Travel

Putting the world on hold…

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Several have asked what we’ve been up in the last year and while it hasn’t been a really exciting year we have been able to continue our peripatetic lifestyle moving a bit slower and more deliberately than before. I feel like I’ve put the world on hold for the past year! Unfortunately after my fall in the Canaries in December 2022, my surgery resulted in a malunion. So the whole year has been spent generally waiting, waiting and more waiting. But FINALLY on December 12, nearly a near after my initial tumble, I had hip replacement surgery at the Mayo Clinic.

As I mentioned in my last post, we started the year in Rockville, Maryland, not far from Stephen and Sadie’s home which gave us a lot of chances to engage with our youngest grandkids! From birthdays to musical performances and hockey games to just having time together this is the stuff memories are made of!

Our Airbnb’s backyard sloped down to the entrance without a sidewalk so at first this proved a bit of a challenge given my limited mobility. But luckily we had a mild winter, and I learned pretty quickly how to maneuver the hill.

We didn’t venture out much in the beginning, and Stephen was able to transport me to my first physical therapy sessions. Luckily in a few weeks I was able to start driving again. How we loved regaining the feeling of independence. Moving from a walker to a cane was a real biggy!

Springtime is the very best time to visit the DC area in my humble opinion. It not only comes earlier than it does in Michigan but it seems to burst into color all at once.

Patrick’s girlfriend, Namarata, got the grandkids tickets to the White House Easter Egg Roll, and while I did enjoy the event I generally wasn’t mobile enough to take advantage of many other activities in DC.

In April we headed back to Port Charlotte, Florida, to a favorite Airbnb. There we had a great two and a half months. We had a private pool which was wonderful for doing my daily exercises. We were also entertained by the whistling ducks that would land in the yard late afternoon each day. Some would feed from the area around the bird feeders on the ground while others would keep watch from the high wires. They were like watching a group of trapeze artists as there were always one or two having great difficulty keeping their balance!

We’ve stayed here several times before and the guys we rent from have become good friends. We had a weekly routine of going out to lunch with them and then coming back and play cards by the pool! Not a bad life!

Late June it began to heat up in Florida and the Florida politics were really getting to us. We have thought for a long while we wanted to test out some other places to spend part of future winters. So at the end of June we headed to St Simon’s Island, Georgia, for a couple of weeks. While we had never been there we had read a lot about the area so we decided to see if this perhaps might be a place we’d like to return to. We like warm temps but avoiding snow is our top priority. We found it to be a beautiful, pretty island filled with lots of history and pretty much undiscovered by any other than Georgians. 

The Avenue of the Oakes with all its Spanish Moss is particularly lovely. Our condo was complete with a balcony and pool and only a block off the main street. People were very friendly. And while St Simon’s is not nearly as touristy as nearby Jekyll Island, we did enjoy the close proximity to the hustle and bustle of downtown shops and restaurants. We liked it a lot and look forward to visiting for longer periods in the future.

From St Simon we headed back to our beach place in Michigan where we had organized a week with all the kids for the end of July, but we had to stop in DC on our way. Our oldest granddaughter, Alli, had an internship in DC for the summer so this would be our only chance to meet up with her. Cary flew into DC from Rome so she could visit with her, as well. It was great! We could celebrate Alli’s birthday together before we headed on to meet up with the rest of the family.

We’re beginning to know the road well from DC to Manistee. It’s a pretty long haul but not too bad with the longer summer days and gaining sunlight as we drove west. The weather for our week at the beach was absolutely perfect. Everyone pitches in and the meals are amazing with the work shared by all! In addition to eating well, we had lots of time for days on the sand, treks to Sleeping Bear Dunes and lots of family games! The problem is the time always goes by so quickly whenever we gather.

Our next destination was Seattle. I hadn’t seen my sister Ruth in nearly two years and I really wanted to check in on her. Cary took some vacation time so she could share the driving with us. My hip was still not improving so I was lucky enough to get an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon at Mayo on our way west. He looked at my x-rays and his comment was, “It’s fixable.” I was over the moon. Unfortunately the first available date for surgery was in December…134 days out! But at least I got on the schedule! From Mayo we continued our trek to Seattle stopping at many of our favorite spots along the way. It’s impossible to tire of the view along the Columbia River.

Our place in Seattle was right at the top of a high hill overlooking Puget Sound and close to Alki Beach. Every time we visit this area we find new neighborhoods to explore. Our place was the lower level of a home and the folks who were renting above us went out of their way to be helpful. We were to park on the road in front of the place which ordinarily would have been fine but with the slight grade of the hill combined with the gravel on the road, well, it was really difficult for me to navigate. Lo and behold, they said they would park one of their cars on the road and we could have a place on the driveway! Talk about being gracious!

