Best of times, worst of times on family outing


I know I said last year that our summer vacation rental with the extended family would be the last one, but holy moly, we did it again. Something wrong with us, you say? Probably, but it’s like giving birth: You don’t remember the bad parts. So we came back for more, and this time we included more family.

Sixteen of us gathered in Florida over the Fourth of July week to celebrate my mom’s 90th birthday. When she was just a kid of 89, that was her 90th birthday wish, so her kids and grandkids and great-grandkids and their spouses booked flights and marked the week in their iPhone calendars.

Between last year, when we made the plan, and this year, as July approached, my mother got really tired. And my dad? At 94, he just wants to rest and watch the action from the stands. Unexpectedly, he became the main event.

The fact that we got to our vacation destination was a miracle in itself. My parents came up to New York for the month of June, to hang out and travel with us to Sarasota when the date rolled around. Even before my dad got pneumonia, the portents were not good. My mom freaked me out by describing her system of organizing their medicines, something resembling chaos theory. Some pills are shared, some are cut in half with teaspoon handles, some are every-other-day pills and some are I-take-it-when-I-feel-like-I-need-it pills.

The pneumonia was no joke. The doctor advised hospitalization, but we treated Dad at home with multiple antibiotics and supersized, high-electrolyte drinks. He did well. Then my mother fell going up the outside stairs and did a whole world of hurt on her shinbone. Back to the doctor. Mind you, this was supposed to be the fun leading up to the fun.

A week before we left, I never thought they’d be able to travel, but my sister and I were determined to get them on the plane. We ordered wheelchairs and travel assistants. We packed breakfast and snacks for the elders and wrapped them in sweaters against the airplane A/C.

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