Saturday, June 6, 2015


Joe on the Deschutes River 2015

We’ve just passed the halfway mark of our trip to Bend, Oregon.  It’s been different than other trips Joe and I have made together, certainly more low-key and subdued, but well worth it; especially considering the momentous family events we’ve been able to be part of.  After all, when would you expect to witness the marriage of a grandson and the birth of a new family member all in the same trip?

I’m not saying that our other trips were perfect. I remember two years ago, we stopped for our first gas fill up and somehow managed to pull away from the gas pump with the nozzle still in the tank.  Fortunately the nozzle came out of our tank without ripping it off of the pump and setting the whole place on fire. 

Then there was the trip where Joe stepped out of a roadside convenience store and into the wrong car. Somewhere there is a guy who still tells the story about the older gentlemen who got into the passenger side of his car, looked at him and said, “Where’s Jane, and what are you doing in our car?”

Nothing like that happened this year.  Well, at least not so far.  But we were in for a few surprises once we arrived in Bend.

I’m going to give you some well researched advice.  Do not judge a vacation rental house by its pictures or the adjective-rich description you find on the web.  Pictures lie. They do not show you the true condition nor state of accommodations you may be about to experience.  Words like “authentic” may really mean “old” or “dilapidated”, while “luxurious” might mean the writer couldn’t spell “austere”.  The house we’ve rented is not a “vacationer’s dream” as it was purported, unless you’ve been doing time in a correctional institution.

But that’s not the real problem.   What’s causing us real difficulty are the steps and transitions that are everywhere, things to trip on, places to stumble over and fall.  For Joe, it’s like walking through a minefield, with something to avoid around every corner.   The lesson for me here is to ask questions—“Are there steps and how many?  Have you botched remodeling changes that make the floors uneven or safe only if you crawl across them?  Or more simply, is the house handicapped accessible?” 

Until recently, I hadn’t thought of Joe as being physically handicapped.  Oh, there are clearly limits in his ability to walk more than a short distance and maintaining his balance is harder, but handicapped?   I’ve come to understand that with Al (Mr. Trip-him-up) in the picture, there are just more physical issues to overcome.  When Joe and I walk together now I instinctively scan our environment for potential problems.  I probably say “watch your step” thirty or forty times a day (much to Joe’s chagrin).

We brought along a transport chair (a lesser version of a wheelchair) with the notion that Joe could push the chair and walk, then I could push him in the chair when he needed a rest.  I soon discovered that it’s tough for someone my size to push 185 lbs.  It’s one thing to manage it on a level shopping mall floor, a whole other thing on cobblestone paths.

As we’re heading down a walking path by the beautiful, scenic Deschutes River, I’m pushing Joe in the chair and feeling less than in control. We come to a narrow and sloped spot in the path, very close to the water’s edge.   I attempt to stop but Joe wants to go on.   I suddenly remember a scene from one of the old Marx Brothers movies, where Harpo is in a wheelchair picking up speed rolling down a hillside, heading straight for a lake with his nurse screaming and running along behind.

I casually point out to Joe that it’s about time we were heading back and somehow I manage to get us turned around.  The potential crisis is avoided and we do not become part of the evening news broadcast, but it was close.

Yesterday morning, we awoke knowing that we would be getting a phone call, either to report the birth of our new great-nephew or to tell us that he was still en route.  (His mother had gone to the hospital the night before.) Either way, we had good reason to get up and get the day started. 

Sure enough, about the time our morning coffee was brewed, the call came that the little bundle had arrived.

Joe holding the little bundle
There is something about being with the younger generations of our family that helps put all of the other Al stuff in perspective.   Yesterday was not about aging, memory loss, or any of our daily struggles.  It was about seven pounds, ten ounces of new life and the softest little toes on earth.

No matter what happens, our family will thrive and survive.  That’s just the way it is.  Sooner or later, we all take the Big Trip, no reservations required.