Alki Beach is among the best beaches we’ve found in the northwest. The views from there to the city are amazing! And there are a variety of restaurants along the shore. Again, we hit really nice weather for the time we were there. It was also unseasonably warm and dry and while this isn’t always comfortable for Seattleites, we were really pleased.

Patrick and Namrata were in Portland visiting her mother, and took a short trip up to the Olympic Peninsula stopping to see us on their way back down to Oregon. This gave Patrick a chance to see his Aunt Ruth. Later during the kids’ stay in Portland we met up with them and Namrata’s mother for lunch in Portland. It’s pretty amazing that in one short week both Cary and Patrick were able to visit Ruth. It’s always difficult to know what Ruth is processing as she is no longer able to speak but it did feel as though their presence resonated with her. (The following month our son Stephen was in Seattle on business for the Department of Energy and was able to visit her as well! How wonderful for Ruth and Stephen!)

We had hoped to drive back east via Canada because we wanted to return to the Icefields Parkway but there were many wildfires between Seattle and Banff and authorities were asking tourists to stay away so motel rooms could be saved for the workers.

We’ve made the trip across country many times; we’ve done all the main routes but we weren’t pressed for time so I hunted for interesting stops as we meandered our way back to Michigan. Some, like the Bonneville Dam and fish ladders, we had visited previously! Others like the blue grass of the Boise State football field, a Danish Heritage Museum in Nebraska (where unbelievably we found a picture of my aunts and uncles) and American Gothic painted on the side of a barn in Iowa were all new!

Back home we spent an uneventful fall in our condo along the shore of Lake Michigan. We particularly like the fall here when the leaves turn and the crowds leave. We always enjoy the quiet and calm but this September and even October were warm and almost summer-like. It seemed so strange to see people sun bathing on the beach when the snow fences are already up!

On the weekend after Thanksgiving Patrick and Namrata called to tell us they were engaged! Woohoo! We are so very very thrilled to welcome Namrata to the family. She is such a wonderful fit! We all love her. Now we’ll all have a chance to celebrate with others over the holidays.

In the middle of December Bob and I drove to Grand Rapids and met up with Patrick who had agreed to accompany us to Mayo for my surgery and Bob’s medical appointments. And finally on Tuesday, December 12, the countdown ended and I got my new hip. I can’t believe the difference. I still have a while to full recovery but so far so good! I find it absolutely amazing!

In December our granddaughter, Allison, graduated summa cum laude from Central Michigan University. I had truly hoped to be there to watch her march but decided as the date approached that perhaps that was too ambitious a goal. We were really thrilled that we could stream it! Alli is a very lovely and talented woman who has so many choices in front of her. I’m sure it also must seem stressful trying to decide among the many many options. Can’t wait to see where her journey takes her!

A couple of years ago one of the kids mentioned they’d like to spend a Krismas in Michigan one year. 2023 was decided! So Krismas began for us when we arrived back in Manistee. We rented an additional condo literally just behind ours that had both a main floor bedroom and bath making it easier for me to manage. And even though there were more than a dozen of us gathering, with two condos there was plenty of space for everyone. Namrata’s flight from DC arrived in Grand Rapids just 20 minutes ahead of our flight back from Mayo. We were ecstatic Cary was able to come in time to attend Alli’s graduation. Then she, Andria, Alli and Kris all joined us in Manistee. Finally, Rados, Cary’s significant other, arrived after a 35 hour trek from Yemen where he works for the United Nations.

The time together was great; holiday music, outdoor activities, and lots of games to play: from euchre to the latest board games. We have many great cooks so the meals have been fabulous but not without its glitches. Rados made some wonderful homemade bread but we were all challenged to know how to convert grams to cups. The ladies went to a sit and paint pottery event followed by a trip the next day to Traverse City. We had our “official Krismas dinner” later when we could all be together and of course, followed by more games including a White Elephant exchange! I’m realizing as I type this that a great deal of our family time together is focused on food and games!

Stephen’s family spent Krismas in New York with Sadie’s family but we felt lucky to follow up in DC with them just a couple of weeks later.

I’ve learned a lot in the past year. This was my first and hopefully last experience with a major mobility obstacle. It’s amazing the things that I’ve taken for granted. Small things like stepping onto a curb or managing a plate in a buffet line became major obstacles. More times than I can count, handicap accessible bathrooms were out of order if they existed at all. Never again will I take for granted walking quickly and independently. Never again will I be frustrated by the number of parking places allotted to handicap accessible spots. On the other hand, I have found that people generally go out of their way to be helpful. Encountering another person with a walker, I’ve been met with comments like, “Shall we race?” Cars in the most congested areas come to full stop and motion me to cross. It’s been quite a learning curve and restored my faith in the general kindness of people. 

I’m feeling extraordinarily lucky to live the life I live and although it’s already February, I wish everyone a very Happy (if belated) New Year!

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