, hosting big groups for a bbq in their back yard. The sole reason to travel for him was to get together with people he already knew and had not seen for a while  – to see family and old friends from the village he and my mother-in-law came to the U.S. from in the Macedonian region in northern Greece when they were in their 20’s.

Every August NP and my mother-in-law would leave their home in Detroit to take an extended trip to see relatives – one year they would visit their old village in Greece; the next August they would travel to the outskirts of Melbourne, Australia, where many of villagers had emigrated and the following August back to the village. They always stayed with relatives. I don’t think my father-in-law had ever been inside a hotel room.

One time years ago when JP and I were in Detroit, we mentioned that we were thinking of taking a trip to Paris (which never happened), NP asked us – “Who do you know in Paris?”

We told him, “No”, we have no friends or family in Paris that we wanted to see.  We had separately visited Paris in our college years, and wanted to return as grown-ups to see the sights, to walk the streets, to eat the food, and to wander through museums.

NP shook his head – “Why would you want to go somewhere where you don’t know anyone?”

That was how my father-in-law saw the world – the people in it mattered. The scenery did not.

We visited Detroit one September when our kids were young just after my in-laws had returned from a trip to Melbourne. They shared with us their trip photos – there must have been about 300 of them – and not a single photo showed a vineyard, a beach, a site of historical interest or a city scene. Instead there were 300 photos only of people – older relatives and long-known friends sitting around kitchen tables, reminiscing and catching up with each other.

“And this is cousin Alex with his wife, Dora, next to him is cousin, George and that is Mary. This one is of Nick’s family and his kids, Nick, George and Angelo. And then we stayed with cousin Jim and his family, George, Nick and Peter.”

And so forth.

All people. No scenery.

I asked my father-in-law if they had seen the Melbourne zoo, the market, the cathedral or gone to a nearby winery. He scoffed, why would they do that?

What NP cared about most in his life was family. He never understood why JP and I took vacations with our kids to national parks, to see the Gettysburg battlefield and to walk the Freedom Trail in Boston.

Honestly, I used to laugh at NP’s theory of travel, thinking he was the one who entirely missed the point. Yes, seeing family and old friends was important, but what about seeing the famous world sights, being exposed to unfamiliar ways of doing things – that was a big part of why we wanted to travel.

Now, after coming home from our trip to England, I finally get a glimpse of what my father-in-law meant.

You should know that JP and I are not big world travelers. Prior to this trip to England, the last time we went abroad was in 2005 when we visited our daughter who was then studying in Florence, Italy for her spring semester in college. And yes, we returned with the requisite pictures of the Palazzo Vecchio, the Uffizi Gallery, the Duomo and the vistas of cypress trees up against ancient stone villas.

On this trip to England, we left London after a few days for the countryside in Yorkshire and then drove (very carefully, on very narrow roads, on the left, thank you JP for doing all the driving) around the multi-shire region known as the Cotswolds where we took more pictures of ancient castles, palaces and limestone houses by little rivers in pretty villages.

My husband and I spent an entire 12 days together (the most wonderful part) but on our return, I realized that we had talked to no one else  – other than hotel staff, taxi-drivers, waiters at pubs and ticket-takers at museums.

As lovely as small Cotswold villages, with their gardens, their little alleys and their picturesque names  – “Moreton-on-Marsh”, “Stow-on-Wold”, “Upper Slaughter” and its sister, “Lower Slaughter” are, they were all filled with people who were strangers to us. We only had that typical exchange of pleasantries as tourists do.

This September it will be 17 years since the death of NP, my father-in-law, the ultimate “people person.”

And I think I have finally come to understand his perspective on travel. There are many beautiful places in this world to see, so much history to appreciate, lovely art museums and rolling hills dotted with sheep.

While I wouldn’t want to travel only to places where I already have friends and family, there is something to be said for remembering that beautiful old buildings are just that – important edifices for sure (Blenheim castle, the birthplace of Winston Churchill, with its vastness and grandeur was amazing) but still just edifices.

The lives that people led in those buildings and the lives that they now lead are what really matter. Thanks, NP for being the “people person” that you were and sharing with me a valuable lesson in the purpose of travel.

 

 

9 Comments

Filed under Aging, Aging Parents, Family, Holidays, Husbands, Marriage, Midlife, Relationships, Semi-Retired, Travel

Clotted Cream, Devonshire Arms and the Yorkshire Dales

imageAn abbreviated (for me) post this week as I sit at an unfamiliar computer writing this from a “country house inn” in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales, not to be confused with the Yorkshire moors which we will see tomorrow.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime-trip which my husband, JP, and I had promised ourselves. And after only about a decade or so of planning, we finally made it to England.

My own anglophile fantasies began back in law school when I (or as they would say here “whilst I”) helped myself to sleep every night by reading one after another of the entire set of Agatha Christie mysteries, the plots of which I completely fail to remember. But they soothed me to sleep, with vivid images of lovely little villages, friendly pubs and rolling green hills.

Later I graduated from the “cozy” mysteries to the genre of crime fiction known as “police procedurals”, which remain a favourite today. My book club friends laugh at my obsession with them but for me they satisfy the need to combine interesting characters, technical details and a tidy ending – along with, of course, a strong sense of place.

Most of the ones I read are set in England, my preferred locale (Ruth Rendell, P.D. James), though I like Scottish crime fiction as well – having read through most if not all of Ian Rankin (Edinburgh) and Anne Cleeves (Shetland Islands). I am a complete sap for any mystery with a strong sense of place.

Which is why when we landed in London last Saturday it was if I knew my way around, so many of the street and neighbourhood names were so familiar.

