Becoming My Parents

Hiking along New Jersey State and County Park trails the day after Thanksgiving made a lot of sense to Leah, who orchestrated our first return to New Jersey since moving to St. Augustine five months ago. She promised a whirlwind week and a-half of personal appointments and commitments packed with a variety of doctors, friends and family members, all laced with an emphasis on over-eating.

And so, during the course of our visit, as advertised, our food-centric itinerary always included a meal punctuated by scintillating table conversation on family history and folklore–touching on recipes, obituaries, and kin outcasts, with politics and religion occasionally creeping into the dialogue.

But mostly, everybody seemed to be preoccupied with their health. And God help the person who would innocently ask, “So, how are you feeling?” Because this question would open the floodgates for respondents to freely reassign their HIPAA proxy on the spot so they could casually discuss their current condition down to the last agonizing ache and pain, notwithstanding the severity surrounding their prognosis and course(s) of treatments, always followed by a couple of random doctor-horror stories.

It seemed like everyone had a health-related story to tell–whether it was about themselves or someone they knew–not unlike my parents and their friends, who would gather at holiday occasions to compare notes about their medication intake. It was uncanny that the of crux of nearly all of our relationships was now firmly rooted in our faded glory and eventual demise.

Any outsider, after eavesdropping on any of our sessions of non-stop kvetching might be surprised to learn that we are still breathing and have more than one day to live.

And so, it was predictably refreshing to carve out some time to clear our ears of prescription patter, and find an activity that combined friendship and calorie burning. Of course, our opportunity to hike was completely weather-dependent, considering the prior Nor’easter and the Arctic chill that had settled on the Atlantic states.

Like many Northern transplants to Florida, Leah and I had become preoccupied with weather-watching, so we might bask in the warm glow of knowing that we had finally escaped the unfriendly winters by relocating to St. Augustine. But now that we were back in Jersey, it was time to face the hard cold facts of winter; Ramapo Valley Reservation (NYNJTC_RamapoValleyCountyReservationMap-2017) was 18°F at the Reservation trailhead, and expecting to peak at 23°F by the afternoon.

MacMillan Reservoir was partially frozen and dreary…

lake (2)

with the exception of distant water reflections.

frozen reflection

Trails were camouflaged… 

blue trail (2)

by crispy fallen leaves–densely packed and slippery–despite the assortment of Skittles-colored trail blazes nailed to forest saplings.

cut logs

Brooks were running fast and high…

brook flow1 (3)

making each water-crossing challenging and hazardous.

We continued our four-hour excursion with the winds picking up across Campgaw Mountain.

panorama looking east

And it became clear to me that marching through the New Jersey woodlands was not the best birthday present I could have given myself. The cold had already taken its toll on Arlene’s arthritic fingers. Leah, who had recently succumbed to lower back pain and acute Achilles tendonitis was now complaining about her knees.

My knees were also aching from sliding down one too many slippery slopes. Even Doug, the youngest of all of us by at least eleven years had to admit that his right knee was locking up occasionally. The ladies cut their hike short, taking a quick detour to the parking lot, but Doug and I wore our intrepid hats. We continued to the feature waterfall along the Brookside Trail with few delays or complaints…

waterfall

giving us bragging rights to a 7.5 mile accomplishment,

frosty rocks

and leaving me more than ready for my true birthday present to myself: a one-hour Swedish massage at a local day spa, if only to rub my aches and pains away for another day.

 

 

 

 

Hot Tub!

After four months of establishing St. Augustine roots, and putting our house in order, it was time to satisfy our hot tub craving–a thought bubble Leah and I had discussed since settling down to our slice of paradise.

The notion of chilling in a hot tub had become my oxymoronic fantasy, while “a soak and a toke, so long as we don’t go broke” had become my new mantra.

pushing to the rear

Armed with a wellspring of research, we felt well prepared to test the waters, and immersed ourselves in the retail market. Our first inclination was shopping for value, so we patiently waited for Costco’s sale.

dragging the tub.jpg

In the meantime, we diligently sifted through their online sales brochures to review the specs of different tubs at different price points, and screened all the consumer comments through a pro/con filter.

sled ride

While there were many features to whet our appetite, we were nonetheless hesitant about Costco’s “ship it, and forget it” policy, fearing it could backfire into a “ship it, and regret it” experience. Having a transit outfit willing to drop a half-ton pallet at our curb and jet away without concern raised a red flag for us, possibly setting us up for a moving and installation watershed moment.

on the slab

While we could easily hire a third-party to get the hot tub up and running, a catalog of complaints citing broken pumps, leaky tub molds, and buggy software, albeit warrantied, left us feeling lukewarm about this kind of investment.

lining up the connection

So we went back to the well, and drew up a list of likely successors.

shimming for level

We received a call from a ThermoSpa agent less than microseconds after filling out an online form and hitting the <ENTER> button. He was quick to tout the health benefits of his product, but balked each time we asked about price, promising a more in-depth analysis within the confines of our home.

hooking up power

“It seems like a lot of work, but I’m very excited about you bringing over a sample for us to try,” I taunted.

