People Watching

So, yes, I did a lot of people watching while I was away.  There is so much you can learn from a person, even while they are in repose; some people never, ever forget they are on display. The ship had over 3,000 guests, and they came in all shapes, sizes and compositions.  There were families with small children, singles, couples; some obvious sneak away hook-ups, kids out for a booze-cruise, every imaginable type were on the ship. Far and away, outnumbering all other age demographics were the Baby Boomers.  At least 50 per cent or more of the patrons on the ship were 50+ years of age.

The close proximity on a ship forces human interaction.  You can hide but only for so long, necessity forces one to surface. And everywhere, absolutely everywhere, on a ship there are people sharing close quarters.  We had a variety of social situations while out at sea but the most interesting, because it forced conversation among strangers, was when we were dining.

We sat with one couple who had retired from working and were now spending their leisure years travelling.  There was a competitiveness between them, we’ve all seen it, it didn’t matter what she said, he’d correct her, and vice versa.   This couple obviously had achievements in life, the lifestyle they were living suggested it, however, it also implied that they’d made a decision at some point to forgo or place second any friends and family so that they could quest after something elusive.  It struck me that what they were looking for was happiness.  One got the feeling after just a few minutes with them, that they were bound together by shared finances and a shared desire for self-fulfillment in a manner they couldn’t figure out – not relaxing folks to be around.  It exhausted me just trying to figure them out. I wish them luck.

Then there was the breakfast where we met the sisters; a bit older than us, one widowed, one not; simpatico in thought and action, the bond blood brings.  My own sister even commented on it – something to the effect: “My gawd, that’s us in a few years!”  That was perhaps one of the better meals we’d had, no competition as to who had done what or gone where – it was warm and engaging conversation around the table, a genuine interest in the experiences of this particular trip.  There was an awareness and acceptance that we were never likely to see each other again; a shared understanding that for now tomorrow doesn’t matter, it’s all about the moment.  It’s about calm, peace, rest and release – take it while you can. Sometimes it’s okay to accept the uncomplicated, to stay on the surface and just skate for a bit.

I realized that this venue, a ship, actually worked well for me as a vacation.  I suspect that a lot of that has to do with my sister.  My sister is a travel agent.  She’d booked our cabin for mid-ship on just the right floor, she arranged for us to board first and disembark first, and had done all the other things that good travel agents do.  She worked hard to create a great experience and it showed.  She’s a gem; the trip was wonderful.  What’s left to say other than thank you meine Schwester.




Traveling Alone

I was apprehensive about being alone on this trip.  Not alone in the sense that I was by myself – because I wasn’t.  At any time I was surrounded by dozens of people, and indeed, I was traveling with my sister. It was more about crossing over an invisible line in the relationship world, from being part of a couple to just being one.  It continues to be an ongoing mindset shift, at least for me.

I had traveled on my own in the past, but I never analyzed it in any way, shape or form.  I didn’t have to, I was simply going from Point A to Point B and I would call Kevin when I got there.  I was part of a couple, just the half that was in transit and, consequently, the state of ‘oneness’ was temporary.  For me that provided a sense of confidence, knowing that I had the power of two whenever I needed it.  I also knew that when I got back home there would be a meal waiting – Kevin’s way of welcoming me home. Didn’t matter if it was a weekend, a week or a month I was gone; invariably he’d have a roast beef dinner ready to go.

For this vacation, my first hurdle was to vanquish the unsettled state I found myself in, having no immediate support system as close as a call away, and, in fact, not having anyone to call anyway.  I traveled along behind my sister feeling a little discombobulated, out of my comfort zone, content to let her lead the way. She did an admirable job; we got through the trip without any glitches and, for me, without any major meltdowns.

The drive home was uneventful; the weather cooperated.  As I made my way I was painfully aware that my return home would be like every other one since he died – empty. I wouldn’t be able to tell him about the ridiculous couple I met on the boat, so hung up on trying to impress everyone with how important they were that it became incredibly sad. Kevin loved the stories about people, truly, if there wasn’t one, he’d make one up.  I’d of had lots of good fodder for him to work with this time.

It was sad coming through the door after my cruise, but not tear-my-heart-apart sad.  It was just sad to realize how different my life is now without him.  But I also acknowledge that who I am now is shaped by who he was and what he brought to the relationship and even his illness and subsequent death.  These things are now part of me. I am thankful for what I have and what he gave me, but at the same time I know how much I have lost.

A Vacation

I just got back from my first vacation.  The ‘first’ since Kevin died.  Since his death I have heard repeatedly from different sources to never say no to new adventures.  To try new things, not discard them out of hand.  And so, when my sister suggested a cruise, I decided to try it.  A cruise is completely outside of my comfort zone, not high on my list of things to try.  Give me an all-inclusive on the ground any day. But, as a nod to the suggestion, I decided to say yes, and then spent the next three months wondering why on earth I had.

There was apprehension on my part for several reasons.  I wondered if I would be able to enjoy it at all – my heart aches so.  It’s coming up 11 months and I miss Kevin every day. I worried that I wouldn’t enjoy the cruise experience, would I get seasick.  I was afraid of what would happen to my family while I was away, what if something went wrong and I wasn’t there for them.  Finally, I hoped I wouldn’t be one giant drag for my sister.

I’m back and the world carried on just fine.  The kids got by without me for a week.  Even the pets did!  I didn’t get seasick or have any issues in that regard.  The cruise was great fun; my sister was excellent company.  I did have my moments though, it was inevitable. One morning we met a couple of sisters travelling together just like us, one married, one widowed.  The conversation with these ladies was the hardest one I had on the trip and served to remind me that my experience is a shared one.

I am happy to be home, no doubt about it.  I have lots of observations about the cruise experience.  In a confined space with so many diverse people travelling together it was interesting just people watching.  One thing for sure is that most people are highly self-conscious and insecure.  So much posturing – to what end?  We were a ship of strangers, no need to impress; it’s about relaxing not stressing. Perhaps this was the biggest difference in my first vacation without Kevin, I spent more of it thinking rather than doing.