And now that we have left London (lovely but loud, over-crowded and wow, do they drive aggressively; I was nearly nipped by taxis several times while crossing the streets.) and made our way north to Yorkshire, I feel even more at home, as if I have stepped into the pages of many of the mysteries I have read for years. From the vocabulary – lift, lorry, boot, bonnet, way out, mind the gap – to the food – crisps (chips), chips (fries) mushy peas (just as it sounds), beans on toast (same), pudding (desserts) – I find myself thinking I have perhaps morphed into a character in one of my favorite crime novels or series? Perhaps one of those snappy female detectives (like the ones in the British films “Happy Valley” or “Broadchurch”) with the brusque manners but the tender hearts underneath who solve the complicated murder puzzle at the end.

The nice cab driver who took us from our London hotel to Victoria station today to catch our train told us that he and his family love America, that they try to visit every few years and that their favourite place is Disneyworld. Which is of course, a completely fictionalized place not found in any book.

I was thinking after we chatted with him that I enjoy crime fiction for the opposite reason – because it is not imaginary but based on real life and set in true places.

 

Which brings me back to England, to this tiny village, where I sit at an unfamiliar (typing errors?) computer in a lovely country house in a small village in northern Yorkshire; early evening and it is drizzling outside. Perfect!

Tomorrow off to see more real life places  with names like Masham and Wensleydale, places I have read about for years and imagined in my mind’s eye.

That is the beauty of books, isn’t it, for many of you were also likely bookworms as a child as I was.

Avid readers always get to go to places they won’t typically visit in real life. I feel so lucky now to be taking this long dreamed of trip to see the places I’ve only known in books. And they look just like I imagined they would.

Pinch me, I told my husband, we really are in England!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11 Comments

Filed under Baby Boomers, Books, Empty Nest, Husbands, Midlife, Reading, Travel, Writing

Road Trip: Part II – An Empty Nester Tries to Escape into the Scenery

 

RedRocks2_031115_403x302

The views outside the windows of my friend, Caroline’s, car are spectacular.

Ever changing landscapes that look like moonscapes so unusual are the rock formations that we are seeing at the place where the states of Arizona and Utah meet. The sandstone rocks have names like East Mitten and The Three Sisters and The Thumb. I study the brochure so I can distinguish between a butte, a mesa and a spire.

On Day 5 of our Road Trip we are visiting Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, a valley of shrubs and wind and underground aquifers and the iconic rock pinnacles that rise to 1,000 feet in the air from a valley that is already 5,564 above sea level. It is so very quiet here, off-season, only a few visitors; you can almost hear the wind whistle along the valley floor.

Caroline, who is a geography buff, talks about the forces of water and wind that created the rock formations millions of years ago.  No wonder the Navajo people revere this area.  I am filled with a sense of peace and contentment as I sit on a ledge with my face in the warm sun, overlooking the beautiful valley below.

Then my cell phone rings.

I knew it couldn’t last. I recognize the number, one which I am intimately familiar. It is my son, calling no doubt to tell me of some new problem that he needs me to solve. Right now. He struggles with his mental health. While I am sympathetic, often empathetic and love my son deeply, please know that – there are times – and this is one of them  – when I feel heavily weighed upon by his neediness.

I’m on vacation, I want to shout into the phone. Call your father, I want to tell him. (and then feel  guilty because my wonderful husband is at his DC office while I am the one getting to enjoy this amazing Road Trip from DC to Los Angeles with one of my oldest friends.)

I hesitate, then I pick up my phone, which I had turned on for photo-taking purposes only. A minute into the call, just as my son is getting ready to unload on me (I hear it in his voice), the call fails. Thank you to the cell phone gods for the very spotty service here in this remote rural area!

How ironic is it that even in this most ancient and peaceful place the real world intrudes. We can go on vacation to far away places but no matter where we are, the concerns we left behind follow us. I knew that but still naively thought that for a few days at least, I could escape into the scenery.

Tomorrow we head to a place where I will also be greatly needed.  Caroline and I are volunteering at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, a 3,000 acre animal rehab and rescue center in southern Utah.  When we signed up for our shift at Dogtown, I had visions of sitting on the grass cuddling adorable puppies ready to be adopted. Or taking sweet older dogs on walks through the canyon trails. Caroline thinks instead that we may be asked to fold laundry or clean out dog crates. I am hoping Caroline is wrong.

Even if you are not a dog person, you have to admit that being needed by an animal is a joyful experience. You are nice to them and they love you back. Their needs are uncomplicated and easy to satisfy.

And if you are a parent, you remember, as I do, how when your kids were young how intensely they needed you. I loved that feeling of being the center of their world when they were little. I welcomed their demands and their insistence that I pay attention to them.

But as I relish my empty nester years, I am happy not to be needed so much.

After all I did to get to this stage of life, I feel, selfishly I admit, that I now deserve some “me” time. Realistically though that doesn’t always happen even when our nests empty out. If it isn’t our adult kids seeking our attention, then we have the demands of caring for our elderly parents. Most of my friends are pulled by their adult kids or their aging parents or both.  “Me” time can be very hard to come by.

So I consider myself lucky to be able – right now, this early spring, at my age (I just qualified for a senior lifetime pass to the U.S. National Park system, in case you were wondering) to have both the energy and the time to go on a Road Trip.

When my cell phone rings again, as it no doubt will, and given my son’s impeccable timing, he will likely call just as we are driving through the Mojave Desert in California, I will try to see it not as a burden.

Being needed is a gift, even if it sometimes doesn’t feel that way.

 

 

 

17 Comments

Filed under Adult Kids, Empty Nest, Family, Female Friends, Parenting, Travel, Women, Young Adult Mental Health