Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Of Friendships and Memories....

Back to my trip...I know, you think I dwell on this too much! Maybe that's true, but...it's my blog!
A couple of days before our trip, I received very upsetting news. One of our dear friends, a long time member of our bridge group has been diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. After Nicoline made a complete recovery, is in remission and looks better than ever, we have all taken a deep breath and dare to hope. After Hilde's passing and then Marja Brandt' s, we were shaken, but now all was well again, surely. Isn't it a rule that you shouldn't talk too soon?

In this case, I believe it is true. Marja T is really the heart of our group. She is always there, smiling, positive and brave when nobody else is. Life is something to be enjoyed, she believes, and she does. This came as a real blow. How can this be happening again? We are such a small group, only about a dozen of us still play...after more than twenty years. We are very close and keep in touch frequently. We have been there for each other through divorces, death, illnesses...you name it. We have celebrated weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, birth of grandchildren. This is hard.

So when I visited, I made sure I stayed for Wednesday morning bridge. It was at Vicki's this time and we were getting together for lunch. Did I tell you that it always feel as if I never left? I just walk into the place, everyone's happy to see me. Same this time, only Marja was not there...it was all we can talk about: why? Vicki and had seen each other before Wednesday and talked about it....at the wedding! Declared that, really, why? and couldn't this have happened to someone we DON'T like? I know, that is not nice and for sure not charitable...but that is how we felt. The girls did too when we talked! Unfair, like life.

We didn't spend the whole time dwelling on this, our morning was full of laughter as well...remembering good times. We play for fun, most of the time, but also want to keep learning. Bridge, I have maintained for years, is a mental sport. One needs to exercise one's brain: this is the most enjoyable way I know! There is always something new to learn and someone to point it out. We also paused a couple of times to comment on the fact that when we started....all those years ago....there was an older ladies group. They looked upon us with indulgence, pointed out our mistakes and smiled, even celebrated their birthdays with us... Patricia's mother was amongst them. It was such a lovely interaction. Not this time, there are no younger ladies playing bridge...they have other interests. Is bridge not a social grace anymore? How sad....so we are now the older ladies and there is nobody to share this with.............

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Two Trips, a Medical Emergency and a Wedding!!!..Part II

A week after I returned, Camille came home!! She arrived with Tim on the 8th, late afternoon. We had a fabulous dinner right on Brickell Key: Cafe Sambal at the Madarin Oriental Hotel.....superb. Early night and early morning to fly to Curaçao. Camille's best friend was getting married that weekend. So-so flight, but I sat next to Frank and he held my hand when the plane moved.....how times change: I used to hold his when he was little.

Arriving in Curaçao, always a welcome experience, we were met by Alex and Lily! Alex looks great, motherhood agrees with her; Lily is perfectly adorable and so cute. We socialized there at a small bar, while our car was delivered to the airport...talking about service. Then to our favorite Chinese restaurant on the island for delicious and familiar food. Tim was loving this already.

That night we met with old friends, had drinks, sat in the cool terrace of the absolutely fabulous Hyatt Hotel.....Camille went to the Bachelorette party for Vanessa, came back late. Early Thursday we went to the synagogue for a lovely service to bless the groom...never seen that before, but liked it. Afterwards, pictures, breakfast, more friends to meet and laughter. This was going to be a happy weekend. Back to the hotel, to the beach...well, the youngsters did. Frankie and I had to go shopping...I know, why? Well, sort of a last-minute wardrobe change......mine. Once back at the hotel we went swimming and then got ready for the coolest civil wedding ever.

We departed at 5 o'clock sharp from the hotel pier in the Insulinde, a Dutch schooner. The afternoon was lovely, clear skies, calm seas, gorgeous views. Sailed to Fuik Baai where the ceremony was performed. The lady judge spoke so eloquently and with such passion, Vanessa did a small dance when she said I do and they were both glowing with happiness. Food and drinks and great company, perfect Curaçao sunset and on our way back: fireworks!!!!

Friday was a strange day. Frankie worked and I went shopping. The young people went to the rehearsal and then to lunch, walked through Punda and we all got back in time for a swim. Dinner was schedule at an old plantation house that is a restaurant. Delicious Curaçao food, music and more friends! We danced the conga and got teary eyed listening to the father of the bride give a toast to the bride and groom. Vanessa's grandmother was our host and she was great...at her age she still dressed beautiful, is perfectly groomed and coiffed and witty.

Saturday dawned clear and breeze and sunny. After a hearty breakfast, we went to the beach. Nothing like salt water to make me feel good. We stayed there until it was time to celebrate Lily's First Birthday! Alex had planned it at the Hyatt because we were all there and it's a lovely venue. She arrived promptly at 11 o'clock with Lily, toys, play mat, a small cake for Lily to smash, bottles of soap bubbles, hats...the works. We had a wonderful time, the cakes were delicious, Lily smashed hers and the grown ups' too, Camille took pictures, Tim entertained the little ones and the babies were just adorable. Camille and I left early since she had to get ready for the big event.

