Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Here's the True Story

On our way from my Moms house to the Keys last January, we stopped to visit with our friends Pat and Jean. During the visit, they told us about a hike they planned to take in the fall of 2016.  The hike is the El Camino Portugal. They shared lots of details about the hike/pilgrimage with us and included an invitation for us to join them on the hike.

As you know, we  thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1991, and Pat and Jean also completed the trail in one season in 1996. We know that they are accomplished hikers and would be great partners for such an adventure as the El Camino. In addition, they have already completed one aspect of this trek by hiking from a point in France, crossing the Pyrenees and entering Spain to end the first journey in Santiago, Spain. The route they already completed is the most used route of the El Camino de Compostela. The experience that they have had would make them wonderful trail guides for the pilgrimage from Lisbon, Portugal to Santiago, Spain, the second most popular route.


On one hand, Latona and I had moments of excitement and anticipation as we thought about joining them for this journey, El Camino Portugal. And on the other hand, we were very reluctant to tackle another large adventure. They trail will cover 400-450 miles and we will carry our packs but with much smaller weight on our backs.  We went back and forth...maybe yes...maybe no.

The timing was important if we really wanted to go because we needed to buy our plane tickets immediately to get the good price that Pat and Jean already found.  So when we left them to head to Big Pine Key, we said we would let them know in five days what we decided.  As we drove away, we both felt we would probably just forget it!  BUT, as we often do to get some direction from our Higher Power, we put out a feeler.  Latona said, "if we hear the words "El Camino" in the next five days, we will know we have an open door and an invitation for one more adventure! We will believe we should go on this trip."

Some of our major reservations included the possible needs of our children and grandchildren so.  The other big question focused on what would happen if my mother needed us while we were gone. But we believed that if our prayer for direction was answered that the other details and concerns would be taken care of as well. At this time, we had not said anything to anyone about this possible adventure.

So, we arrived in the Keys, got settled in our site and began camp life as we know it for the winter months. We have Netflix, so once it got dark in the evening, we started to watch the seasons of Bones. On the second night, during the program a young girl mentioned her boyfriend's El Camino truck.  We couldn't believe it. We replayed it over and over, and finally realized we had an open door.  We bought our plane tickets the next day, on January 7.

A gift from Pat and Jean above and a picture of the route below.

So here we are, just two days from boarding the plane for Lisbon, Portugal.  In the intervening months,
It has worked out that we have been able to visit our children and also help my mom get settled with my sister in Pennsylvania.  I will include a few shots from our recent visits:

At Katrina and Mikes on Chemo Pond...

Latona with the dogs

Almost the whole clan with my mom at Dotty and Forry's house, getting settled in with family.
(Thanks to nephew Hank for the photo)

And with her cats, Hansel and Gretel

Sari jumping her horse. She is our soccer player.

And Lyla jumping too. She has just made it onto an AAU basketball team. Excitement everywhere.

And we recently celebrated Carries birthday...


Now it is time to focus on the pilgrimage ahead.  We will travel through Portugal from Lisbon, staying in hostels at night and hopefully travelling around 10-15 miles per day.  We will have our pilgrims passport stamped at each stop and hope eventually to reach the pilgrims destination, the cathedral at Santiago, Spain, believed to house the remains of the Apostle James. So much to think about! 

My understanding is that a pilgrimage is a walk with a special invitation from God to get closer to the Spiritual reality of life.  To realize we are spiritual beings on a physical path...not physical beings on a spiritual path.  We have the opportunity to respond to this invitation...I say a joyful YES!

The Daicey Duo is Ready to go!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Joy of a Promise Kept

Latona and I have had many privileges and blessings in our life. One that has impacted our life dramatically and made us "better people" has been the opportunity to share "end of life" days with a friend, Ruth, and then, three of our parents, Latona's mom and dad, and my dad.

My mother and stepdad have been the lone survivors of our parents for the past ten years.

Each winter, since we retired, we would spend at least a month with mom and stepdad over the holidays, and a shorter visit of a few weeks in the spring.  We watched as they progressed from their 80's to their 90's and we wondered how long they would be able to live independently.  Each visit we would ask them questions like  "Are you interested to learn about assisted living, or would you like Meals on Wheels, or how about Life Alert in case you fall?" Each time their answer was the same, and would go like this.  "We think we are doing okay.  We want to stay right here in our mobile home.  Mom: I can still make our meals, and we have each other if one of us falls."

From our observation, they still seemed capable and able to continue to do what they planned, even though stepdad's dementia was getting more apparent, and mom's eyesight was diminishing due to glaucoma. She could still prepare meals and he still went to the clubhouse for the mail.  But when we left this time, we wondered if they would be able to keep going until we returned. Our last visit was in the spring, and our departure date was April 10, 2016.  (He is now almost 97 and she turned 95 in July.)

Years ago, my mother asked me a question, "When it is time and we need help, will you come? "
I promised her I would come, from wherever, if it was humanly possible. (I am the oldest of her four children, and at the time the only one retired so it made sense that I would be the one to help.) That question, and my promise, stuck with me in my heart and mind! I wondered what incident would occur that would precipitate a change in their lives, and when would it happen!

Well, the incident occurred on July 3 when my stepdad, Chick, had a breakdown that was diagnosed as Advanced Alzheimer's. He was taken to a hospital by ambulance and eventually to a locked unit in a nursing home for care for the rest of his life. Mom called that morning and said she needed me(us) to come right away.  She needed us!  We were in Maine at the time so it meant an immediate trip to Florida. Latona and I were going to keep the promise made to my mother years before.  

We arrived and started to help mom rearrange her life.  The weeks were filled with sorting the household items and clearing out their home, while visiting with Chick at the nursing home as mom prepared to say goodbye to her husband of 30 years. There was much to do from throwing out the leftovers of thirty years of living in one spot, sending furniture to Habitat for Humanity, arranging all the paperwork for Chick at the nursing home, and other details of ending their life in Florida.

Mom told us that she knew she couldn't care for Chick any more and realized she couldn't be alone. My youngest sister and her husband said they wanted mom to come and live with them. So we were grateful to have a plan! Chick would have his care in Florida where his son lives close in the Villages. He and his wife would maintain the visits.  Mom would need to travel to Pennsylvania where my sister lives, but now would be much closer to all her children.  

The sad part of it all was that mom would be the one leaving Florida, her home and her husband.
But good things can come from difficulties of life it seems.  Chick is very content and feels quite secure in his new environment. He and mom enjoyed some very sweet romantic moments over the weeks before we left Florida. She knows he is being well cared for although she misses him.

Now she is being well cared for by my sister and her husband.  She has had a large gathering of her family a few days after we returned to Pennsylvania.  We took pictures of mom with her children, and a four generation picture with Carrie, and the girls and me.  AND she now has two cats, Hansel and Gretel.

And I have seen the most amazing woman, my 95 year-old mother, adapt and come to terms with the realities of her life, without anger or frustration, but with honest tears and heartache. I can see that she is getting comfortable in her new home, and she is receiving much care from my sister.  Another sister will go and spend a day a week with her, and my brother will also be visiting and bringing her scratch-offs which she loves. She will watch Price is Right, Ellen, and Jeopardy, while caring for her cats and doing puzzles. She will be strong and continue to show me just how this life can be lived with courage, and with strength, and always with faith. I kept my word and my promise to my mother.  As always I was blessed beyond measure.

😍😍😍😍😍 My footnote is to Latona, my faithful, sweet and loving partner. I am so grateful that you have shared this time with me. I could not have kept my promise without you.