Our four adult children, their spouses and children loved to visit us in Snowmass Village, Colo. And we loved having them. There were times when 15 of us were tightly packed in our mountain home for a holiday ski vacation. Summer visits were wonderful, too, with hiking, biking and just hanging out in the wonderful Colorado mountain air.
Fast forward. Bob and I decided to come off our mountain and settle in a lower altitude. We chose one of the duplex homes, called a Cottage, surrounding the main Lodge of a retirement community in metro Denver. While many of our new neighbors finished their Cottages’ spacious basements, we chose not to. We had loved all the mountain time our kids spent with us in the past. Now we would visit them where they lived, so we did not need to enlarge our home to accommodate their visits.
We moved in October 2008, and by the following March we were spending a month in Scottsdale, Ariz. What fun to go away in the winter. When you live in a ski area, it is almost sacrilegious to travel during ski season—and for 20 years, we never did. Now was our chance. And for the two years we lived together in the Cottage we traveled a lot, visiting the kids and our friends.
Our four families’ claim to fame is that they each lived in a different U.S. time zone, so off Bob and I went across the country for visits. We also visited the grandkids at college and vacationed with friends. After Bob died and I moved into the Lodge, I did not travel much in the beginning. And yes, the kids did come see me. In fact, one of my six great-grandbabies took his first steps in my Lodge apartment.
However now, as a healthy active apartment living widow, I’m on the road and loving it. In 2012 and 2013 I took two overseas trips to visit my son who has been living and working in China; the first visit in Shanghai, and a year later, a week in Beijing. This summer, I visited family in New York City in June, Glencoe, Ill., in July and recently, Washington State.
The Glencoe trip involved my daughter and her husband inviting their three adult kids and spouses, along with six grandchildren under five from the East Coast to Glencoe. It was a busy time, and certainly a wonderful treat for me to see all the babies and their parents.
Life On the Go
And, finally, to the focus of this essay. What is it like for a great-grandma, me, to travel? First of all, I travel light. I have a suitcase smaller than the standard carry-on, which I wheel through the airport and wait in the aisle of the plane until someone comes along to lift it into the bin. Never a problem. Going through security, I ask someone to lift the case onto the conveyer table. I find that with one look at my wrinkles, everyone is incredibly helpful. I travel economy and always buy my ticket well in advance so I can get an aisle seat. This positions me for an easy pit stop during the flight. And yes, I always board first along with the handicapped folks.
Everyone teases me about packing light. Believe me, it takes much more time to figure out exactly what you are going to need than it does to throw a bunch of stuff into a suitcase. For me, it is worth the time. Besides, I do not mind wearing the same thing frequently or washing my undies.
Coming back from the Glencoe trip, I found myself seated in the midst of a mom, dad and two kids under three. Cute kids, but I had just spent a week with my active great-grands, so I was not in a mood to be my usual interested, engaged seatmate. I decided to tell the dad in the middle seat next to me that I loved kids but his little one was overkill for me that day. That way, I didn’t feel like a mean, nasty old lady ignoring his children.
New York, New York
In New York, my challenge was getting a taxi. I was staying with my daughter-in-law in her Manhattan high-rise. Yes, I visited my son during his two-year consulting job in China and now I was visiting his wife and their adult daughters in New York City. Since Darlene was working, I had made plans to meet some old friends for lunch. No problem. I easily caught a cab, met my friends, ate and we all went our own way.
I wandered around for a bit when it started to rain and I needed a cab to get back to the apartment. Disaster—there I was, country bumpkin, trying to wave down a taxi in the rain in New York City. I was not successful, so I decided to walk to the Hilton and have the doorman help me. What I did not know was that around 3 p.m., the drivers change shifts and there are not as many available cabs. So, tired and wet, I stood in line at the Hilton for 45 minutes before it was my turn to wait for a taxi to show. No deference to age or wrinkles this time.
The middle of August, I went to Washington State. My daughter and her husband are having an interesting empty nest life living in two places. With their two adult children living east, they work in different cities and need residences in both. They each make the two-hour trip by ferry back and forth from Seattle to Port Townsend frequently. For me, it’s a fun, easy visit and I love the variety of the busy city and the sleepy Puget Sound town.
The fourth family lives about 15 minutes away from where I live, and I drive myself to see them. It’s usually a Sunday night dinner at their home.
I well know how age slows people down, as I see it with my senior residence friends all the time. So far I am fortunate, but I have no assurance how long I will be able to manage traveling or even driving to my daughter’s home. All I know is that as long as I can keep getting around, I am going to keep moving.
Written by Margery Fridstein, an author and retired psychotherapist specializing in child development. Margery currently lives in a continuing care retirement community outside of Denver, CO. She is chronicling her senior living experience in the monthly series, “The Last Stop With Margery Fridstein.”