Making The Best Of It

Are you still there? So sorry for my absence. I was down in Florida and recently got back. I wish I could say I went for a planned vacation or under happy circumstances, but neither of those are true. My grandmother passed away, and I made the trip down to attend her funeral. She was so special to me, and I wouldn't have missed the services for anything. I'll miss her always.

The very first time I went on a plane was to visit my grandparents in Florida. My older brother and I, 8- and 9-years-old at the time, flew down alone. My parents walked us right onto the plane, and my grandparents met us right at the door of the plane. It's strange to imagine how different traveling alone as a child must be today. My brother and I discovered Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First" on one of the radio channels and listened to it repeatedly for the entire flight. I'm betting the people around us probably tired of our laughing out loud. It's one of my best memories though.

That year, my grandparents did the grandparent thing and took us to Disney. On our next visit, they took us to Silver Springs. Over the years as we aged and they aged, the visits became more subdued. During my sophomore year of high school, I made the flight down to attend my grandfather's funeral. I thought for sure it wouldn't be long before I lost my grandmother too, but she managed to hang on for another 13 years. I think that was largely due to her new boyfriend or living companion, or as they say in the elderly communities in Florida -- her S.O. She had someone to spend those remaining years with, and I was so happy for that.

The two of them got on wonderfully, and my later visits were filled with jokes, laughter, and dinners at Red Lobster. For some reason, my grandmother loved it there and always chose to go there. I didn't mind -- those cheddar cheese biscuits rank pretty high up there in my book.

Around this time last year, when we heard that my grandmother was not doing so well, my mom and I went to visit her. That visit was without a doubt my least favorite. If you've ever experienced someone you know and love not recognizing you, then you know what I mean. We think she had the beginnings of Alzheimer's. I will never regret making the time for that visit, but I will always wish that I had been able to see her more as herself, not someone who was slipping away from me.

This year, we had just started discussing plans for another visit when we received the call -- you know the one, the one you never want to get -- and found out that we had lost her. I knew, because of how much I had been hearing about her deterioration over the past year, that she was definitely in a better place, but that kind of news is never happy.

I made arrangements with work, packed up my bags, and headed down with my mom to say our goodbyes. Now, there's something you should know about my mom and me: We can make the best out of any situation. We also knew that my grandmother would appreciate that we took the time out of our way-too-busy lives to not only be at her funeral but also spend some mother-daughter time together and escape for a little bit.

Around the funeral services, we managed to find a little beach time, dine at some nice restaurants, and visit with some family members who live in the area. While a pall hung over the trip, I was happy to have the time to spend with my mom and more than two days in a row off from work for the first time in almost a year now. It was very much needed.

The happier parts of the trip, in pictures...

We had dinner here with my aunt and uncle. Dinner was delicious, but the desserts, a chocolate torte with raspberry sauce and a decadent peanut butter pie, were even better.

There was no way I was walking by this place!

We tasted some lovely macarons and picked up some interesting chocolates too.

In the evening after the funeral, we stopped here and had drinks and apps on an outside balcony overlooking a small shopping area. We shared a crab cake set in an interesting chili sauce, macadamia-crusted goat cheese with mango salsa, and coconut shrimp.

Some interesting birds we saw on the beach

We had fun watching this pelican catch and eat his breakfast as we sat on the pier eating our breakfast.

If nothing else, the loss of someone we love reminds us how ephemeral life can be. It's important to take time to do the things that are important, and it's also important to do the things that may not seem so important but truly are... like experiencing a pod of wild dolphins feeding just offshore.

That black speck in the water is a dolphin fin.
We were lucky to catch sight of six or seven of them out there feeding on something!

And speaking of taking a little time out for what's important, believe it or not, Jeff and I have not had a nice, home-cooked meal together in weeks. Between my tutoring and being away, his softball games, and the Pearl Jam concert he went to last week, along with the usual work, taking care of the dog, etc., we haven't had much downtime at all. I'm planning a fun dinner for both of us tonight, which I'll share with you as soon as I can, and I'm looking forward to catching up with each other.

How have you been?