We didn’t take many family vacations when I was a kid. In the picture above, we’re getting in two cars – that’s Dad’s Corvair Monza – to drive from Maryland to the West Coast where we would board the S.S. Lurline to Hawaii, where Dad would begin a new tour of duty.
Dad at 44 had lots to look forward to: an exciting new phase in his career, the opportunity to live in Honolulu, maybe a trip to take his children hunting in Eastern Washington when he visited his mother there. And then there were our milestones to anticipate within a few years: brother Scott’s graduation from college and Bruce’s from Punahou. My milestones? I think my Mom was just hoping I’d stop clinging and learn to ride my bike (for the record, that didn’t happen until we moved to Seattle two years later).
I think one of the hardest things about being in your 90s must be that you don’t naturally have positive milestones to anticipate. It’s not likely you’re going to hunt and fish more, entertain friends more, or take up that hobby you’ve always been meaning to try. A few do, but they have the rare gift of resilient energy and decent health. For most, just getting up, dressed, shaved and showered is hard work.
I had big ideas when Dad moved to Sacramento that we would do lots of field trips – taste Zinfandel wines in the foothills, for example. But regular outings have proven impractical. Dad worries about being away from a john if he’s in the car for long, and he says he’s lost his taste for wine.
I therefore turned to planning periodic 3-day trips. My brothers and I have taken Dad on several fishing trips: two on the Feather River, and last summer on the Williamson River near Klamath Falls, Oregon. For his fall birthday last year, I took him to the Monterey Plaza where we enjoyed lots of room service breakfasts overlooking the ocean, and visited the Monterey Aquarium.
Wednesday we leave for our biggest trip yet: a 2-day visit to Seattle and 3 days in Suncadia near Cle Elum, Washington. Seattle was once home, so no doubt we’ll drive by the old family homestead on 11th Avenue East. We’ll have the chance to connect with some old friends, my Dad’s niece, my brothers, and some grandchildren.
Dad’s gotten in the habit of asking, “So what’s coming up in the future?” Just having an orientation to the future is remarkable. My son, Tommy, recently interviewed a WWII Japanese Imperial Army veteran (now U.S. citizen) who is participating in a program called “Thrill of a Lifetime.” Through the program, Eskaton, where the man lives, is trying to reunite the elderly man with his brother, who he hasn’t seen since 1951. The goal of the program is to inspire each resident to live every day to its fullest.
Once upon a time, the days stretched ahead of my Dad full of opportunity. Now his day-to-day world is confined, but it can be expanded by the anticipation that something good is ahead. Let’s hope the trip lives up to its promise.