A stylist had been engaged to get the wedding party ready. Camille and Gulshan got together ready first and look beautiful. Everyone went to their rooms and got ready to be taken to Snoa for the ceremony. We met at the veranda and pictures were taken and the bride look beautiful and everyone admired each other's outfit........OOOHHs and AAHHHs all round. Once finished, everyone on the buses and off we went.

Snoa was beautiful as always and there were a lot of people.....the soft candlelight made everything look great. So many friends to greet! The ceremony started late, but was very nice and David broke his cup smashing it against the silver tray, as it is the Sephardic custom. Camille look absolutely gorgeous too! Once finished, we got out into the yard to greet more friends and get ready to go back to the hotel. Met Monique and her family...Mateo, the new family member, is so cute. It was very nice part of this weekend.

At the hotel, everything was ready, the ballroom looked wonderful and all was ready for the wedding party to arrive. We took our seats and waited. Then there they were as husband and wife: Vanessa and David. A first dance, much kissing, more dancing with parents and family....and the party started. The music was fabulous, everyone danced, never mind if you had a partner or not. Curaçao music, excellent food and a brass band. Drinks and champagne all night and so many friends to see and enjoy. It was absolutely wonderful! Went to bed at almost 4 o'clock in the morning!!! The youngsters...even later!

Sunday was another day of celebration.....a big Brunch before most of us traveled back to our lives. Since the time had changed in the States and the clocks just changed time....we woke up so early!!!! Had something to eat and drink before the brunch...then it rained! Still, all went without a hitch and everyone enjoyed it. Goodbyes and farewells and back to the beach. A bit cloudy, but so nice to just sit and relax, take a dip in the sea, talk and relax, have a drink and relax....perfect!

We ended the weekend of celebrations with an Indonesian dinner at a restaurant with a fabulous view. Kathy joined us and it was like old times. The food was good, the company even better. It was truly a weekend to remember. Monday dawned rainy and windy. Frank left in the afternoon and Camille and Tim moved the another hotel to have a real vacation.....we drove to Banda Abao and had a late lunch with them at Jaanchi's...excellent seafood prepared Curaçao style. Perfect ending to this family weekend.......

Two Trips, a Medical Emergency and a Wedding!!!..Part I

It's been a while and this has become a habit...need to change that...SOON!!! Anyways, it has been interesting, so there is lots to tell. Since January, I have not stop, one thing after another and an asthma attack too!......but let's not rush into this.

On February 8th, my mother was rushed to the hospital with severe oxygen deprivation and very congested lungs. She is 87 and had a stroke a few years back, so needless to say it was very scary. I kept in touch with my cousin, who was there with her. It is difficult to care for parents when one lives so far away....my mother lives in Panama, remember? Finally at around 4 o'clock in the morning, she was stable enough....I went to bed.

The next day we talked to her doctor and he advised us to travel there, just in case....another scary thought. Rush to get tickets, organized everything at home, pack...I was exhausted by the time my sisters and I got to MIA to fly to Panama. Hate to fly, even if I do it often. My seat was at the back of the plane...not good...but my sister Laura kept me company.

Arrived in Panama to iffy weather and decided to wait until the next day to drive the three hours to where my mother lives.....the joys of getting old!!!! Never mind, had a lovely time with our cousin Damaso, who makes us laugh and feeds us well. His apartment is an oasis in our travels back and forth from caring for our mother......so grateful!

Drove out of a peaceful and traffic-free Panama City...it was Saturday!....and made the best of the drive, stopping for a light lunch and laughing about good old times. Arrived at the clinic in the early afternoon. My mother was much better, but breathing with difficulty and getting oxygen. Her private nurse was with her, so was our cousin Alina. What would we do without her!

We drove back and forth between the clinic and my mother's home...about a 30 minute ride each way....everyday until she went home. Got her room ready, oxygen tanks and all and took her home on Thursday. Visitors, whom she had had plenty in the clinic, were not so welcome. She just didn't want to see anyone, and truthfully...why should she? Things got into a routine and my sisters and I just settled for a long run......almost three weeks.

She got better everyday, but on our second Sunday there...I woke up in the early morning and could hardly breath....oh, great, I thought, here we go again. I went to the doctor and my suspicious were confirmed: I was having an asthma attack. Back to cortisone medication for a week, coughing everyday, out of breath...just great. Only good thing: I saw the doctor early Monday morning, it only cost me $7!!!! Got my prescription right away and by 10 a.m. I was taking my medication......this place is really amazing. I wasn't even in the city, just a small town three hours away. Need to consider this when we retire...I tell you! There are housekeepers too, and people who come to your house to iron your clothes! Love it!!!!!

We had a good time, while there: ate well and enjoyed a glass of wine here and there, solved crossword puzzles in Spanish....need the practice....went to the beach for long walks, kept our mother company and the house running smoothly. A successful trip, but worrisome too. Our mother is old, we have to accept that things are just not going to end well one of these days. In the meantime, let's enjoy what we can.

Returned to the city on a Monday afternoon and went out with our cousin for drinks and excellent food. A good night sleep and Ana and I were on our way home. Laura stayed to hold the fort for a few more weeks....and Carnaval was coming! She is always there for the good times...I am always there for the worse rainy days.....why is that? Never mind.