My Geriatric Vacation

“I’ve got a great idea for your mom’s birthday present,” I told my husband, Eric. “Her friend, Sue, moved to Florida last year, and she really misses her. We should send her down there for her birthday gift.”

But Eric shook his head. “She wouldn’t go. She’d be too nervous to travel by herself.”

“I know, and that’s why I’m going with her.” I shrugged. “I love your mom, and I love Sue too. It would be really fun.”

Sue was my mother-in-law’s friend first, but she and I became fast friends as well. Despite a 25-year age difference, Sue and I just click. We are both writers, and we both met our husbands on the dating website eHarmony. A few years ago, Sue and I attended a writer’s conference together, and we had a blast. Sadly, her husband passed away in 2011, and she moved to Florida to be closer to her children. My mother-in-law had been talking about visiting her ever since.

When we told Judy about the birthday trip, she was thrilled. She even suggested inviting her sister, Barb, who was also recently widowed.

So it was decided. The three of us would fly down to Florida to visit Sue. Several people told me that it was sweet of me to accompany the ladies on their trip, and I jokingly dubbed it “my geriatric vacation.” Yep, at 41 years old, I was going to cruise around Florida with three senior citizens. I expected it to be fun, but in a quiet, relaxing sort of way.

I was wrong. It was fun in the best sort of way.

Sue picked us up at the airport and although we hadn’t seen one another in more than two years, our friendship picked up right where we’d left off. We talked into the wee hours that first night.

The next day, we walked downtown and shopped. Not for clothes or souvenirs, but for attractive older men for our two single ladies.

“Look at him,” I’d say. “He’s a nice-looking guy.”

“Him? He’s too old for either of us,” they’d say.

“But he looks about 70,” I’d say. “How old do you want him to be?”

“We don’t care how old he is,” they’d say. “We care how old he acts.”

I nodded, but I didn’t really understand. But as the days went on, it became clear to me. These ladies might have been pushing 70, but they weren’t old.

We took an airboat ride and spotted several gators and dozens of bird species. We laughed at one another’s wind-blown hair after the ride.

We had a seafood lunch and went shopping – for clothes this time. I bought a dress that was so-not-me because these ladies told me to. I even bought the matching shoes.

That night, we took a walk around the lake at Sue’s condominium complex. It was a beautiful trail, and the walk gave us more time to talk about things that really matter. Things like love, and self-image and finding purpose in life. Important things, no matter how old you are.

It was refreshing in that way that touches your soul and brings tears to your eyes. It reminded me how rare and precious true friendship is, and how blessed we are when we find it – even when many years or many miles separate us.

The next day, we took another boat ride, this time to an island to hunt for shells. On the way to the island, a pod of dolphins played just a few feet from our boat. We found tons of beautiful shells and sand dollars. As I walked on that island, I thought it would be the best part of the trip.

Again, I was wrong.

On the last day of my stay, we went to a manatee park. I love manatees, and it was really neat to see them, but it still wasn’t the best part of my trip.

We did fun things and ate yummy food. We relaxed and enjoyed God’s creation. It was an amazing trip.

But the most amazing part wasn’t what we did. It was the lessons those ladies taught me.

I went on a trip with three women, each old enough to be my mother. But it wasn’t that way. They gave me advice, but as friends, not maternal figures. We enjoyed girl talk, and I never felt like anything but “one of the girls.”

We were four friends on a trip together. I had a blast, and I couldn’t have enjoyed myself any more had I gone with women my own age.

The trip wasn’t what I’d expected. I knew I’d have fun, but I never guessed how much.

I went on the trip to help my mother-in-law, but I never realized how much I’d learn myself.

I learned that when choosing friends, age shouldn’t be a consideration. Those ladies showed me that age really is just a number, and although cliché, you really are as young as you feel.

I learned that life goes on, no matter what your age, and it’s never too late to start over.

I’ve always known how lucky I am to have a wonderful relationship with my mother-in-law. She’s a lovely woman who raised eight great kids. She’s been married for 51 years, and she is now caring for her ailing husband. I’ve always admired her and been grateful to her for teaching my husband how to treat a woman.

But on that trip, I watched her interact with her friend and her sister. I saw her as more than just my husband’s mother and my children’s grandmother.

My geriatric vacation turned out completely different than I thought it would. What started out as a gift for my mother-in-law turned into a blessing for me.

The blessing of a renewed friendship and two new ones.

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One Response to “My Geriatric Vacation”

  1. What a wonderful gift you gave your mother-in-law, and in turn what wonderful intangible gifts you received. I enjoyed your story.

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