Thursday, June 14, 2012

20/40 and A Roaring Fire in Our Bellies

My birthday and our wedding anniversary fall on the same day.  This year was a biggy all around.  I turned 40 on our 20th anniversary.  We celebrated like crazy with the most amazing, relaxing, invigorating vacation ever.  I always say that four hours in the Florida Keys is better than four years in Hawaii, and though we loved the years we lived on Oahu it was nothing like island hopping along the chain of keys at the bottom end of my home state. 
Our little fishing spot at the west end of Seven Mile Bridge.  There were colorful patches of live coral right at the shore. 
The whole trip went off without a hitch.  My biggest fear was overtiring my husband as he was only eight weeks into his recovery from the heart attack and had been suffering from strange bouts of lethargy and low blood pressure the week before we were to leave, but he did beautifully well on the trip, stomped all over Old Town Key West in the blazing heat with the boys and me.  He still took it easy, opted to stay on the sailboat with our younger son while I went in the water snorkeling with our older boy.  He preferred lounging in a deck chair over swimming off the hotel's beach and drank plenty of fluids long before he needed them.  I can honestly say that I have never seen him more happy or relaxed and I know it was the same for the boys and myself. 
It was the first time while packing, that I didn't have qualms about heading out of the hills.  I usually get nervous, cranky, and short-tempered when we are getting ready to leave, not just because of all I need to get done and the worry of forgetting something important, but out of fear that something major will go wrong, such as a car accident or mid-night hold-up at a deserted convenience store we happen to stop by for gas.  I worry and worry and worry, usually, so much so that when the time has come to get in the van I know I'd rather stay home.  Then, when the mountains turn into foothills and the foothills level out, I get the tiniest feelings of panic. 
I have a friend who tried to explain to me once that our mountains are full of rubies and that rubies are the crystals that make us feel grounded and that is why I feel lost as soon as we drive down out of the Appalachians.  I love the idea, but I know that it's more than that.  I'm just insecure and would love to stay hermitized here in our little town.  I never realize this, however, until I am down out of the mountains and switched over to the "other me."  I really am an introverted home body if I allow myself to be, but forget that I can also thrive in a different setting, thanks to my upbringing in the city.  And if there is an adventure on the horizon?  Just try to stop me.
This time, however, I couldn't wait to shake the convalescent feeling our home had adopted since the heart attack and all the fear and tension that had filled it.  I was antsy and hyper and urging, with butterflies in my stomach and an excitement I haven't felt in years, for everyone to hurry up and get out the door.  It was so great and I even kept saying, "Isn't this cray?!  I'm not cranky or anything!"  Fun.  And it did not stop.  I drove us almost to the Florida border before I realized how tired I was after a night of little sleep, a day of last minute trip preparation, and a state to state drive till dawn.  Hubby took over for me the last little stretch when we hit dense fog and I realized my reaction time was diminishing after miles and miles of interstate reconstruction. 
Two fabulous nights with Dad and his sweet wife and then we headed south.  It's such an abrupt change, reaching The Keys after travelling through northern, central, and south Florida.  Crossing that bridge and landing on the other side on Key Largo is more like taking a plane flight to me.  Island hopping to our first night's hotel stop was bliss, even with frequent stops in search of quality, affordable swim fins.  Our boys had outgrown theirs.

Sombrero Beach, Marathon, FL

Now I'm not a beach person, and neither is my husband.  Even though I'm a Florida girl and grew up 30 minutes from Cocoa Beach and spent plenty of time on the coast, my idea of fun has never been to sit in the sand and bake.  That's not only because I am vanilla hued with chocolate sprinkles, a "flavor" combination that turns strawberry within a matter of minutes without adequate protection from the sun, but I would be bored out of my mind sitting and roasting on a beach.  So, for me, The Keys are the best sunny, warm place to travel to because there is so much to look at and do.

For this reason, I was very concerned that we had decided to spend the majority of our vacation parked on our butts in one location on Key West.  We aren't shoppers and modern Key West, from what I could recall, was made for shoppers.  And as I said, we aren't beach ploppers, though the reason we chose a hotel with a small beach was so that my husband could slow down and finish healing that body of his or at least give his mind a rest from the hectic lifestyle he leads on a daily basis, and we aren't bar hoppers, either.  You could plan a Key West trip solely around bar hopping, I'm sure, if you are into that.  But we found ourselves on so many adventures in Key West that we realized as we were packing to leave the island the day we were to head back north, that we could have used at least another two days to fit in all we wanted to do.
I was a Hemingway fan before the trip but after seeing his favorite hangout, home, kitties, and writing studio I'm a hopeless addict.
It was so strange to walk everywhere we needed to go.  In five days we only used our vehicle once.  Hm.  It's time for breakfast.  I know.  We'll walk to the bakery down the road for coffee and croissants.  Lunchtime.  Picnic with the sandwich ingredients in the mini fridge again or is everyone in the mood for a Hard Rock Cafe cheeseburger?  Museums, marina, aquarium, Key lime pie...walk, walk, walk.  So great! 
Duval Street from Ripley's Believe It or Not
Fort Zachary Taylor
Atocha silver at the Mel Fisher museum.

Another two days on the island may also have mentally prepared us for the switch back to normal life.  I can't get over what a shock it was and how lost we all felt.  I've had great vacations before but I've always, always looked forward through the exhaustion to getting home to my own bed.  Apparently we are forever changed from this trip and will never be the same again. 
I felt the two me's warring the whole time we were back home, and for the first time the mountain girl wasn't putting up much of a fight.  Florida Girl took over and took hold.  Amazing that there was a period of time when I used to say I hated Florida and went kicking and screaming to visit my aging grandmother when I had the chance to head south.  Well as it turns out, a discovery I made a few years ago, I dislike East Orlando, not Florida in general.  It's disgusting and no longer looks and feels like my home.  But the rest of the state, major cities not included, is just the same as I remember.  I really enjoy zig-zagging and criss-crossing on one adventure after another in my Florida.  What I find by avoiding the major cities is the old Florida I love. It's all still there if you look for it.
Micanopy, FL
Since coming home, we have a fire in our bellies to keep Hubby as relaxed as he was during the trip.  That will never be possible because life is not a vacation.  It's for real.  But his blood pressure has been high again since starting back at work, something that cannot ever happen, especially not at this point, with a stent growing into the walls of his affected artery.  He just can't do it.  I don't know what's coming, but I know that we will do whatever it takes to keep him well and that all four of us are open to whatever that may mean.  In the meantime we are continuing to think BIG and are working on our goals for this family and trusting that we won't do anything stupid.  I'm also distracting myself by turning our patio into "Key West" for Hubby and looking online for an adoptable six-toed "Hemingway Cat" after playing with the descendants of his original Gypsy cat at the Hemingway House.  Don't get me started on those little fluff balls.  I don't know how they can be so much cuter than non-mutated cats just by having one more toe, but boy are they ever!

1 comment:

  1. You know, I am the same as you. I leave the mountains and I get all antsy. However,I love visiting the small towns that never change. So glad you had a wonderful time!!