• Linda Alessi: Travel and experience while you can

    By Linda Alessi -


    ravel has always been pleasurable – visiting friends, relatives and journeying to many parts of the United States and other far away places. Well folks, as an octogenarian it is no longer the adventure to which I look forward.

    Recently, my daughter, Cathy, invited me to visit her in North Carolina to spend a week – no longer than that – with her. The adventure began with the question, “What do I have to take?” Do I pack clothes for warm weather, shoes, bathing suits and necessary accessories?

    If that were all, it would be so easy. First and foremost, the multitude of medications sorted out for the day and night, and doses must be included. The necessity to breathe at night required I take my CPAP. To help with my lymphedema, the wraps for my legs and the compression boots for my night therapy have to be included. Sounds like there is much fun in store for me, right? These articles would require a suitcase of their own. Of course, like the American Express card, I never leave my house without my trusty walker. Packing was completed and off to the airport.  Wheelchair assistance is required, and I thank God it has made many of my trips more bearable.

    I arrived at Raleigh-Durham airport, and Cathy was right there waiting for me. She wondered after seeing all the luggage that maybe I misunderstood her and was staying for longer than a week. She was reassured that was not the case.  

    Driving to her home in Southern Pines took more than an hour, and we chatted and caught up with family happenings. She was happy to have me visit, and I was delighted to spend some time with her. She told me of what plans she had for us during the week. First, I was to be treated to a massage. Oh, how I love massages.   This was to be a special one for lymphedema patients. Best of all, we would spend some time at the beach in Wrightsville, North Carolina. Two of my favorite things, how lucky can I get?

    Let me tell you about the massage. The therapist was a woman of 60-plus and quite chatty. The massage was specifically called a lymph draining session. She poked and probed, and each indention in my body was scoped to activate the lymph nodes. If that was not enough, she was emphatic that all my other treatments I had taken for this condition was to no avail. Needless to say, I felt worse leaving her session than when I went.

    The next day, I was worthless to move. Cathy kept checking on me thinking this was the end of my visit, not only to her home, but also on earth. She had her cellphone and constantly took pictures and sent them to her siblings to show my condition. All I wanted to do was sleep and not move a muscle. Cathy was planning the trip to the beach the next day.

    She asked, should I not survive this night, would it be OK to go to the beach herself, since she so needed a trip to the salt sea environment of the Atlantic Ocean. I could be put on ice until she returned and all could be continued that was necessary after that. Of course, this was tongue-in-cheek, but it sounded logical to both of us.

    I survived and lived another day. The next day, we were off to the beach. I so longed to smell the salt sea air and feel the salt water on my skin. It has always been a regenerative experience to jump into the ocean. Our family was beach people from way back when.

    The condo Cathy had rented was well equipped with everything we would need. A closet filled with beach articles was there for our use. The balcony from my bedroom and the living room had a direct view of the shoreline, and the crashing of waves was exciting to hear and see.

    Cathy was determined for me to get into the water. The trek from the condo to the shoreline was the most challenging for me. My walker was the vehicle of choice.  Each step in the sand was painful and difficult, but we were determined, and we did win. Now, to get into the water was the next challenge. I held on for dear life to Cathy, and with much resistance from the waves that were constant, I did manage to get in as far as my waist. Cathy was prepared with a raft for me to hold. All was well until on our way out, I was knocked down and likened to a beached whale I sat there laughing and completely helpless. We needed to ask for reinforcement, and a kind gentleman helped us, and we got safely ashore.

    Memories of many years gone by flashed before me. These were days where this was fun and exciting, and I never felt any fear. Then I could jump into the water and swim. Not so when you are in your 80s. It did satisfy my desire to get back into the ocean even if it might be the last time. It felt like I was a kid again, and that is a good feeling.

    My friends, I tell you, do the things you want before the time comes when you may be restricted. I have no regrets. I have enjoyed each and every experience and treasure the memories.

    Linda Alessi contributes a weekly column to The Democrat on life’s later decades.

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