Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson is credited with saying, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” As I write this month’s blog, that sentiment especially rings true. For my birthday, my husband surprised me with a trip to Alaska-a place I’d never been to. While I learned a great deal about our 49th state and enjoyed the beauty and magnitude of the Alaskan wilderness, looking back, I realize that the strangers I encountered along the way made this experience more about the journey than the destination.
The occupants of our Celebrity Cruise ship varied-ranging in age from infancy to individuals well into their eighties. Without being specific, I’ll just tell you that we’re leaning toward the right end of that age spectrum.
When we sat at the Vancouver airport, we met the Crawley’s, a couple who reside in Carrollton, Texas-a place not far from where Jim and I live. Mr. Crawley walked with a cane, but that never stopped him from participating in all the activities we did. His lovely wife had a soft southern drawl, and always kept her pace even with his-never rushing ahead of him. She was dressed meticulously, and her smile could melt an iceberg. She was the epitome of a gracious southern lady. Mr. Crawley had been a pilot at the Addison airport and spoke enthusiastically about all the wonderful people he’d met over the years. This is a couple who truly gave to their community in every way possible, and it was obvious the two were still head over heels in love with one another. They were sweet souls, and I’ll never forget them.
Many couples we encountered had been married for half a century. Of course, there were couples that, although elderly, had been married only a short time. Several had reconnected at their class reunions.
As we ventured on a train ride through the rustic wilderness of Alaska, marveling at the obstacles those mining for gold in the late 1800s faced, we encountered the Harpers from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Since my husband hails from the same state, we had a great deal to talk about. The Harpers have been married for fifty-eight years and reminded me so much of my husband, Jim’s family, with that playful bantering couples often engage in, and in their case, that very pronounced Pennsylvania accent. What I’ll always remember about Mr. Harper, was that he was a jokester. In some ways, he reminded me of our Uncle Jim from Boston, Pennsylvania who just turned one hundred! I suspect I’ll remember the Harpers for years to come.
Throughout the entire trip, I “people-watched” continuously, thinking about the legacy many of us will soon leave behind-a legacy that will, no doubt, consist of a life well-lived. The truth is that I went to Alaska to see the sights; the magnitude of the vast wilderness; the gentle cries of seagulls and loons; the plethora of eagles in their natural habitat flying freely about; the whales emerging to the ocean’s surface, amidst the “ohs and ahs” of whale watchers…
But I came home with something more-something perhaps more important. I returned with a deep respect for mankind; for the love people show one another; for the simple kindnesses they offer those in need; for how similar we are-no matter our walk from life.
I’m fairly certain that sooner than later, I’ll begin writing my DreamCatchers series again. Only this time I’ll incorporate the characters in a different light and give readers a picture of what the heroes and heroines are like during their golden years. Although most readers probably prefer the main characters in their youth, I do believe there’s something very gratifying and fulfilling as we show their growth and maturity and reflect on the lessons they’ve learned during life’s journey.
I leave you with one of my favorite scenes in Last Chance Texas as Nathan Wainwright reflects on his life, thus far. I loved writing about this man when he was in his forties; I’m pretty sure I’ll like him even more in his golden years.
Chapter One, Scene Two in Last Chance Texas.
Nathan stood inside the farmhouse kitchen, wishing he’d never run into Mimi’s kin. Meeting Kelsey Malone had been a fluke, and yet, it could throw a monkey wrench into his plans.
He glanced up at the Normal Rockwell calendar on his wall. February 27th. Four months to go. That’s when Squatters Rights would take effect. And when it did, all ten acres of Mimi O’Leary’s would belong to him.
Running a hand across the back of his neck, he winced, realizing Michele wouldn’t have approved of this shoddy business practice. But he had to keep his eye on the bigger picture. The medical bills they’d incurred during her battle with cancer had drained the savings account.
Staring out the kitchen window, he wished to god there was another way. But there wasn’t.
Exhaling sharply, he tried to remember her voice, her gestures-anything he could cling to. But the memories slowly slipped away each time he thought of her.
His thoughts drifted back to happier times. He’d been fresh out of vet school when they had first met. She’d been ten years his senior, with a six-year old daughter, no less. Nowadays they’d call her a cougar.
But despite their age difference, it all seemed to work out-until the cancer. She’d fought like hell to overcome it, but in the end, it devoured her like a savage beast.
Shaking his head, he headed toward the coffee pot for a refill.
Without warning, his black lab sauntered over, parking herself squarely in front of him, and plopped down. “Whoa, Gypsy. Good way to get stepped on.”
Cocking her head to one side, the dog stared up at Nathan, her eyes cloudy. At nine, she probably couldn’t see him clearly.
He crouched down, running his fingers along her coat. “You miss her too, don’t you?” Ignoring him, the dog stood up, lumbered over to her bed, and circled it several times before plopping back down.
“And now for all of you true country boys, here’s an oldie but goody.” As the radio blared out a song about some lady thinking a guy’s tractor was sexy, Nathan smiled. It’d been his wife’s favorite. Funny after all these years, he remembered. It never failed to lift his spirits. And they definitely needed lifting.
Glancing at his watch, he realized it was nearly eight. He’d forgotten all about dinner. But then, he did that a lot these days.
He strolled over to the fridge and pulled out a frozen dinner, just like he always did. He’d eat, log onto the computer and pay some bills, watch Jay Leno, and hit the sack.
It was always the same; the same cycle of events with nothing changing. He detested how predictable his life had become; predictable and boring as hell. But that’s how things were when you lost your soul-mate.
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