“Unlikely,” he countered. We sell direct from our manufacturer, which is how we manage to keep our costs low and pass the savings on to you, but I have videos of our construction process that will demonstrate the merits of our brand, and I have videos of several models fully operational.

I, too was direct. “But I’m not buying a video,” I stated, “so goodbye.”

hooking up power

That’s when Leah determined that we had to get our feet wet, and truly test the waters. We visited a couple of second-generation dealers hawking Dimension One and Hot Springs spas from their local showrooms to better visualize our options.

installing speakers

To their credit, each shop owner invited us to take the plunge before we took the plunge. Of course, we were knee deep in questions, and they were awash with answers.

full moon (2)

Ultimately, after much haggling, we selected a Hot Springs model for its five-year warranty, its installation coverage, and its assortment of desirable bells and whistles…

Leah approves

…and Leah couldn’t be happier.

Quarantine Capsule

For the past couple of days, while the world continued spinning on the outside, our heads and stomachs were spinning on the inside, so Leah and I felt it only right to isolate ourselves inside our thin protective layer of Airstream aluminum. However, yesterday, we broke the seal of our quarantine capsule long enough to scoop up the provisions scattered across the lawn of our RV dock dropped by the Red Cross airlift (just kidding)–only to button up again, and shamelessly drift back to our TV bingeing (not kidding).

In actuality, we momentarily left the recycled air of the Airstream on Wednesday, to venture across the highway to the Urgent Care Center. My cold symptoms and sinus headaches were no better after a week in Mexico, so it was time for medical intervention. And Leah was now reporting symptoms of her own, and blaming me for sharing.

After taking a number and waiting patiently in a room full of sick people wearing yellow face-masks, it was my turn to to be treated…soon.

“Why are you here?” intoned Nurse Ratched, speaking through a yellow face-mask of her own.

“Congestion and sinus headache,” I coughed.

“May I see your ID and insurance card, please,” asked the intake operative.

I offered my Driver License and Medicare Card–my first time using it.

“Just so you know, you’re responsible for the $42 surcharge not covered by Medicare,” she alerted.

Offering another card, “But I have my supplemental insurance from EmblemHealth. This should cover it.”

“I’m sorry but your supplemental insurance is not valid for the balance,” she argued.

“No need for an apology. EmblemHealth is a bonafide payer. Trust me. They’re supposed to cover the Medicare balance,” I insisted.

Nurse Ratched seemed annoyed that she wasn’t collecting any money from me. She pecked some data into her computer monitor, and eventually provided me with a yellow mask and a pile of papers to fill out before being seen.

After an hour, Dr. B confirmed, “You’re got acute sinusitis. I’m treating it with a 6-day steroid pack, and an antibiotic, but only to be taken if symptoms continue after a week.”

“I guess I’m off the hook for your cold, since a sinus infection isn’t contagious,” I declared.

Usually, within the confines of a small park, there are self-appointed watchdogs who keep tabs on the comings and goings of all park residents with a perfunctory wave, but I don’t think anybody missed us, or even noticed when we returned from our brief encounter. We’ve survived here in relative obscurity since pulling into the Timberlane RV Park and Resort of Bradenton a few days ago.

Usually, after setting up camp, we’d walk among the giant coaches and 5th wheels to compare and contrast, wave to our fellow campers in arms, and find common ground: the office, the laundry, the social hall. But not here. And even if we were up to it, the freezing temperatures in central Florida have driven the most ardent RV residents into the hive of their own tiny houses, leaving us with little chance of introducing ourselves–all of us waiting for Florida’s Big Thaw and Saturday’s potluck dinner, scheduled for 4PM.

Thursday and Friday were true days of recovery. Leah lounged under blankets in the front of the Airstream (the bedroom), catching up on Shameless, while I stretched out in the rear of the Airstream (beside the dinette), streaming episodes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

2017 Airstream Flying Cloud 27FB (2).png Occasionally, there were moments of silence and relief, but more often than not, the reflexes between us were too strong to hold back, and the Airstream would erupt into uncontrollable and otherworldly jags of coughing, sneezing, hacking, expectorating and farting. I wondered if our noises echoed beyond our asylum, and if the neighbors suspected if something inhumane was going on under their noses, like the tragedy in Perris, CA.

But then the cabin would go quiet, and I figured we were safe from watchdog surveillance. As gross as it sounds, the hardest decision during those two days was figuring whether to swallow or spit.

Now it’s Saturday, and recovery is on the horizon. Residents are already parading to the social hall with specialty, home-made, wrapped dishes in hand, in eager anticipation of creating new best acquaintances for another snowbird season.

I hope they like supermarket chocolate chip cookies.